50% of your readers don't know it's you on Facebook - Reuters News Agency

50% of your readers don’t know it’s you on Facebook

Here are five ways to change that

Aug 2, 2017

So less social and more notifications, right? ”

New research from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford shows what I had suspected for a long time – news outlets’ brands are falling into the background and that’s a big problem for everyone.

Before we head into solutions for this issue, the research. While focused on British readers, the study is a good look at the way news is consumed and thought about. Three key findings stuck out for me;

  • Most people remember the platform they saw the piece on above the news brand that wrote it (44% on Facebook, 55% on Twitter correctly identified)
  • If coming from search 37 percent of users could correctly name the news room that produced it
  • 81% of users who directly arrived on a story could later recall where it was published

So less social and more notifications, right?

Not so fast. Social is a massive part of the news ecosystem that isn’t going anywhere. While Facebook and pals attempt to clean up the messy landscape that they – and others – have created, newsrooms can do more to help readers love their brands.

1. Check that logo

This one is down to Facebook and Twitter dimensions, I know, but a lot can be done to grab the eye and extend brand recognition.

Why not have a designer give you options to maximize that space? Remember to look at your traffic – does most of your social traffic come from mobile or desktop (hint: it’s mobile)? – plan accordingly. The Times does this well if you want an example.

2. Work those post images

I see images all day on social media and few are branded (I estimate around 5%).

Think of each post with an image as an opportunity to attach value and read/skip information. The Guardian does this well (see below). I’d like to see less of the interruption style “BREAKING NEWS/WORLD IS ENDING!” (see below) and more subtle branding such as bottom banners on the Guardian and watermarks and vertical banners.

Vertical banners on images are a good start. What about a politics left vertical banner? A traffic light system that gives the reader a sense of urgency?

3. Hold the breaking news graphics

While the Independent has the right idea (see below) the execution is off because they are training their readers to expect poor quality breaking news.

Use breaking news for big ticket items and a good paid ad strategy to help you be the first to pop. For the record, anything to do with Justin Bieber (bar death before 80) is probably not worthy of the title ‘Breaking News’

4. Pay sharers

Don’t shoot the messenger… but you can target people ruthlessly on Facebook and Twitter if you pay to.

Find out who is making your content pop and target them with the right content – you may even want to create a direct relationship with them and offer them bespoke graphics. This can only maximise your potential for traffic and brand association.

This process may sound like a huge faff but test it, the influencer community is building billion dollar industries on such tactics. This could be a WhatsApp group or it could be a Facebook group – either way – it’s not illegal and people are missing out on your content.

5. Plug what you want them to read next more obviously

I never see ads for news apps these days. Maybe I’m not being targeted but I don’t believe this to be the case as I asked a good cross section of people in the last few months. If you have an amazing app – plug it in every piece and tell them why it’s worth downloading. Then repeat this message.

Social is a continually changing beast and only those at the top of tree know which way the wind is blowing (or going to blow). Until then, assume they aren’t your friends and make the system work as much in your favour as possible – build your brand and remind people why they like and need you. You can’t force readers to love you but you can make it easier for them to do so.

Contributed by Paul Armstrong, emerging technology advisor, HERE/FORTH and author of “Disruptive Technologies”.

This article does not express the views of Reuters. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.