GUEST BLOG—By Kelsey Lundstrom, Media Industry
Newsletter (min)--Social media isn't a fleeting phenomenon. It's here to stay and, if navigated correctly, it drives engagement and traffic and offers a daily touch-point platform. Although it's now a critical tool for publishers, some are still struggling to get the most out of social—whether it's their content strategy or organizational structure.
Here, min chats with Elisa Benson, social director for some of the largest women's titles including Seventeen.com, Cosmopolitan.com and Redbookmag.com, about social media teams, engagement and more.
min: Is it necessary for publishers today to have editors and teams solely devoted to social media? Or can existing editors wear multiple hats? This post first appeared in min on October 15, 2015.
Elisa Benson: Publishers absolutely need social media teams—the same way you need writers and designers and video editors and photographers and other people with specific skill sets. When I first started tweeting awards shows for Cosmopolitan, photos didn’t even show up on Twitter. And now live-tweeting is about creating video clips and GIFs in real time. The social landscape changes very quickly, and it’s crucial to have people paying attention to those changes and steering the brand. Just because you have a personal Twitter account and a few thousand followers doesn’t mean you can navigate a Facebook algorithm change, or create a compelling Snapchat story, or understand what Instagram photos drive boosts in followers and which ones don’t.
min: How do you define 'engagement' for your own terms, and how does that definition change across platforms?
Benson: Engagement is the best indicator that your social posts aren’t boring. Take Instagram—a photo can be beautiful and technically well executed, but that doesn’t mean people will leave a comment or even 'like' it. You pay attention to the engagement metrics—which just means the sum total of comments and likes and shares on a post—so you know your followers care.
min: Give us some examples of social content that really resonated with your audience, vs. something that didn't? What can you learn from that for future campaigns?
Benson: Cosmo has been growing insanely fast on Instagram. I like to say that funny is the new pretty. We post jokes and funny stuff that our followers tag their friends in, and that’s how we grow. A year ago, I think I still thought that Instagram should be for really beautiful photos. And it’s true that if you post a picture of flowers it will get a ton of likes. But now I have much higher ambitions for what I want our feed to look and feel like.
min: What's the best piece of viral content you've seen this year—that wasn't from a Hearst brand?
Benson: For sure #TheDress, which Buzzfeed broke. The story was so irresistibly shareable. You couldn’t help but text it to your entire family.
min: What are the sites you oversee doing with video? Is that where everyone needs to be focused right now?
Benson: In terms of video, I think it’s helpful to think about our audience as the auto-play generation—they mostly watch video that is shared with them by friends and which plays automatically and practically magically on their phones. They decide in two seconds if they want to keep watching. That’s a real change from a few years ago, where online video was still being treated like a watered down version of TV, with series built around personalities.
min: What's the next big platform push we should be looking out for? Where are you seeing engagement/traction decline in terms of other platforms?
Benson: Snapchat—I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what it can mean for brands.
min: What social network can you personally not live without? Why?
Benson: Lately I’m obsessed with Instagram. “Do it for the Instagram” is like the new YOLO.
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