Twitter to be ‘hero’ social media channel for media brands in 2013

With half a billion Twitter accounts, over 1 billion Facebook accounts and an estimated 200m more online users across the world by end 2013, social media is changing the way media brands connect and engage with their audience.

Over the past four weeks, we’ve interviewed experts across all media channels – TV, radio, magazines, newspapers – and asked about the challenges they’ve faced from social media, the lessons they’ve learnt and their preparation for 2013.

From this audit with heads of social media, communications experts and business leaders, along with our own experiences working with UK and international media owners, we’ve put together a series of observations and insights, identifying clear trends for social media use by media brands in 2013:

Twitter is only going to get bigger

Every media brand is focusing on its use of Twitter. Every conversation revealed more plans for Twitter.  The head of social at the FT described it as the ‘hero’ social media channel for next year. In a world where media brands are competing for attention, Twitter is the strongest channel for media brands to focus on for people’s discovery of news and information. It is rightly, we believe, number one on every media brand’s to do list.  #FACT.

4G will fuel more socialising of media content

The arrival of 4G is an evolution/revolution that everyone is recognising. Allowing more content on the go, with immediacy, be prepared for 4G – it’s a game changer.

For perspective – a HD movie can be downloaded over 4G in six and a half minutes. This is a change in gear from first if your media business model is coping with 3G, to fourth with 4G.   It means more content consumed, shared and commented, plus a bigger data trail about what consumers want.

There is a need for clear responsibility

Sounds like a no-brainer but if you’re starting from scratch, or re-evaluating social media for 2013, the first job to do is work out who’s taking charge of your social media content.

Editorial, the PR/comms team or the marketing team; whether it’s one, two or three people from these groups taking responsibility to create and distribute the content, everyone needs to make sure it’s an integral, natural part of their day job, not an ‘add-on’ that will easily fall through the cracks.

Create brilliant content and share it at optimum times

Don’t be scared to have opinions and to have a sense of humour. Words, pictures, video, audio or retweets – mix up your content when you share it. Use event hashtags to make sure you’re in on the conversation. Share your content from the moment it’s being created to the moment it’s on-air or on the newstand. If you know there’s great content coming, there’s no harm in planning out your posts – the morning commute, the bedtime browse, the Sunday morning digest…  Different channels are well-set for different purposes.

Influence the influencers

Do you know your influencers? Have you worked out how to find more of them?

Use the influential people in the area where your media brand specialises to communicate to your audience for you, share and recommend your content and add to the story you are telling.

Use the talent to promote the content

Do you have talent involved in your content? If so, use them! The FX Channel ensured the star of their number one show, The Walking Dead, tweeted ahead of the new series airing to his thousands of followers, promoting the FX channel to his own fans and a wider audience. Any talent involved in content for any media brand should be used to promote their involvement, creating great buzz and value for both sides.

Encourage your community to do the work

Extend the reach of a media brand by involving your community – inspire them to comment and lengthen the life of a piece of content. A great example is Tesco Magazine’s #Thankyoumum; the brand created a bespoke hashtag for an emotive campaign around its annual ‘Mum of the year’ award, inviting anyone online to thank their mum in 140 characters and encouraging the community to create the conversation.

Create a buzz by sharing and re-sharing ‘hero’ content

If there’s a ‘hero’ piece of content for your brand, make sure all areas of the business are lined up to be promoting and sharing it to maximum effect. Use parent and sister brands to shine a light on your campaign – they will have a wider audience reach than you could achieve on your own.

Track the content wherever it goes to test and learn

This critical element is as simple as it sounds – track your content and learn from your findings. With social media come the tracking tools to monitor social media activity. Monitor the consumption of your content, listen to your audience, respond and optimise.

Use data to recognise and engage the audience

Is this one of the secrets of Amazon’s success? If you’re rich in data, you’re rich in knowledge of your audience, and there is the potential to personalise your media brand experience for every member of your target audience. Do this and they will love you for it.  Think addressable content alongside the addressable advertising that the advertising world is moving towards.

Social media data can make great content

Not only can media brands use social media to share content, but the reams and reams of data that each social media channel produces lends itself to creating content too.

Once the data is gathered a media brand can use it to inform future content.

Keep more than a watching eye on google+

We’ve all heard of it, a lot of media brands are on it, but in our research nobody could claim to have nailed what Google+ is best for…yet. Nobody’s discounting it, and with the scale of Google and the value of it in natural search, there is potential for Google+. Watch this space and make sure you’re a part of it.

Experiment with everything?  perfect a few things (and make sure the first is twitter)

So where do you use these insights? Across all social media channels? Across channels specific to your brand? There are many social media channels being experimented with; Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit to name a few, but the use of certain channels depends on the audience the media brand is targeting and if the content works for that channel. By all means test them out and determine what channels work for your brand.  But focus resource and commercial efforts into a few and do them brilliantly, starting with Twitter.