Media Magazine

The Economist and Valuable Lessons from Social Media Involvement

Posted on the 03 August 2016 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

There is no denying that social media is at the center of many major newsroom discussions daily.  It is via social media that our publications get in touch and resonate with so many readers.  Social media are the springboard to articles, both short and long, visual and non visual, relevant and not so important. Social media are the clearing house, the interception, the traffic cop, whether we like it or not.

The Economist has utilized social media, Facebook particularly, to attract new subscribers and to promote all of its content, not just the most obviously important stories. What has The Economist team learn that is relevant to the rest of us?

Denise Law,  Community Editor at The Economist, shared her experiences and some lessons learned:

1. Bait for subscribers: "Our data show that someone is more likely to subscribe to The Economist after they have sampled a breadth of our content, reinforcing our strategy of promoting all stories, rather than only the ones with the broadest appeal."

2. Not aiming to appeal to everyone— "Know your target audience and tailor your product to them
We’re not interested in competing on the same scale as the world’s largest publishers; we are not aiming to reach everybody. Rather, we aim to build awareness of The Economist among the globally curious."

3. Use data to deny and confirm your assumptions. "Prioritize ruthlessly. We use data to make smarter decisions. We recently hired a data scientist and editorial data analyst who provide historical and real-time data to help us better understand how our audiences interact with us across different social media platforms."

4. Avoid the long meetings—"We really just want to get stuff done. So we try to avoid hour-long meetings and instead opt for 15–20 minute “huddles” that focus on developing an idea and figuring out how to make it happen. The best way to innovate is to experiment."

5. Tear down the walls between departments
We literally removed the walls between several offices on the 12th floor of The Economist. The social-media team now shares an open space with data analysts, news editors and "interactive designers. Several of our social-media writers sit with section editors and correspondents so they can work closely together."

6. Involve journalists in the workflow  "This is probably the most important lesson we learned. It’s not enough to blow stuff up in a corner and hope someone will notice your efforts. Digital journalism is about working with the people who have great story ideas, i.e. the journalists. We try to involve them in everything we do."

9. The style of Facebook: "Many in the editorial department now help to check copy before it goes out on social media to ensure we accurately represent a piece. Many writers file tweets with their stories or send us suggestions of old pieces to re-promote. We also work with editors and correspondents to develop “social-only” formats. During the Brexit referendum campaign, we collaborated closely with our Britain correspondents to produce Facebook live Q&As, mythbusters and fact cards. This process enables everyone to learn together."

TheMarioBlog post #2062
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