Social mediaThis is the third article in a four-part series and provides social media tips, that are simple, and fast adjustments you can make today.

Designed to better engage and retain readers and advertisers, these tips were compiled by Brad Best, advertising editor of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, and a team of Missouri School of Journalism students after weeks of analysis of a major Midwest metro daily.


This section is broken up into sub-sections as follows: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.



Facebook is a very useful tool to implement online discussion and develop loyalty with subscribers.

  • Interact with readers by asking questions to begin thought-provoking discussions about events and issues in the community. Link back to news stories relating to this event/issue.
    • Ex. The Denver Post posted “What do you think is Denver’s biggest hurdle in landing its Super Bowl bid.” Within three days, there were 116 comments, 110 likes and 11 shares.
  • Create a page for various sections of the newspaper. Facebook pages could focus on sports or entertainment.
  • Facebook can be a way to post alerts about breaking news and let people know that more information will soon be posted on your news site.
  • When you direct a reader to a social media site, have the social media site open in a new window or tab rather than taking the reader completely off your news site. When a visitor is directed off a website, it is less likely they’ll return back to the website to continue browsing.
  • When sharing a link to a story on Facebook, briefly describe what the article is about or a pose a question/key takeaway point, rather than just posting the headline with the link. Your post is another opportunity to try to get people to read your article.
  • “Fun” engagement tends to attract significant user feedback.            
    • Ex. A major Midwest newspaper asked followers “If I won the Powerball, the first thing I would buy are __________.” Instead of simply posting a link to their story, they had followers engage. The post received 61 comments.
  • Weather posts can be very engaging.
  • If someone is on your homepage and clicks the Facebook button, this will direct that person to the main Facebook page. Likewise, if someone is looking at the sports section and clicks on the Facebook button, this should direct them to the Facebook sports page.
  • Posts asking questions receive more comments than the average post. Other top posting styles include: Seeking input around a posting, call to read or to take a closer look, posting with clever language and highlighting a specific quote.

Touching and emotional stories, and provocative, passionate debates increase engagement. Inspiring, uplifting stories, and simple, easy questions to the user increase engagement. Important sport game wins, and commentary on current topics increase engagement.



  • Include your journalists’ Twitter handles with each of their articles. Readers will be more likely to “follow” their favorite journalists if they know their Twitter handle. This further encourages interactions by their Twitter followers and encourages journalists to link their individual tweets back to the newspaper’s Twitter page.
  • Have your Twitter followers interact with your news website by creating Twitter contests. This can increase followership and interactions with current followers.            
    • Examples of possible contests            
      • A photo contest could consist of followers tweeting a photo of their home decorated for the holidays to the news organization. The person with the most creative photo could win a prize.
      • A Retweet contest could consist of encouraging followers to re-tweet a specific tweet, followed by picking a winner at random. — Ex. “RT and follow by midnight tomorrow for a chance to win $50 #newspapercontest.” These can be great promotional contests, and when a follower re-tweets a post or tweets a photo, that person’s followers will potentially become future newspaper followers.
  • Include a hash tag with every tweet, and hashtag any local trending topic. If a hashtag is used with the main subject of the tweet, the tweet will be linked with all other related tweets. This may be used to organize conversations, gather feedback and identify and engage with Twitter users discussing certain topics.
  • Including a URL is beneficial. Use a to convert a long URL address into a shorter one. Here’s an example of RJI’s website as a — This will cut down on character count. News accounts receive more active engagement when the URL is included in the tweet and this will also link the tweets to the news site.

Additional tips

  • When the Twitter icon is clicked on, we suggest that you take the visitor to the Twitter page in a whole new window or tab instead of using the same tab that your website is on.
  • The sports page on your website should have a Twitter button that takes the user to the sports Twitter handle, and not to the main Twitter handle.
  • A live Twitter feed on the website will be beneficial.



Pinterest is a fast-growing social media site that can drive traffic and revenue for businesses.

