Facebook may have dominated this month’s news agenda for the wrong reasons but with its 2.8 billion accounts, it is still the most popular social platform.
This presents publishers with a dilemma. While it makes sense to share their content where audiences are, people rarely use the social platform to access news. More often than not, users stumble upon news stories while watching cat videos and scrolling through holiday pictures of their friends, according to the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute.
Facebook’s demographic is also the oldest of social networks which makes it less attractive to publishers who seek to reach younger users.
Four speakers at our latest Newsrewired conference shared how they are moving on from Facebook and exploring other platforms to grow their audience.
Competition for news audiences is tough on Twitter. Prominent broadcasters like CNN and BBC News World have more than 88 million followers between them, so smaller organisations need to be creative to attract new users.
"We always think about what more we can tell our audience, "says social producer and editor of Bloomberg Quicktake Gloria Cheung.
She added that tweets must check at least one of two boxes: they add value or they feature stories with visual or emotional connections.
Charts, pictures and video clips contribute to this. Even reporters engaging with questions and comments is a handy way to bump the Twitter algorithm in your favour. Headlines must have substance for the content to be successful.
For Cheung, the 280 character limit is an opportunity, not a restriction. Quicktake uses threads to put the news in front of a wider audience in the Explore tab.
"I always think about Twitter as a destination for news, rather than a portal to somewhere else," she says.
Facebook-owned Instagram, where around 60 per cent of users are under 35, is known for engaging visual posts and videos. It is an ideal platform for JOE Media, a lifestyle publisher aimed at men, that built a following of 1 million with memes and explainers on topics ranging from sports to politics. @footballJOE is its most popular account on the platform with 2.3 million followers.
To grow on Instagram, JOE Media’s editorial director Serena Kutchinsky encourages journalists to create a "format factory": consistent, light-hearted and humorous content that is replayable. She stressed the importance of using features like Reels, polls, and having a link in your bio to play to the Instagram algorithm.
She told the audience that publishers should not shy away from virtue signalling. "People like to share causes important to them," she said, adding that these can be calls to action or tips on what you can do on issues like climate change.
TikTok became famous for dancing videos, music and creativity. It was not – and still is not - known for featuring news. That does not mean the market is not there. The platform is filled with Generation Z users who look for different ways to access news.
Spain’s Ac2uality has become the biggest TikTok news producer through "one minute news". Its following on the platform is larger than the BBC’s and the Washington Post’s put together.
Daniela McArena, Ac2uality’s founder and CEO, advised that media companies need to focus on constant publishing, use authentic content rather than embellished pictures, and understand the app’s fundamentals.
"You have to spend time in the app. You have to understand and see what is going on there. Then you will be able to create content," said McArena.
The most difficult challenge for news organisations is capturing the attention of the Gen Z demographic. TikTok capitalises on the small attention span by creating a system where users can endlessly swipe on their feed. This means you must catch them within the first second or they’ll just skip to the next video.
Olly Osborne is the vice president for global publishing at Vice Media and he said that the YouTube channel has been Vice’s most reliable social platform since it was created in 2005. The main reasons are consistent monetisation, reach, and audience and subscriber growth opportunities.
Since the covid-19 pandemic began, Vice’s audience on YouTube rose to nearly 15 million subscribers. In the last year, the account had 1 billion views.
To grow your viewership, Osborne recommended analysing your data and formats to see what is working. Channels need to be authentic and consistent with their publishing strategy.
Unlike TikTok’s and Instagram’s short-form video content, YouTube offers space for long-form coverage to excel.
"It is a place where audiences turn up, he said. "The internet is this very busy, fast place. YouTube is a place where we can treat it almost like TV with the way we schedule and think about our programming."
Like many publishers, Vice has adapted its content to other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. The challenge is to stick to their identity and make sure the brand is not diluted by its presence on multiple social networks.
"We never want to talk down to our audience. We always believe they are curious and want to learn and to be educated.
"We go back to that ethos when we create content for these platforms, to make sure we don’t get too lost in what the platform wants us to do rather than what we want to do as a brand."
Do not miss week two of our digital journalism conference Newsrewired. Check out the full agenda and tickets
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- Four steps to building an AI strategy for your newsroom
- Helping teenagers understand social platforms, with Sophia Smith Galer
- How news brands can win over young audiences, with Danuta Breguła
- 'Collaboration over competition' is the way forward for public interest media