Please welcome this week’s 12 Questions Social Media Expert Spotlight guest, US Head of Audience Engagement at Financial Times, Jake Grovum.
He comes with a strong background in political journalism and social, even working his way up at FT -from social journalist to editor to Head of Social and the latest his current role – new as of last month. (Congrats Jake!)
So let’s dive in!
1. Which is your favourite social media platform, and why?
Currently, it’s Instagram, both for work and personal use (if you don’t count Tweetdeck running the background all day). It has the newest features that are interesting to experiment with in terms of how we can use them for news and storytelling AND also to boost engagement. All-time, though? I still haven’t gotten over the demise of Vine.
2. What social media platform is used most by your brand/agency?
In terms of pure volume, it’s Twitter by far. We have dozens of different accounts tied to subjects like markets and world news all the way down to some specific feeds about countries such as Brazil and China, not to mention our individual journalists.
We see a big audience for our core content there and it’s still the place for breaking news. But Instagram is where we do our most innovative work.
3. In your opinion, what is the future of social media and what platforms will lead the way?
Generally less social, I think. Long-term, messaging and platforms that are less public (or not public at all) will continue to eat into the amount of time people spend on more public networks. That’s not to say public platforms or wide sharing will go away, but the potential audiences won’t be what they once were; users’ time will be more split than before and things will be more personalised. That will require news outlets to get more specific and focused about who and how they engage people wherever they are. Our Markets WhatsApp group is a step in that direction for us.
4. Tell us about one social media campaign you liked most this year.
It’s not a campaign exactly, but the main Washington Post Twitter account coming alive with its own voice, sharing memes, replying to users, etc. It’s an account that clearly understands the internet and strikes a great balance between an authoritative news outlet and an account that’s actually fun to follow.
5. What about the latest campaign your brand or agency was involved in?
Does the daily news cycle count? Aside from that… the last big event for us was the 2018 US election and it was really one where we hit our stride in terms of how we project our journalism to a wider audience. Aleissa Bleyl, our great social producer in New York, designed a series of images to commemorate the historic firsts of the night that were all among our most successful posts (Facebook/Instagram). Those gave us something unique to share that highlighted one of the big running stories of the night, and one that got the most attention on social.
And our data/interactives team for the night, led by Joanna Kao, developed new tools to help us share results as they came in nearly in real time and break them down in detail the following day.
6. What is the most important thing brands and agencies need to keep in mind, in order to build a successful social media campaign?
Knowing your audience is foundational. It’s tempting to think about “voice” or establishing clear objectives and KPIs when building a successful campaign. But ultimately, I think if you don’t have your audience in mind (i.e. what they are coming to you for, what they are looking for in general, and what they expect from you) it’s a challenge to build anything that will work in the long run.
7. In your opinion, what is the most important KPI you look for to determine success on social media?
On-platform, sharing is still kind of the gold standard if you’re talking about measurable engagement. In effect, it’s someone cosigning your content and helping to boost the distribution on your behalf, which is invaluable. And from a practical standpoint, as reach becomes harder to come by especially on Facebook and, increasingly, Instagram, sharing is a great way to counteract that.
8. What will be the role of social media in the marketing mix of the future?
Ultimately social media is a much more direct and targeted way to reach an audience than more traditional forms of marketing, so it seems likely to grow into an even bigger role going forward. The catch is that the best practices, trends, networks and platforms (and the companies that own them) will change faster than I imagine the marketing landscape ever used to.
9. What would you say the biggest obstacle faced in social media?
The complete lack of power users and outside organizations have over the networks they use and work on. In most cases, companies like Facebook and Twitter, etc. have their own objectives that guide what they’re trying to do with their platforms. That’s fine insofar as they align with what users want or benefit from, but as they become self-interested (Facebook’s big push into video, integration of WhatsApp/Messenger, etc.) the functionality and utility of some of these platforms in terms of what we might want to use them for can decline. Ultimately we’re all just along for the ride.
10. What is one piece of advice you would give someone just starting in the industry?
For social media and news at least, don’t underestimate the value of basic journalism principles. In some ways, making news “engaging” on social is just a different way of writing a lede or headline or identifying the most interesting aspect of a story you’re covering. Being able to spot a story and tell it in an interesting way is where it all starts.
11. In your opinion, what ad format will lead the future of social media marketing?
I expect more blurring of the lines between “content” in general and ads, from influencers to branded content everywhere. Regulators will have their hands full.
12. Finally, what is a ‘Fun Fact’ we wouldn’t find on your social media profiles?
I somehow managed to raise a cactus from when it was just a few inches tall, in Minnesota (bringing it inside every winter), until it was well over seven feet tall and took three grown adults to move it around.
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