|Having a presence and pushing content on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has been both a big opportunity and a challenge for publishers.
According to a recent report from the Nielsen Company, the popularity of social media "is undeniable," and users spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networks and blog sites. Meanwhile, a survey from the Online Publishers Association says, in part, that only 23 per cent of respondents indicated that they trust content from social media environments.
So, where's the balance? Why should publishers spend so much time on social media efforts?
According to Go Forward Media, the Web firm that oversees e-media strategy for several clients, including Elsevier's Public Safety group, one advantage is boosting traffic.
Other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are useful, but don't generate nearly as much traffic as Facebook does, with nearly 200,000 "fans" across the brands. "We still have thousands of Twitter followers across the brands, and post content and retweet links multiple times a day, but typically it represents just a few percentage points of traffic.
"The days of a portal Web site where everyone in the industry feels like they ‘must go' there every day to keep up are over," he continues. "Home pages on Web sites are less and less relevant." Says Go Forward Media founder and CEO, Dave Iannone.
Some publishers, however, aren't seeing a dramatic jump in traffic as a result of their social media activities. For them, the real reason to maintain presences on these platforms is to build relationships and further engage their audience.
"Twitter and other social media platforms really allow an unparalleled ability for writers and reporters to interact with the people who read their work," says Hemal Jhaveri, assistant managing editor of digital and social media at U.S. based Politico. The site currently utilizes Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and lets readers post stories to Digg, YahooBuzz and others.
But with editors spending so much time posting stories and engaging with their audience across social platforms (some publishers have hired dedicated social media staffers), what's the return on the investment? Some publishers wonder why they should participate in social media if they aren't generating enough traffic from it and aren't making any money from it.
Turning a profit is possible, says Go Forward Media's Iannone. "On all three of [Elsevier's Public Safety group's] social networks we're successfully selling sponsors ‘Fan Pages' that allow them to create an identity and follow right along with our universe of fans and followers, engaging users in discussions about their products and more," he told FOLIO.
Iannone says that while social media revenues might not be as "blunt" as traditional advertising, it can significantly enhance existing products and drive new revenue, in addition to audience. "We're also using the reach of our social media platforms to drive new subscribers (in JEMS' case, paid subscribers specifically) as well as thousands of digital edition subscribers and hundreds of attendees to our sponsored Webcasts," he says. "They also drive new e-mail list sign-ups, new members of our own social media platforms (where we opt-in to e-mail, collect audience demographics, etc.), to our blog network (which has an ad network component) and helps showcase sponsored Fan Pages and buyer's guide companies."
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