Social Media as Core Edit Strategy
RBI’s Dan Blank: Social media a ‘core conduit’ to serving its markets.
As part of his responsibilities as director of content strategy and development at Reed Business Information, Dan Blank manages RBI’s blog program, which consists of more than 200 blogs and 300 bloggers. Moving forward, Blank is focused on getting editors more involved in social media.
Here, Blank [pictured] talks to FOLIO: about what this means for RBI’s edit strategy going forward.
FOLIO:: You have a goal of creating engaging content and community. How do you describe RBI’s current social media strategy?
Blank: In 2009, individual brands found their own comfort levels within different areas of social media. What we have found is that social media is an incredibly powerful tool to serve our markets, but that it doesn’t work in the exact same way for each niche that we cover. There are nuances, which is both an opportunity and a challenge.
I hear story after story about how these nuances are creating meaningful connections for our editors and those they serve.
Moving forward, I think we will be working to integrate social media into core editorial and marketing strategies, no longer segmenting them to a few employees within a brand, or looking at it as a separate channel.
An example would be using LinkedIn to develop articles instead of just broadcasting messages. So, if a team looks at their editorial calendar for the next three months and identifies a few key topics they are covering, they can now develop those conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter to shape the focus on articles, find sources and get quotes.
FOLIO:: How does it differ from brand to brand?
Blank: It differs a huge amount, depending on several factors such as their market’s adoption rate of social media, staff size, editorial focus and the goals of those in their market. I am not looking to corral anyone into a one-size-fits-all strategy, but to ensure that each are empowered to leverage social media to best connect with their audience and serve their needs.
FOLIO:: Do you have editorial staffers who are dedicated specifically to managing a brand’s blog(s) and social media components, or are all editors contributing?
Blank: Yes we do have individual staffers driving social media strategy, but it is in addition to other tasks. At some brands, you will find a single staff member who essentially ‘owns’ that brand’s presence on a service like Twitter. In most every case, though, this is an editor who picked up that responsibility in addition to their regular reporting and editorial duties.
Other brands have their entire staff on board, and each share the load. Some brands are comprised of just a handful of people, while others are much larger, and this affects how things are shaped in handling social media.
There is also a gray area here, such as having a brand with two brand accounts on Twitter (serving different segments of their market), and then three Twitter accounts from each editor on the team. So it is split among various personal and professional components, creating an entire ecosystem of social media adoption.
FOLIO:: Consumer participation in social media outlets continues to grow. How have you managed to transition traditional reporters and editors to an online/social mindset?
Blank: Each brand has approached social media adoption at a different time in a different manner. I think the key is personal experience. An editor needs to discover the value of Twitter within context—they need to first find a blog they love before they can consider doing one themselves. Likewise, no matter how much I share a powerful example from one niche, it is not nearly as effective as editors finding the usefulness of Twitter in their own market.
Online first is now a firmly established process, blogs have become a cornerstone of editorial strategies and social media is proving itself valuable in surprising new ways. The challenge a modern editor has is partly the varied skillset that all of this requires, but mostly it’s finding the hours in a day. Prioritization is critical.
FOLIO:: With budgets and staff sizes continuing to shrink, isn’t it becoming more of a chore for a magazine editor to contribute to social media? How, if at all, are you working to integrate social media into the editorial process?
Blank: Social media is very time consuming, but I don’t think that necessarily means it’s a chore. I find that editors are adjusting in different ways. Some look at it as another task at the end of a long list—but the savviest editors are integrating it into an overall editorial process.
This is where we are moving in 2010, to find smart ways to integrate high priority tasks in order to deliver value to our markets. Social media is a core part of reporting, research, promotion and connection, and we are baking it into each of these areas, not viewing social media as a separate endeavor.
FOLIO:: Do you think this integration makes sense across all of RBIs brands? Or only on a product-by-product basis?
Bank: I think it makes sense across all brands, but that it needs to be tailored to the needs of each market and each editorial staff. Some markets are much more mature in their use of social media, requiring a different level of involvement.
FOLIO:: What have you found to be the most engaging social media platform for b-to-b?
Blank: In terms of business, each of the big three platforms have their own appeal. Twitter has had the biggest effect in terms of communication, gathering information and connecting with new people.
Facebook is ludicrously engaging, but on more of a personal level. We have stepped more lightly into Facebook.
For some of our brands at RBI, they are finding LinkedIn to be far more valuable than Twitter. Two things that Twitter really doesn’t do is threaded conversations and leveraging their archives. LinkedIn does both of these things very well. Adding in the full name of each participant and access to their expertise and work history makes it a powerful platform.
FOLIO:: How, if at all, is RBI monetizing its social media endeavors? About how much in revenue did it generate from social media in 2009?
Blank: Looking at social media as a separate revenue stream misses the value it brings to a business media brand. Social media is not a means to an end, it is a core part of how we serve our markets: informing, listening and connecting.
I can’t remember who said this, but they likened social media ROI analysis to analyzing the value of a company’s phone system or e-mail. This is a conduit in which our business functions, how we execute on our mission and serve our markets.
FOLIO:: How do you see that changing in 2010? 2011?
Blank: Social media will become a core part of editorial and marketing strategies, driving more value (and in doing so, more revenue) across our portfolio. Inherently, this is about serving the needs of our markets—a new tool for continuing our core mission.