13 Ways to Maximize Social NetworkingDecember 2008 By Dawn Greenlaw-Scully
“Honestly, we’re not expecting social networking to change things radically for us,” Oakes continues, “but it takes so little effort to build a Facebook page and only five to 10 minutes a day for maintenance, that it’s certainly worth a shot.”
4. Be mindful of your audience when creating content.
“Just as the audience on your Web site can differ from the readers of your print product, the social-networking audience can be even more different,” Oakes points out. “They’re typically younger, read less and stay on your content more briefly, so pushing your in-depth features won’t fly. Events, reviews, updates and fun stuff usually work best.”
5. Make sure your efforts support your brand.
Oakes’ only social-networking caveat: Make sure that you’re putting out the right brand. “I think that the only risks [of social networking] are ensuring that whoever’s in charge protects the brand and keeps tabs on content,” he warns.
Tips From …
Matthew Milner, vice president, social media, Hearst Magazines Digital Media
Even with a bevy of high-profile magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping in its portfolio, Hearst Magazines does not rest on its print laurels. The publisher is proactive and acquisitive regarding complementary online services, including social media and social networking. Hearst owns Kaboodle, a social shopping Web site, as well as the eSPIN-the-Bottle and eCRUSH teen networks. In March, the publisher acquired Answerology.com—a pioneer of the fast-growing digital-media space known as “knowledge search” or “community Q&A”—and Answerology.com founder Matthew Milner joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media as vice president of social media. Since then, Milner has helped Hearst implement the Answerology.com platform as part of its magazines’ online communities. A passionate proponent of social media, he offers tips that can help publishers build their online presence, expand their audiences, promote their brands and even make money:
6. Ask yourself, “Who is my audience, and how can I help them?”
“If you start with those questions, you’ll know what to do [in terms of social media],” Milner advises. “[For example,] our Cosmopolitan readers—our “Fun Fearless Females”—find tremendous value in hearing what our editors think about guys, style and beauty, and at the same time, they want to interact with and ask questions of their peers, especially about relationships. With Good Housekeeping, readers want editorial advice about which kitchen or gardening tools received the highest marks from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, and they also want to connect and share experiences with people like themselves—for example, someone else from Ohio who’s growing roses for the first time. The key is to offer the right content and the right tool set for your users.”
7. Find out what your audience is already doing online.
“Users do three things online: They consume content; they connect with other users; and they express themselves,” Milner says. The trick, he asserts, is to find a way to let users interact on your turf.
8. Leverage your editorial assets.
“Users shouldn’t just be interacting with each other on your site,” Milner warns, stressing that a magazine brand is still a publisher’s most valuable (and valued) asset. “There is a certain sense of gravitas when the user asks a question in one of our Q&A Communities and gets a response from an editor of Cosmo or Marie Claire or Redbook. We use the concept of a ‘content pyramid,’ with experts on top (Hearst brands’ editors, writers and bloggers); expert-peers in the middle (our ‘superstars’—real, highly respected and active users); and our entire community at the base.” Thanks to this format, the average time spent on-site is about 30 minutes.
9. Accessibility is key.
Hearst is trying to make accessing its online brands and communities as easy as possible, via means such as OpenID. “By letting a user log in using an existing Web ID, such as his/her log-in from Facebook or Google, a publisher reduces friction for a new user and encourages participation,” Milner explains. “These open frameworks are increasingly important to publishers.” Another ease-of-use feature of OpenID is data portability. “For example, if you’re a first-time user at Marie Claire and you log in using Facebook, Facebook will send Marie Claire data (with your permission), so Marie Claire can create a profile for you automatically,” he says. “We also want to be able to tap into users’ already-created social graphs directly from our site.”
10. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
“We’re not trying to build the next Facebook or MySpace [on our sites],” Milner declares. “The last thing consumers need is another network to belong to. Our strategy is about leveraging our existing assets. Our emphasis is on socializing our existing brands and content sites.”
11. Educate yourself—and your staff—on social-media tools and trends.
“Usage of social-media tools has reached the mainstream audience,” Milner observes. “For traditional publishers, the level of effort required to stay on top of these trends is significant—so it’s essential that everyone in the organization understand why it’s so important. It’s not immediately obvious, for example, why it’s so important for someone to be able to come to your branded Web site and log in with their Facebook or Google ID.” He recommends staying on top of new social-media tools and trends by reading industry resources TechCrunch.com and PaidContent.org.
12. Start with socialization, move to monetization.
“Now [through our social-networking efforts], we can point to the consumer interests our brands cover and show how users are interacting, not just with our brands, but with each other,” Milner summarizes. “That has value to advertisers: They can place their brands into a ‘verticalized’ social-media environment that’s being cultivated by a Cosmopolitan or a Good Housekeeping [for example]. That’s a safe, exciting place for an advertiser to join the conversation.”
Milner is also bullish on traffic syndication; that is, broadcasting branded content through social-media networks to draw new readers, and potentially, subscribers. “If a user comments on a Cosmopolitan article, and that comment and article get broadcast to that user’s Facebook page, dozens of that user’s friends might see our content, and some percentage might click through to Cosmo,” he explains.
13. Online social media can be a pro-print movement.
Hearst’s online and offline media vehicles certainly can and do work harmoniously. For example, a Hearst brand might pose a question in a print magazine and ask readers to go online to respond. Those responses would then be published in the next print issue. “Everything that we can do via social media to support our print brands, we do,” Milner reinforces. “That’s the way for everyone to win.”
Dawn Greenlaw-Scully is a freelance writer and former editor of Publishing Executive.