Much like trends in magazine publishing, social media is becoming a niche-focused market. This means there are an increasing number of networks that serve very specific functions. For instance, the difference between Instagram and Twitter is similar to the difference between a photography enthusiast magazine and a newsweekly.
Keeping that in mind, there are platforms that are naturally suited for some publications, while others might require a more forced effort. Still, even if your content is well matched for a social platform, you can’t bank on that alone.
Publication: The Onion
Social Network: Facebook
For a pure-play publisher like the satirical “news” site The Onion, social media objectives are centered on driving traffic to the homepage. Not only that, but Facebook also offers readers an outlet for comments and conversation.
“We like to play with the line quite a bit and some argue that we cross it, but the best way for us to figure that out is to gauge reactions on social media,” says digital producer, Jordan David.
Nearly crossing (or sometimes) crossing the line seems to be paying off. This year the website’s traffic is up 300 percent when compared to 2012. And social media drives 55 percent (up from 31 percent in 2012) of traffic, which is largely due to Facebook, according to David.
The publication admits that much of its success in the space is due to the nature of the content itself. Still, as marketing manager Bob Marshall points out, content can’t do all the heavy lifting. “There will be times we introduce a headline and don’t see a lot of traffic from it so we spin it a little bit and just release a quote from the story that’s maybe out of context in some weird or bizarre way,” Marshall says.
Beyond anything else, David and Marshall maintain that the hundreds of shares each post usually generates is the metric they value most. “Until Facebook pays me for likes I’m really not all that intrigued by them. But shares do a lot more for sustainment. I can see what my friend likes, but I may not care, but when they share something it’s a stronger endorsement,” David says.
Publication: Real Simple
Social Network: Pinterest
It is not subjective to state that Real Simple and Pinterest are an ideal match. As a magazine, Real Simple offers insightful lifestyle content accompanied by rich visuals. And as a social network, Pinterest offers users an opportunity to seek out insightful lifestyle content accompanied by rich visuals.
“Pinterest is such a natural fit for us,” says Kathleen Harris, managing editor of RealSimple.com. “It can be summed up by just the photographs alone; as we like to say: A picture is worth 1000 pins,” she adds. And perhaps that is why Real Simple entered the space in October 2010–several months before most had even heard of the platform.
The velocity of growth in recent months has been impressive. It took Real Simple nearly two years to reach 100,000 followers, but it has grown 250 percent since June 2012. Harris says, “The growth is very organic. We have partnerships but what’s amazing is we haven’t done any massive campaigns to get people to follow us.”
In many ways the Pinterest platform is similar to a digital edition. That is, the brand’s 109 pin boards maintain its core content objectives. What’s different, however, is that Pinterest allows for curated content.
“So much of what’s happening on Pinterest informs us of what’s going on elsewhere and we can use that for the magazine. It makes us think about what kind of content people want,” Harris says.
Publication: National Geographic
Social Network: Instagram
There are very few magazines that are as naturally fit for Instagram as National Geographic. Photographs are ingrained into the DNA of the 125 year-old magazine, and Instagram lets it showcase its images in an entirely new way.
The magazine established one of the first partnerships with Instagram, but waited to enter the space until it determined an effective strategy. National Geographic’s vice president of social media, Robert Michael Murray explains: “We wanted to see what was happening. We did as much listening as anything else,” he says. Murray goes on to say, “We want to do everything with purpose.”
Purpose has led to 80 million engagements on the Instagram platform. And that is with only 1,700 photos, meaning each photo generates an average of nearly 50,000 reactions.
Instagram has shown National Geographic that there is an audience for every photo they post. Still, Murray says, “People like awe-inspiring content, and are usually more interested in the story being told behind the image.”
Given its scale, National Geographic is a tough model to compare against, but Murray does offer some tips for those looking to enhance their presence in the space: “One, you have to know who you are as an organization. Two, you need to know your audience. Three, you have to set specific goals. And most important, don’t try to mimic somebody else,” he says.
Social Network: Twitter
When it comes to Twitter, WIRED executes the same strategy that it does across all its platforms—accessibility. Of course, accessibility is much easier said than done when your Twitter following is in the millions. Still, New York editor, Joe Brown insists that, “WIRED is a much friendlier brand than a lot of other media brands, because it came about from a democratized set of tools and we have always maintained a more relatable tone,” he says.
Terms like authentic and relatable are often tossed around in connection to Twitter, but WIRED stresses that its objectives within the space are not self-serving and engagement is their top priority.
“We reach a large audience so when we post something out there the results are typically good. It’s easy to abuse your following by over-promoting; you need to talk to your readers; be accessible, lead the conversation and be friendly,” Brown says.
On a typical week, WIRED averages between 8-9,000 retweets and more than 5,000 “favorites.” Additionally, its top tweets usually attract between 200 to 300 retweets and “favorites.”
Even though quality engagement is WIRED’s primary goal, its growth within the twitter space is impressive. WIRED has increased its following by 33 percent when comparing July 2013 to July 2012. The company credits its content and commitment to accessibility as its growth catalyst. “We have kept the habit of actually having real people tweet for us, it’s really important,” Brown says.