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4 Lessons from Top Social Media Publishers

I recently took a course focused on Digital Media Innovation at New York University’s Stern Business School. The course was led by professor Greg Coleman and covered the latest trends in digital media, with prominent guest speakers from across the industry sharing their perspectives. A variety of topics were covered, but several very practical themes rose to the top. Check out the four biggest things I learned when it comes to getting your message out on digital and social media.

1. Human Connection is Key

When it comes to social and digital content, it’s important to be approachable while still maintaining your brand identity. More and more publishers are finding that it’s critical to engage with your community and to use those online conversations to improve what you post for your target audience. In practice, a great way to do this is for video producers and editors to regularly read through comments on their posts and content. Social conversation is an opportunity to hear directly from consumers and continuously improve your end product. The people producing this content should never be too far removed from the audiences who are engaging online.

2. Content Should Mean Something

The leading social media publishers focus on connecting everything back to an emotion that will drive user engagement and organic shares. Social shares are all about emotions – in many cases, people share articles to either show their current emotion and mood, or to advance certain traits of their online persona like humor, style or business acumen. At BuzzFeed, the goal is to organize content by the role it plays in people’s lives. For example, a recipe video may be linked with nostalgia if it focuses on snacks people enjoyed as kids. Thinking about this as “nostalgia” (rather than “cooking”) and packaging it with corresponding post language may help drive the most shares between family and friends who view the content through that intended lens.

3. Data is Critical

When thinking about data, it’s important not to get caught up in the amount of data – but rather to focus on the most impactful metrics. Ensuring that everyone on your digital or social team is on the same page with data often means investing time upfront to align on your 3-4 priority metrics. Another great tactic used by publishers is to push automated reports that are sent to the entire team with the weekly or monthly results. Ideally, this data should foster nimble adjustments within digital content production and social media posts to ensure you’re optimizing for your audience.

4. Use Social to Test and Optimize

Before pushing out a new video or article, use unpublished page posts (“dark” posts) on Facebook or other social platforms to test a few mixes of the final post. Test your assumptions about the ideal video editing, video format and post language – because the learnings from your audience will help you optimize the final “light” post for your social feed. Even a few hundred dollars of promotion behind “dark” test posts can tell you a lot about how people will react to certain language or framing. Some of the leading publishers are already doing this for every video they push to their audiences, and it can be the difference between a viral hit and just another post.

Top social publishers are using these tactics in the ever-changing digital landscape to maximize the engagement they’re seeing with their audiences. Overall, it’s a balancing act of putting out the right messaging and using these types of techniques to ensure you’re driving a real connection with your online audience.