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Publishers are prioritising social media as a growth strategy: Here’s how

Editors note: We are republishing an article by Faisal Kalim pertaining to the role of social media for publishers. This piece was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.

Creating quality content and improving user experience is the top priority for the majority (58%) of publishers this year, ahead of growing traffic (55%), subscriptions (41%), and social followers/engagement (40%), according to a new report by social media publishing platform, Echobox. 

The 14-point difference between publishers who cite traffic growth as a top priority, compared to those favoring digital subscription growth, clearly illustrates the critical role pageviews continue to play for the majority.

Source: Publishers & Social Media: 2021 Trends

The report, Publishers & Social Media: 2021 Trends, is based on a survey of 159 publishers from 40 countries. It looks into what they are prioritising this year.

63% of publishers say finding new audiences will become more important for them in 2021, “suggesting growth strategies that hinge on tapping into new markets and audience segments,” the authors write. 

Source: Publishers & Social Media: 2021 Trends

The vital role social media plays

“Growing social followers and engagement is a key priority, and one that can have a significant impact on both traffic and digital subscription growth,” they add.

Publishers recognize the “vital role social media plays” in growing traffic and subscriptions. Four in 10 consider it a top priority. The same number also say that dealing with Facebook algorithm changes was a big challenge last year because of the drastic and sudden impact it can have on traffic. However, the platform continues to be the dominant source of social referral traffic (90%).  

At the same time, 70% of the publishers say that Instagram will be more important to them this year compared to 39% who say the same about Facebook. YouTube will be more important for 51%, reflecting the growing interest in video. Research by Activate Consulting shows that video consumption time increased by 43% as people stayed indoors due to the pandemic, and is expected to record sustained growth of 8% even after the restrictions end.

Twitter continues to hold the same level of importance as last year for the majority of the publishers (63%). It’s the platform that is used most often to intentionally access news, according to the 2021 Reuters Digital New Report.  

Source: Publishers & Social Media: 2021 Trends

TikTok still has to prove its effectiveness. Despite the hype around it, 40% of the publishers said the platform is not relevant for them. Similarly, Snapchat and Pinterest will not be important for most publishers this year.

Find ways to adapt to these more informal spaces

The importance of social media for publishers is emphasized in the Digital News Report. “Social media are a complex space for mainstream media organisations to navigate,” writes Dr. Simge Andı, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “They have to share this space with a range of other content creators who do not have the same editorial principles and values. 

“But given the time that people spend on social networks – and the dangers of false information and political propaganda – it still seems important that journalists and news organisations find ways to adapt to these more informal spaces, especially if they want to engage people with low interest in news and young people (groups that rarely go directly to news sites or apps).”

More from The Fix: Instagram, TikTok, Telegram: Insights for publishers

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

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