Local media platforms: Six strategies for driving audience engagement
As local stations look to drive audience engagement across platforms (newscast, mobile, OTT, social), it’s important to remember to treat each platform as a unique part of the whole to build overall brand affinity, which in turn can translate to engagement. The goal is to help consumers understand that each platform provides unique, can’t-miss value – to the point where they cannot help but consume all components. Here are six ways to drive audience engagement and maximize content across platforms:
Connecting social and newscast audiences
Look at referral traffic from social media to the website – the number of page views, number of session visits, number of page views per session, and on mobile, open rates. How long are people engaging with the content on the website? What pieces of content are they engaging with? For example, certain markets have weather content that significantly drives website visits. If this is noticeable, then stations should be leaning into and exploring further creative stories to continue building out this content with the ultimate goal of sustaining readership.
Stations should also look to the inclusion of the language promoting the newscast within web stories as an equally important metric. If a station has active website readership, then they should be leveraging that momentum to drive newscast viewing.
Other tools and tactics that further connect the social and newscast audiences include:
Some local TV stations have used tools like Megaphone TV’s live polling to drive audience engagement through voting, either before newscasts to drive interest in specific stories or during newscasts to activate real-time voting with viewers. This also presents an opportunity for consumers to use a second screen, interacting on your website, mobile site or app during the newscast or outside of the newscast (Megaphone also offers web-based polling). This is an especially relevant tool during the 2020 presidential election, and one we may see even more of as we approach November.
Instagram also has the ability for page owners to create polls (giving followers two options like yes or no) and quizzes with multiple choice options in Instagram stories. Given the limited nature of stories, however, stations would more likely have to have users decide on stories that exist outside of the breaking news window. Regardless, another way for stations to engage their audiences and ultimately drive them to the newscast.
Another tool within Instagram stories is the questions tool, where page owners can ask open-ended questions. This could be used as a resource to gather story ideas from viewers, or opinions on breaking news or events.
Facebook Live still remains a solid tool to bring real-time information to users on social, particularly as a way to alert them to things as they happen outside of newscasts. The key is to ensure Facebook Live is additive to the full coverage they can get on the core O&O platforms. If a viewer is interested in the story, then the information they can get from Facebook Live shouldn’t be enough. They should want to go to the core platforms to get full coverage, and the language within the live session and post should reflect that with messaging that tells them where to go. In essence, the live session must serve as one long tease, with repeated verbal pushes to the newscast where users can find the full story or greater in-depth coverage or updates on an existing story.
Stations need to be connecting the dots between talent and brand, particularly on social, to drive audience engagement across the board. Talent should be actively cross-promoting content from the station’s main pages on their personal pages, while also using the same pointing language to the newscast that they recommend on brand pages. The station’s social community doesn’t exist just on its brand page – the talent communities also have additional tens of thousands of followers who are also willing to engage.
OTT plays a role in audience engagement and retaining viewers as well. This applies to not only the cord-cutting audience but also those who simply cannot make it to a TV in time to watch the newscast during its linear airing. Stations should be leveraging OTT to let users know that their viewing experience can be customized based on their own schedules – and make sure consumers are aware of all of the platforms you offer to get the content and information they need.
What not to do
While it’s important to build the connection between digital components, several news stations think that connecting their social presences to their newscast can be accomplished by putting up images of posts and tweets into their actual newscasts. Unfortunately, aside from privacy issues, this doesn’t create a compelling newscast experience.
The goal isn’t to craft stories and push them for the single sake of driving audience engagement. Audiences can tell when a story is relevant and authentic, versus being published for the desperate sake of driving clicks. Stations need to constantly be thinking about the value of their story selections and determine which ones will be compelling to social audiences or worth delivering mobile alerts on in order to drive engagement and to hit key metrics.
Stations also need to be mindful of using mobile alerts for engagement. Frequency is a particular issue – alerts used too frequently run the risk of attrition and app uninstalls, but you do want to constantly remind them of your presence and value, and ultimately drive them to the newscast or to open the app.
Active pointing from platform to platform (social to newscast, newscast to social/OTT, social to website, etc.) both visually and verbally will help reinforce and educate audiences and build engagement across the platforms. But these can’t be the only tactics used in an overall audience engagement strategy, or it may fall flat. By creating unique, authentic content that’s strategically pushed across platforms, consumers will find the content they crave, and keep coming back for more.