Breaking Through the Social Noise
A Q&A with Chris Rackliffe, senior social media editor for Entertainment Weekly.
For many publishers, social is the new SEO. It’s become a big source for referral traffic, it drives engagement and creates a real-time feedback loop. What’s more, it’s helping brands create advertiser interest, which means more revenue opportunities. But how do you get the most out of social as the landscape continues to evolve? Here, Folio: catches up with Chris Rackliffe, the senior social media editor for Entertainment Weekly to examine that question.
Folio: How is the social user evolving? Can you still get away with any old tricks of the trade or do you need to stay a step ahead of their consumption and engagement behaviors?
Chris Rackliffe: Social users are busier (and more mobile) than ever. In addition, there’s also an ever-increasing amount of brand content being pumped into the social feeds of users—all competing for the same eyeballs and real estate. It’s absolutely critical to stay abreast of how people are interacting on certain platforms and adapt accordingly. It’s also important to break your own mold of communicating and find new ways to tell stories through social platforms.
I think a lot of people are tired of clickbait and the reductive “X did this, and you won’t believe what happened next…” headline. It’s time for us to move beyond the bait and stay focused on exemplary editorial, compelling photography, witty social copy and create content that people truly want. Then, deliver it to them when and where they want it. That’s the key.
Folio: How are you measuring social success—beyond engagement? Where’s the real ROI?
Rackliffe: Engagement comes in a lot of different forms and has a lot of different meanings, depending on whom you ask and what kind of brand or publication you are. For us—we’re the pop-culture and entertainment-obsessed friend in your Facebook News Feed and Twitter timeline (and beyond). If we weren’t engaging our fans, we’d be doing a poor job of being that entertainment-obsessed friend. There’s a level of brand affinity and recognition that’s critical to what we do. We want our fans and followers to use and consult us as the definitive companion guide to their entertainment consumption—whether that’s when a new trailer breaks, big casting news happens, or everyone’s buzzing about a new book or video game. In that regard, if we’re not engaging our fans, we’re not succeeding.
I think it all boils down to loyalty. When we look at our ratio of follower growth versus traffic growth, for instance, we’re seeing a huge over-index based on our social audience size, which is really great.
At EW, we also see a lot of loyalty around specific fandoms, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. We have a level of access that few in our industry can boast, and we can see the direct impact that has when we share content aligned with that. A great example of this is our most recent cover with Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead, who wore a distressed “BITE ME” t-shirt for the shoot. Our fans devoured that cover in social. Notably, the Facebook post announcing it is our most-liked, most-shared and highest-reaching Facebook post of all time, with over 330,000 likes and 60,000 shares, respectively.
To that end, there’s an absolute goldmine of social data (based on engagements and interactions), and the industry’s barely tapped into what any of it means. I think that’s a huge opportunity for brands out there—and one which we’re definitely exploring this year: How do we get smarter and more efficient about what we do and how we do it, based on the historical social data?
Folio: Have you learned anything from unsuccessful tactics or campaigns?
Rackliffe: Our major brand moments tend to center on big pop-culture events or award shows as opposed to campaigns. One moment that stands out in my mind, though, where we struggled with social is Katy Perry’s halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl. We were live-tweeting all of the big moments from the performance and the tool we use to capture screengrabs of live TV froze up and went down. We were able to get up some commentary with photos from our phones, but it definitely wasn’t ideal. Now, we have backup logins for the same tool, as well as other methods to make sure we can get screengrabs when we need them. Lesson learned! Thankfully, we learned it well before Oscar night.
See Chris Rackliffe speak at the min Day conference, May 12.