Having a successful social media strategy, whether it aims to reach a wider audience or drive more traffic back to the website, is crucial for any organisation who has invested heavily in their online presence. But how can publishers determine where to concentrate their efforts?

Frédérique Lancien, WAN-IFRA global advisory consultant, explained that publishers are too quick to jump on each and every platform in the chance that they might boost their brand, and they are missing great opportunities to connect with people in a more effective way.

"To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn't know where they are going," she said, speaking at Digital Media World 2016 in Vienna yesterday (10 October), noting the importance of a publisher analysing their audience's profile and expectations.

Lancien has worked to develop the digital strategy of a multitude of international brands, most recently L'Equipe, the largest media group dedicated to sport in France.

"The important thing about social media is to understand your audience, personality, and assets first. Then you will know where you're going, and the people will follow you because they understand your strategy," she noted.

Lancien explained the personality and tone of a news organisation must be represented in the social media platforms they are active on, in order for users to follow them.

To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn't know where they are goingFrédérique Lancien, WAN-IFRA

"Understand which platforms are the most appropriate according to your specific goals and needs – and follow your audience," she said.

Media organisations tend to develop a presence on too many platforms at the same time, some which might not fit a publisher's personality or assets, causing audiences to misunderstand why they are around and what their brand brings to the market.

"We cannot say we are good at everything, so we must focus energy on what is best for us."

For example, as CNN is strong for breaking news, Twitter is a brilliant platform for the organisation to target, reaching busy people wanting news on-the-go. But Instagram would be a better choice for a publisher with a young female audience, who prefer visual content, she said.

As social media feeds continue to be organised by algorithms, how do media outlets make the most of a platform when they've decided to focus their efforts on it?

"Facebook changes the way it manages and displays content approximately every year, so in terms of a social media strategy with this platform, we need to adapt to what Facebook is asking," said Lancien.

The social media platform has been more open with how the News Feed algorithm works in the last few years, so referencing insights from Facebook’s News Feed FYI blog and her own personal experience working with the platform, Lancien explained how news organisations can use it to their advantage.

"The latest Facebook algorithm is mainly based on five factors: the interest that a user has for content, individual post performance, performance of previous posts among users, type of content, and how new the post is. My advice would be to publish more pictures than text."

Lancien explained that, based on her experience, media outlets should be aiming to publish to Facebook every day, with at least three hours between posts, where 8-10am, 12-2pm and 5-7pm Monday to Friday are the times when publishers could see the most traffic, as well as between 1-3pm on Thursday and Friday.

Don't look like your news organisation is being operated by a robot – talk to people like a humanFrédérique Lancien, WAN-IFRA

But posting at regular times does not mean forgetting the importance of connecting with your audience on an emotional level.

"Don't look like your news organisation is being operated by a robot – talk to people like a human," she said.

"Using colloquial language and discussing things that they can relate to helps them feel connected with your brand.

"We are publishers, but we are all human and all on social media, which means that of course we can decide for ourselves whether what we are posting on social media is interesting enough."

Even chat bots used by publishers have been programmed to interact with audiences in a more human-like way, such as CNN's chat bot, where audiences can ask questions.

These conversational bots are also a good way to understand how audiences want to interact with the publisher and to offer a personalised reading experience.

"Always remember, we want our audience to not only read but to engage with what we post – whether that is to comment, like, share, or hashtag," Lancien said.

"It doesn't hurt to look at other people's work and think about why you yourself are engaged in the content or not.

"Remember, emotion-driven stories and posts do well online, whether they stir up compassion, laughter or shock."

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