The Economist is a great British publication that was founded in 1843 and has been analyzing the world from a financial perspective ever since. Anyone that wants to come across as half intelligent has to read it, preferably at the airport or when waiting for an interview.
I was at a social media conference the other day (SMART 2011 in London) and one of the speakers was the Commmunity Editor at The Economist, Mark Johnson. He has been on the job for three years and he shared some wisdom from their social media journey which is relevant to most companies. The Economist are in a fortunate position where they have more readers (online and offline) than ever, they generate loads of great content and their social media efforts are going from strength to strength.
Here are the five things we can learn from the Economist’s social media strategy:
1. All updates are hand crafted
One of the first things Mark Johnson did was to stop using RSS feeds to Twitter, Facebook and other distribution points. Every update you see from the Economist is done by hand by an actual person in the team. This is obviously more labor intense but adds the human touch to what can be seen as a giant feed of news.
Somebody rightly pointed out that this doesn’t mean that the Economist engage very much with their followers on say Twitter. It’s difficult to reply to everyone, instead they encourage people to get involved in debates and commenting on their site which is geared towards engagement.
2. Stats and analytics really count
The team at the Economist had a good look at their stats to identify when in the day they should be sharing updates, how often and what content gets the most clicks.
Their biggest audience is in the US so updates have to be adapted to the American time zone(s). They found that 14-16 updates per day is an optimal amount on both Facebook and Twitter.
Another stat which I found interesting was that in one month of 2009, they had more site visitors coming through Reddit (social boomarking site) than Twitter. This is remarkable as they have half a million followers on Twitter and means you constantly have to monitor these things and see where floods of traffic are coming from.
3. Use Hootsuite
In order to schedule updates across social media, the team uses Hootsuite. The Economist have a master account that manages ten Twitter feeds, Facebook and LinkedIn.
In case you haven’t heard of Hootsuite, it’s a freemium tool that allows a team to manage social media accounts. Multiple users can work shifts virtually or side by side. You can schedule your updates and you get free analytics on click through rates if you use the ow.ly link shortener. I use Hootsuite as well by the way and can recommend it.
4. Like and Share buttons
This may seem obvious but the Economist only added social media buttons to their site fairly recently. It’s still too early to tell how many more shares they have got from it but it’s looking good apaprently.
The point here is to make it easy for visitors to share. I don’t think people share more because they see a share button but I do think they can share less if the button isn’t where it should be (preferably above the fold!).
5. Keep people engaged
The Economist have developed a few micro sites including a classic debate site and other devoted to topics such as health or science. Thought leaders are invited to start debates or battle one out with a peer whilst an Economist journalist acts a the judge.
The team actively encourages visitors to comment and their comments have grown by 53% over the last 12 months. They have also found that active contributors view six times more pages than average visitors. Hardly surprising that the most engaged users consume more information but useful to see that the plan works.
What will work for you?
So that’s Mark Johnson’s strategy over at The Economist. Do you think your company can benefit from these tips? Please share your ideas!