News outlets should spend less time worrying about the latest changes in the Facebook algorithm and more time writing stories their audience wants to read.
That's one of the key tips Allison Rockey, engagement editor at Vox.com, highlighted in her workshop at the News Impact Summit in London this month.
"People are so obsessed these days, thinking 'what are the internet tricks?'", she said. "People spend hours and weeks just completely stressed out about the Facebook algorithm, what is it doing, how do we trick it, how do you get your content out there. Just stop worrying about it."
Rockey explained there are a number of things publishers can do to gain an advantage in the social space, such as writing a strong headline, having a good image, and finding out the best times to post from analytics.
"But at the end of the day, good content is what shares".
She explained Vox.com's audience isn't quite after stories about "puppies and kittens", which the team found out the hard way.
"[Our] audience is really not into it, they want hard news, they want interesting things that are happening in the world around them. And they want things that are affecting them."
Some of Vox.com's most popular stories have dealt with serious subjects from the Ebola outbreak to the Ferguson riots to ISIS.
But to get people to your story from social media you need a good headline, and Rockey said the outlet wants to provide readers with headlines that make them curious, while being cautious about overselling or "crying wolf a bit too much".
"Absolutely, we should be creating headlines that make people want to click on the story. That's what we're doing, what's the point of putting your content on the internet if you're not? But when you do that, that headline better deliver."
As Vox.com started out from scratch with a small social media presence little over a year ago, Rockey said they needed to be a newsroom of social experts, where each journalist has a voice in the way their story is presented on social and has the tools to contribute. But who should be in charge of the overall strategy?
She explained that young people should be given the opportunity to use their creativity and natural talent for social, but should also have someone in a senior role advocating for them.
"Having someone who is just a young junior staffer that you just sort of assign social media to is just not an audience strategy today," she said.
- Community engagement is also one of the topics we'll be discussing at our next news:rewired digital journalism conference in July. Find out more.
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