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Long-form social content, data and deeper engagement

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has released its annual report 'Media, Journalism and Technology Predictions 2016'. With statistics and commentary from publishers, media and brands, the survey offers useful insight for businesses and organisations looking to engage with audiences through media and online channels this year.

In this blog, I'll touch on a few of the key points in the report that have implications for businesses and communications strategy in the Year of the Monkey.

Turning news interest into deep engagement

Over half of the publishers surveyed said that increasing engagement is a top priority for 2016, alongside the constant need to drive greater reach.

Here in New Zealand, the drive amongst news and trade media for shareable content has been evident for quite some time, but the rise in real time analytics and dedicated audience engagement teams is likely to see that drive increase.

The challenge and opportunity for businesses and organisations seeking out media coverage then, is to ensure that content and story lines are not overly sales focused. Instead, think about commentary, insight and information that will strike up debate and conversation through a story which will encourage engagement.

This creates a win-win-win situation, as the media outlet is rewarded through deeper engagement and higher quality traffic to their sites, the reader is rewarded through interesting and valuable information and of course you are rewarded through getting your brand and topic covered more extensively and in-depth than a passing mention might offer.

Data-driven journalism dominates decision making

A whopping 76% of publishing respondents rated using data in the newsroom as 'very important'.

We've known for several years now that offering data and information backed up by research is a valuable tool for communicating with and through the media.

In 2016, the emphasis for businesses is still on valuable data to news media, but for the media itself, using data to understand audience behaviour is becoming ever-more critical.

The ability to understand in real time what news content is read, shared and commented upon gives media unprecedented opportunity to tailor stories to better suit its audience. From headline testing, to article formats, placement on home pages, and everything in between, media are continually examining how audiences engage with news content online.

The opportunity for businesses and organisations to support media efforts in this area is not insignificant. As communicators, drawing out the story with clarity and offering up the most newsworthy angle and headline is just the start of how you can ensure your story is going to perform well on site. Thought-provoking views, new information, and offering a view of what's coming up, gives your audience something of value.

Messaging apps and native publishing opportunities come to the fore

Here's some fun facts for you: in 2015, Facebook reached a billion users a day for the first time. Popular photo sharing site Instagram cracked the 400 million user mark, and even Twitter managed to reach around 350 million active users each month.

The social media scene is certainly maturing, so in 2016, be on the lookout for a heightened focus on messaging apps; think Facebook Messenger, WeChat, What's App, and even Instagram and Twitter's built in messenger services. Consider how and if your business is placed to make use of a messenger app to communicate directly with audiences through social media or if you are better suited to more traditional channels like email or even (shock horror) a good old phone call.

For social media apps and sites, the focus is on keeping users on site, giving them no reason to go off to another forum. What does this mean for businesses and organisations? Make sure that all the information your audience might need can be found on individual channels.

Long form content gets a social facelift

Building on the above theme of onsite content, expect to see a rise in long form social content. In the past, I've attended media and publishing talks that lamented the demise of long form journalism, often due to the rise of superficial reporting in the 140 character Twitter age. But fear not, dear readers, because long form content is getting a facelift for today's attention-short information consumers.

In addition to the now-established practice of linking and hyperlinking to external articles and blogs, expect to see an increase in media and brands publish longer articles directly and natively to social platforms. Fairfax's Stuff.co.nz is already leading the charge, becoming the first local publishing partner for Facebook's Instant Articles programme which promises to give readers more interactive options, auto-play videos and audio-captions, and the ability to access news stories up to 10 times faster than standard web articles.

Here at Clarity, we think LinkedIn's publishing tool is a fantastic example of how to publish natively rather than directing traffic to another site. If you aren't already using this tool as a publisher, then get in touch with us today and we'll give you a few pointers to get started and reap the benefits.

Some examples and pointers

  • Publish all of your blog and newsletter content directly to Facebook and LinkedIn, or make the content available as an image in Twitter or Pinterest so that users can stay on their preferred app or site but still get the information they seek.
  • Do you have an emerging crisis on your hands? In 2016, please don't publish an announcement or Q&A on your website and expect social media users to go there and find it. Make the most of the knowledge that people want to access content from where they already are, not from where you want them to go.
  • Media outlets will be responding to this trend too, so consider how you might maximise a story involving your brand when it's published on Facebook rather than on the media website itself. Who's responsible for commenting upon and sharing that content? Be clear on roles, responsibilities and administrative permissions so that the process for maximising existing social media content is smooth, simple, and effective.
If your strategic plans for 2016 include more engagement with and through the media, then Q1 is the prime time to start thinking about how to link that activity to your objectives and goals. Day in, day out, we assist clients across the business spectrum to communicate effectively through the media so get in touch today to schedule a meet up and we'll help you to make the most of the changing media landscape.