My top advice for social media editors in newsrooms

As I approach my last day as engagement editor in the Montreal Gazette's newsroom, I decided to look back at the things I've learned about social networks and community management over the last three years.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are often used as content dumps in the hopes of increasing referral traffic to websites. A good presence on networks — like any good investment — takes time and attention to build and grow.

Here are my simple pieces of advice:

  1. Never underestimate the power of comments. They provide great insight into what readers want and how they perceive your content.
  2. That said, you do need to take a break from the comments once in a while for your own personal health.
  3. Trolls are worth keeping up with. You’ll notice patterns in their behaviours and they’ll eventually drop off/disappear/change or become part of a group of key engaged readers in your community.
  4. Fostering self-moderation within a digital community takes time. You must build your loyal readership first and keep them in. It's just like building a neighbourhood of caring individuals — you have to show them the value in keeping a clean and clear discourse.
  5. Use social networks as tools to communicate with your audience, not as the ultimate publishing platforms. You don’t control them.
  6. Creating content to “please the beast” is only going to get you so far for so long. You can’t break an algorithm that’s not built for you or by you. Yes, Facebook Live (for example) offers great opportunities and tends to perform well, but new features are often prioritized in algorithms for a certain period of time.
  7. Your best metrics are the ones that boil down to more meaningful interactions. Shares, comments, reactions, watch time, etc. While Reach, Likes and Impressions sound nice, they're really just about content travelling and not about people interacting with what you're publishing.
  8. Social networks are based on just that — social things. It’s about feelings, caring, sharing, engagement. People will connect with things they care about.
  9. You don’t need to cheat your audience with clickbait and sensationalism to get them to feel something and interact with your content. Simply position the content for the audience that cares for it by crafting appropriate titles and excerpts, carefully selecting photos and paying close attention to the various audiences you're building on different networks.

And finally...

10. My final piece of advice for social/engagement editors: Don't think of your job as content marketing and don't let anyone tell you that's all it is. You're combining a bunch of various traditional journalism and new media skills into getting closer to your readers. This is the first time media outlets have so much proximity to their readers — use it carefully and cherish it. You're the connection.


Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Don't be afraid to get in touch!