Creating social media that captures people’s attention means tapping into emotion, said Andrew Springer, the senior editor for social media at ABC News who spoke recently to 2014 Kip Fellows via Google Hangouts.
“It doesn’t matter what the emotion is,” he said. “It’s called the ‘Hey, Martha! affect.’ Someone is reading the newspaper, they look up and say, ‘Hey Martha! Look at this!’”
The Columbia University School of Journalism graduate said that journalists’ competition is not just other newspapers or stations, but any company that creates content.
“Nowadays people don’t just read newspapers or turn to Walter Cronkite,” said Springer. “It’s Facebook; it’s Buzzfeed; it’s Twitter. We’re living in the attention economy. You have to capture people’s attention.”
ABC News uses social media to build its brand, Springer said. The news organization has more than 7 million Facebook likes and Twitter followers each. Facebook pulls in 70% of social traffic for ABC News.
Springer cited two types of sharing: Branded sharing, or what ABC News pushes out; and organic sharing, the things that people share on their own.
“To get people to share we want to tap into emotions,” said Springer.
ABC News has a social team that runs media accounts and a social desk that activates during breaking news.
Springer suggested five stories that are “inherently social:”
- Breaking news. Either live news or stories that drive the conversation. “The juror on the (George) Zimmerman trial on Good Morning America got huge hits.”
- Stories that touch the heart. The story of terminally ill baby serving as best man in his parents’ wedding was among the most “liked.”
- Outrage stories: A Washington man accused of blowing up his dog not being charged with animal cruelty.
- “Listicle,” lists created for social media or for content. “22 jobs where men always make more than women.”
- In-depth stories. “Billionaire twins abused like slaves by dad.”
These types of social media posts are not far off what makes a good story or article.
Magazine-style, well-rounded stories and lists that organize big news stories have hundreds to thousands of shares, he said.
“It depends on what your market is, who your audience is and what people want to see . . .” Springer said. “Our audience’s way of consuming news is changing, and we need to keep up with that.”
You have to be preemptive when considering social media coverage, Springer said.
“What can we do from the get-go? When you’re going out to cover stories, think . . . How can I make them social? Not only social, but I can make them mobile?” he said.
About 71 percent of all activity on Facebook is on a mobile device, he said.
Springer suggested a few online tools for journalists:
- Facebook graph search: To verify material, look for victims during breaking news, etc.
- Specific searches in the Facebook search field: “People who graduated from Franklin Regional High School” or “Men who work at Good Morning America,” for example.
- Google Reverse Image results. Use when you have a photo without an ID. Copy the image url, go to images.google.com, paste in the url, search by image. The engine gives its best guess as to who the subject is.
Springer said his goal as social media editor is to put ABC News in people’s heads via Facebook.
“We have to, as companies, keep up with our audiences and where they are going,” he said. “There are angles that you can take and things that you can tap into that get the message across.”
Follow Andrew Springer on Twitter: @springer.