Experiment, Experiment, Experiment With Social Media

Social media success involves experimentation, and experimentation inevitably involves failure, but when you do fail, “fail fast, fail forward.”

October 28, 2017 by LION Publishers


Social media success involves experimentation, and experimentation inevitably involves failure, but when you do fail, “fail fast, fail forward.”

That was the advice that NowThis editor-at-large P. Kim Bui gave attendees at a breakout session about Instagram, Snapchat and staying up to date on new social tools Friday at the 2017 LION Publishers Summit at Columbia College in Chicago.

Social media is built from experimentation and remains the perfect medium for it, because it’s inherently and notoriously in flux — and that means users don’t expect a lot of consistency, Bui said.

"I don't think Facebook knows what Facebook is doing sometimes," she noted. "Same thing with Twitter."

Smaller experiments are the way to go, because there is less risk of losing time and money to them. The more you experiment, the more wins you’ll have, and “we all need wins,” she said.

Smaller publishers should consider changing one piece of their platform or posting strategy at a time, rather than pivoting an entire strategy and risk losing resources.

Another recommendation by Bui: Deputize a “first adopter” to test your new strategy/tool, and make sure that person is representative of your audience. Don’t assume that the person should be young, either, because not all Millennials are adept at using at social media.

Bui outlined some of the social media platforms with potential for news publishers as follows:

• Twitter: Great for covering breaking news. Although not primarily intended for multimedia posts, Twitter posts with a photo or video included will perform better, on average.

• Facebook: A good platform for discussion, videos and sharing content.

• Instagram: This is where to share your “pretty pictures.” IG users don’t want mayhem and they do want photos to be quality shots. The addition of Instagram Stories has changed the dynamic for this platform because it allows for sharing links — making posts such as food tours more valuable — and made it more Snapchat-esque, because the posts disappear.

• Snapchat: This is the most youth-oriented platform and useful for branding, especially with that demographic. For older people new to it, try thinking of Snapchat as the modern-day equivalent of the folded-up notes you might once have passed in class. Don’t use it for covering breaking news because that’s not what most 13-year-olds are interested in. Look for inspiration for Snapchat outside the traditional news ecosphere.

• Product Hunt: This is a new social platform about startups, oriented toward tech people.

Bui advised focusing on one platform, because it is better to use one channel effectively than all of them poorly. However, she also recommended using others, because Facebook will die someday and be replaced by something else.

When you experiment with something new, make sure you have a champion for it, which she described as that person who is a crazy idea generator and enjoys pushing boundaries. Staff members who will implement a new idea are the cogs in the wheel, and a manager is the person who will play the needed role of devil’s advocate, by questioning the “crazy” idea to make it better. The assessors are all the stakeholders who will be honest in their post-mortem of the experiment.

When you do fail, give yourself the freedom to mourn that failure to move on more effectively, Bui said.

And always continue to experiment, assess, adjust and try again.

“Stagnation does not work on social media,” Bui told the session. Experimentation can get you in front of new audiences you might not otherwise reach.

To follow her, contact her on Twitter (the recommended way to reach her): @kimbui. Email her here.

Josh Popichak is Publisher of the Saucon Source.

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