Credit: Screenshot from Vox.com

For some news organisations, packaging and distributing news on social media falls under the remit of the engagement team. For others, the task is assigned to a distributed news team or to a social content studio within the editorial department.

This is the first in a series of articles on how news for social is produced – check back next week to learn about the approach at Fusion.

Vox, the two year-old explainer journalism platform, had a one-person engagement team when it launched in 2014, but it has since been growing at a steady rate.

The team is currently made up of seven people: a social media community manager, who manages Vox's presence on social networks; an audience engagement manager, who is mostly focused on analytics, growing the audience on these platforms, and is also involved with some of the product development work; a video producer, primarily working on Snapchat Discover, but who also produces content for other social channels; a graphic designer and a motion graphic designer, whose work is also focused on Snapchat; a Snapchat senior editor; and a director of programming.

Allison Rockey, director of programming at Vox, told Journalism.co.uk the team works "very closely" with the rest of the newsroom, in order to get all journalists, editors and reporters to know and understand the "general best practices of social media".

"We do view social as something that is part of everyone's job, in a sense.

"But the [engagement] team's focus is to know all the social platforms in and out, to really be the ones to foster communities and make sure they are growing.

"The people on our team are both doers and builders themselves, but they're also teachers for the newsroom."

The platforms Vox has a "strong presence" on, where it publishes stories "around the clock", are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Snapchat Discover, as well as The List app.

"Timeliness is very important, so we try to publish as quickly as possible, especially when it comes to developing stories or live events."

Depending on the story or the size of the project, the team will work with beat reporters to package their stories for social media. This can mean coming up with the headline, helping with photo selection, choosing key facts from a piece for a visual on Twitter, or liaising with the reporter to hold a live Q&A on Facebook.

Questions about ISIS and the current crisis in Iraq? Matthew Yglesias and Zack Beauchamp will be taking your questions here live from 12-1pm ET today.

Posted by Vox on Thursday, 19 June 2014

On other occasions, they can also get involved from the beginning of the process, pitching content and ideas.

"Sometimes, story creation will even start with our team. Because we focus on explainer journalism, a lot of the time, that's coming from the questions our audience is asking us," Rockey said.

"We will see that people are tweeting a lot about a certain topic, or they seem to have questions about it, so we can funnel that information back to the reporters."

So what does a day in the life of the engagement team look like?

Rockey said she and her colleagues start their morning by looking at the news agenda, discussing with section editors the stories that are in the pipeline, the timing around them and whether there are any bigger features or videos coming up.

They also check the calendar for any "important moments that people will be experiencing" in the near future, such as anniversaries or protests.

"We often ask our editors 'what are some of the questions that people have on this topic, what's the content that we can provide for them'?"

The team regularly monitors conversation on social to resurface coverage of certain issues a number of times, stories "that are relevant in people's lives beyond just the day we hit publish". This is also highlighted through Vox's collection of card stacks, said Rockey.

"People might start hearing about something like police brutality in the US, for example, and that's going to be relevant when it hits their lives, either when something's happened in their community or a story's bubbled up," she added.

The latest addition to Vox's social presence is Snapchat Discover, a platform they joined two months ago. A considerable amount of the team's effort goes into producing the daily edition for Snapchat, which is published early in the morning, Eastern Time.

Rockey said when the team set out to define what Vox should look like on the Discover channel, they aimed to focus more in the platform's opportunity for showcasing short videos and the interaction provided through swiping, while making sure they delivered the news in a way that was consistent with Vox's storytelling on the website.

"We find that [millennials] have a lot of in common with other Vox readers, they are really curious and interested in issues of fairness, justice, human stories and learning about the world.

"We hope that, with each edition, when you're done looking at it, you can turn to someone and explain it to them – that's how we know we've been successful."

This is what Vox strives to achieve across all its social platforms. Having multiple people work simultaneously on projects that often have the same story as a starting point helps, she added.

"So if we are looking to explain gun violence in America, the Snapchat team has a thesis of what they're trying to explain in that edition, whereas the community manager working on Facebook knows the bite-sized amount they can communicate there and what they're pushing people back to on our website – same with Twitter.

"We're always thinking about what is that key takeaway, because when you learn something that is interesting, the natural inclination is to tell somebody else.

"If you will take the time to close your Snapchat, come into Twitter and tell us 'hey, I really loved this' or send an email to tell us how much a story meant to you, we see that as a mark of commitment," said Rockey.

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