In a newsroom of nearly 300 journalists, it's difficult to keep track of all the content produced every day. Even more challenging is figuring out a way to distribute it, especially on social media.
This was something we faced at the New York Daily News, where I worked for more than two years as the director of social media. As an outlet that covers everything from the city's public housing, to the White House, to the latest celebrity gossip, there was never a shortage of stories to share, and the journalists let us know about it. They wanted their articles posted to the main Facebook and Twitter accounts, where we had hundreds and thousands of followers. You would, too, if you put that much work into reporting.
When I started at the Daily News, I was the lone member of my team. But as traffic grew, and the importance of social media became more apparent throughout the newsroom, more people came on board. By the end of my tenure, I was overseeing a team of seven, including myself. And even that was barely enough to keep up with the 24/7/365 churn of content.
Enter Buffer, a tool I had used for years on my personal accounts, as well as on the official company accounts toward the end of my time with Patch, right before I joined the Daily News. Buffer made my job much easier, and I knew if I could get it in the hands of my colleagues, their work lives would improve, too. So that's exactly what we did.
Through weeks of social media training, centered heavily on Buffer, every journalist at the Daily News was equipped with their own Buffer profile, as well as a better understanding of the best practices for using social media to share their stories. It didn't take long before we saw progress in a concrete way, in the form of substantial traffic increases. By the time I left the Daily News to join DNAinfo (where I also implemented Buffer, of course), traffic levels had soared to all-time highs – 100 percent of it organic. Not to mention the anecdotal praise the reporters, editors and photographers shared about using the tool.
Here, then, are five ways Buffer transformed social media at the Daily News, and how we made it happen.
1) Ownership of Content
Having worked in three large newsrooms with journalists distributed across the country, I can confidently say that the number one question my team and I were asked was: "Can you share my story on the main account?"
While I would have loved for the answer to be "Yes" every time, this just wasn't feasible. Here are just some of the reasons:
- At a company like the Daily News, it's impossible for a small team of social media editors working different shifts on different days to read every story, and therefore have the proper context to share them all to social media
- There are only a finite number of posts you can share from one account each day, especially on algorithm-dependent Facebook
- Some stories just aren't a good fit for the main account of a large organization with an international audience
By giving everyone their own Buffer account, though, we cut out the middle men and women (aka my team).
Equipped with their own accounts, my colleagues had no excuse not to take a few seconds to share their stories. Especially those who previously didn't have any social media accounts, but created them as a result of the training, some acquiring followings of thousands of people in just a few weeks.
2) Measurable Results
One of my favorite features Buffer has added over the years is the analytics tab (only available on paid accounts). This benefited us in two ways.
Journalists, with an insatiable hunger for data on the performance of their content, could access real-time results on their posts anytime they pleased. How many people clicked the link? How many retweets? How many favorites? What was the best post from the last week? Last month?
All of this information was at their fingertips, giving them instant feedback.
Even better, it allowed us to share with them what was successful (and what wasn't) on our main accounts.
Sure, we would be happy to share your story about the latest celebrity pet, because last time we posted a story like this it went viral.
But sorry, the story on new parking regulations in Brooklyn just doesn't resonate with our broad audience. We definitely recommend putting it on your personal account, though.
Journalists are some of the most stubborn people you'll meet (myself included), but a good one will surrender their opinions and personal biases in the face of facts. Buffer analytics went a long in helping us win these friendly daily battles with our colleagues for real estate on our main accounts.
3) Saved the Social Media Team Time
Speaking of ownership, nothing inspired reporters to put content on the main Facebook and Twitter accounts quite like the opportunity to write the posts themselves.
Because we followed every journalist in the newsroom on our main social media accounts, we could easily retweet and share their stories when they were a good fit for our audience. (That's the second-most-asked question to social media teams: "Can you retweet/share my story on the main account?")
Even more powerful, though, was when people wrote their own posts and "submitted" them to the main account for consideration to be posted. How, do you ask, does this work? Quite easily with Buffer.
While only our social media team was given full administrative access to the main social media accounts, everyone had an opportunity to post to the moderation queue. In this way, our colleagues could share whatever they wanted as often as they wanted, and we could pick the best of the submissions to tweak and publish to the main account.
Now, instead of the facing the impossible aforementioned task of reading every story every day to get the proper context before sharing to the main account – a huge responsibility – the very people who knew the stories best could craft the posts for us.
Before long, we had more posts in the queue than we were able to approve, and suddenly we didn't have to create so many from scratch. And if someone asked why their post wasn't chosen for publication, we could give them feedback for next time, making everyone's job easier.
4) Saved the Reporters Time
"I don't have time."
That's probably the number one answer journalists give to non-essential requests in newsrooms, and often it's a valid one. But when it comes to sharing their own content on social media, it's usually an excuse more than it's an acceptable answer. My team's job was to remove as many barriers as possible between their lack of time and the necessity to share their stories with the world.
As part of the Buffer-centered social media training, we made sure everyone brought their phone to our makeshift war room (where the training took place) to download the app (whether iOS or Android). We taught them how to make the Buffer button prominent in their sharing console.
Then, we went to their desks with them and showed them how to install the browser extension on their computers.
It doesn't get any easier than being able to share your article without ever leaving the page, including when you're on the go.
Also popular was the fact that they could schedule multiple posts at once, completing all their social media activity for the day in one sitting. This was especially helpful to the editors who oversaw some of our other (smaller) official company accounts, such as for sports, opinion and entertainment. They loved the preset time option for each day of the week in the Buffer queue.
5) Emphasized Importance of Social Media
The most exciting result of our newsroom Buffer implementation was its trickle-down effect. By opening everyone's eyes to the ease of posting to social media, they became more excited about doing it.
And they more they did it, the more they wanted to know how their posts were performing.
And the more they saw that their posts were performing quite well – again, we reached record traffic levels month after month once Buffer was implemented – the more they wanted to go down the rabbit hole that is social media.
Some had the revelation that this wasn't just a tool for sharing information, but receiving it as well. Because if there were that many people interested in what they had to say, maybe there were people out there saying things in which they would be interested as well. Things that could supplement their reporting, their fact-checking, their photo-gathering.
Before long, our social media strategy was about much more than traffic. Of course, it always had been for the social media team of seven, but now nearly 300 more people adopted the same attitude toward these ever-important tools.
My favorite example of this was our march to 1 million Facebook fans. I'll be the first to tell you that the number of fans (or followers) you have isn't nearly as important as how engaged your fans are. I would rather have 100,000 super-passionate fans than 1 million passive ones.
Nevertheless, this was a goal we could get the entire newsroom behind, not because we thought having 1 million fans would change our lives, but because we knew it would keep everyone focused on the bigger picture – the importance of social media.
Somewhere around 800,000 fans, based on the pace at which we had been growing, we projected the time it would take to reach 1 million. It was something like one year. So we set our goal at less than six months. (Again, we never paid to boost posts or buy fans, so our growth was completely organic.)
Essentially, we decided to double our fan-growth rate to reach our goal. We told not just the newsroom, but the engineers, sales team, marketers and everyone else we could find in the company. We explained that the fastest way to grow wasn't going to be asking people to like us, but by showing them what great content we had. This, of course, ramped up the sharing rate, made all the easier with Buffer, to a new level.
We reached the goal the afternoon of June 30, 2015, the exact target we had set in January. Afterward, the editor-in-chief and CEO bought pizzas and cake for the entire staff. People were so excited for the role they played that they shared photos to their personal accounts. Many of them used Buffer to do so.