  • Understanding Pinterest’s demographic will help you utilize the site better.
    • Sixty-eight percent of users are women ages 25 to 44. Many of them are fairly well off financially. About half have children and spend about 16 to 88 minutes on the site.
    • These women use the site for inspiration and to share fun things with friends. They also create boards of things they are interested in and refer to the boards later, or spread ideas to their social connections. They log in for a quick look at what is recently posted, or will sit down and search until they find the right recipe or craft idea.
    • By posting boards with this type of content, users will more likely click on the newspaper profile and search other interesting boards they have to offer. The user will also more likely click the image that leads them to the site where there is a more detailed description of the project and a step-by-step page.
  • People like to see what the reporters/editors look like. Add photos and bios that link back to journalists’ articles. This is a great way for your users to get to know your staff better. Creating quirky comments under the images can get views to click through to a page. Ex. Ever wonder what your favorite newspaper reporter does for fun?
  • Photos and captions of where news is printed, developed and decided is a fun way to give users a virtual tour of the news organization.
  • Invite readers to participate by creating local people boards. These boards can be a great way for members of the community to interact with the site and showcase newsworthy accomplishments with the paper and all followers.
  • Sneak peak – give the readers a preview of upcoming content by posting a picture or article.
  • Crack open the time capsule – Pinterest is an image-based site that can be great for showing off old newspaper photos. This generates more links to the website and other relevant content.
  • “Pin It” – Allow users to a “pin” an article to their pin board by including a ‘pin it’ button on all articles, especially those that come from the Entertainment and Lifestyle sections.
  • In addition to creating boards for Christmas, consider creating boards for other events & holidays including the Olympic Games, elections, “back to school”, Thanksgiving, weddings, Black Friday shopping, etc.

With the optimization of your current Pinterest page, these things can be expected:

  • Shift in consumer behavior from search to discovery
  • Little interaction needed for brands
  • Connect with the visual segment of your audience
  • Inspire the shy content creator
  • Amplifies the content of original creators
  • Repining is the new “re-tweet”
  • Tap into niches
  • Build your expertise
  • It’s beating our Facebook referrals



Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing application. Statigram is a great tool for the Instagram account because it allows users to engage with the pictures not only from the mobile application, but also in an online photo gallery.

  • Optimize posts by including the popular or “top tags” on Instagram. There are two separate lists within the statistics tab under optimization that outline the tags we are currently using versus the most popular tags. We want to utilize those as much as possible because that will only increase our engagement with non-followers when they are searching for images that include those top tags.



According to, Google+ was expected to reach 400 million users by the end of 2012.

  • Google+ is a weighted factor for search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is basically a strategy behind showing up higher in search engines like Google. The higher you show up for searched terms, the more traffic you will generate. However, the characteristics, which rank well in Google, are constantly changing.
  • A lot of these changes have integrated social more and more as an important way to rank websites. And more than any other social network, Google+ helps websites show up in search engine results. This is because anything posted on Google+ is crawled and indexed almost instantly.
  • When users begin searching for the latest news, you want to be at the top of the search engine immediately after your story publishes. However this doesn’t happen easily. Posting your stories to Google+ will help you show up for searches almost immediately.
  • Capitalize on Google+ as a tool by posting multiple times per day, or at least by posting every day. As your followers grow, so will your referring traffic from search.
  • Don’t discount all of your other social networks. It’s fair to say that any increase in your overall social network, will help with search traffic.

Want to know how these tips will affect your bottom line?

Each market is different, and each news organization has a unique footprint. Brad Best and RJI can analyze your traffic and other key digital metrics to show you exactly how and where to grow your digital revenue.

You'll be surprised at the dollars you are currently leaving on the table. Call 573-884-9121.


Related Stories

How to get the most from dashboard analytics

Optimize your news website
How to get the most from dashboard analytics
February 14, 2013

Using email to help your news site

Optimize your news website
Using email to help your news site
January 29, 2013

Tips to optimize your news website

Optimize your news website
Tips to optimize your news website
December 27, 2012

comments powered by Disqus
MU | Missouri School of Journalism | University of Missouri