In this month’s Feature, we discuss how publishers can find stability in these shifting sands, and in our new Question, we share some practical tips for navigating Twitter’s potential change specifically. Finally, our new Case Study chronicles how one brand successfully negotiated some of the wildest content marketing terrain, the infamous Reddit AMA.
Naturally, we can feel overwhelmed by this publishing vertigo. It’s a difficult problem, and there’s no getting around that for the foreseeable future, but building a sound, adaptable strategy can provide some stable ground.
A stream of updates from people and brands the user follows, which include short posts, long posts, imagery, and videos, and incorporate sponsored content into the mix. The content may be organized by topic, as well, and may be surfaced based on an algorithm.
Given that larger trend, it’s best not to get hung up on the particularities of each publishing channel’s feature set as it is today. Instead, align your strategy with the bigger trends and quality standards that have stood the test of time, so that you’re more likely to be in a good spot however any specific channels change.
Tailor the content mix on each channel to meet these specific needs. Adjust as necessary, based on performance metrics. As the channel’s feature set evolves, try new content types and see what resonates.
There’s no getting around that bind completely, but you can mitigate the risk by getting followers to opt in to your owned subscriber database. For example, offer a polished email newsletter, and promote it regularly (but tastefully) across your channels, so social subscribers become email subscribers.
In the relatively short history of digital media, fortune has favored publishers who have embraced two complementary values: They’re open to adopting new platforms and ideas, but at the same time, they don’t let fleeting trends distract them from creating solid content aligned to their audience’s needs.
According to the insider reports, only the first 140 characters of longer posts would show up in Twitter streams, and users would have to click to see the full text. Like Facebook’s Instant Articles, the change feels like a move to keep users within the network ecosystem. Instead of clicking a link to see a full article or blog post elsewhere, Twitter presumably hopes, more users will be able to read the full post within Twitter. And as with Instant Articles, publisher partnerships may follow.
Putting aside what this means for Twitter’s future — and there are some strong feelings on the matter, to be sure — what does it mean for brand publishers in the immediate term?
First, don’t make any sudden moves. The shift is highly unpopular with a vocal contingent of Twitter users, and it’s best to stay out of the crosshairs until the dust settles. Stick mainly to conventional 140-character updates for now, keeping an eye on how the change is playing out. Even beyond the backlash period, short posts are likely to be the Twitter norm for the foreseeable future, so there’s no reason to make a radical change to your Twitter strategy.
That being said, your audience may indeed like longer posts now and then. The best way to find out is to dip your toe in with some experiments. For example, if you have some news that is longer than a 140-character tweet, but maybe not a good fit for a full blog post, try it as an extended Twitter post, and see what replies and retweets it gets compared to conventional tweets. Follow up the next week with another test.
If the change works as expected, it will be a good idea to use the first 140 characters as an opening that teases the full post. With any luck, Twitter will provide analytics for clicks to longer posts before long.
Even if longer posts are a hit and Twitter evolves into a blogging powerhouse, it’s a good idea to maintain an owned channel, such as a blog, as your content hub, rather than publish exclusively on Twitter. Depending too much on social networks you don’t control, which can change course at any time, puts your publishing program at risk.
EHT needed a storage partner that could help capture and reliably store the massive quantity of data. Enter Porter Novelli client HGST, one of the world’s leading storage makers. HGST saw this as a huge opportunity to tell its technology story to a new audience. While it would be years before the actual photo of the black hole would be possible, HGST wanted to spark excitement around its products and this great scientific achievement.
To expand HGST’s reach outside of its traditional channels, PN turned to Reddit, where the topics of science and technology resonate particularly well. PN recommended a public Q&A on Reddit’s IAmA forum (as in “I Am A movie star, president, etc.”). The exceptionally popular IAmA channel would allow thousands of influencers to make an authentic, direct connection with an EHT scientist. This in turn would help amplify HGST’s message of how the ability to store massive quantities of data unlocks new possibilities for advancing scientific discovery.
PN recommended holding the Reddit IAmA one week after the initial announcement of the HGST/EHT partnership to create sustained interest and extend HGST’s audience. The team promoted the IAmA in advance on HGST’s social media channels and cooperated with other relevant influencers, including Twitter accounts @Discovery_Space and @saoastro, to promote the event as well. On Reddit, the team contacted the moderators of astronomy- and science-related subreddits (forums) asking them to link to the IAmA when it went live. The team used paid promotion on Twitter and Reddit to amplify its reach among target audiences. Finally, the upcoming IAmA was mentioned in a Fast Company article about the EHT project.
On Reddit, 74,000 users clicked through to the IAmA during and after the discussion. During the discussion, Reddit users specifically asked about the choice of HGST Helium drives for the project, and the EHT scientist spokesperson was able to talk about the benefits of HGST’s products and how they stood out from competitors.
The Q&A was the top story on the IAmA forum for the duration of the event and ranked among the top ten stories on Reddit’s main page. The EHT IAmA became the 34th-most-popular IAmA of all time, among impressive competition like Stephen Colbert and President Barack Obama. All told, the story generated more than 4.4 million social media impressions and resulted in over 300 interactions with HGST’s Twitter handle, an exceptional figure compared to previous benchmarks.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Tom Harris in Raleigh wrote this month’s Feature about adapting to publishing platform changes, as well as our Question on Twitter’s rumored character limit change. George Wang in Alameda wrote our new Case Study on the Event Horizon Telescope project and HGST Reddit AMA.
The cover and welcome photos were uploaded to Flickr by George Alexander. John Seb Barber uploaded the bombe codebreaker machine photo, and Christopher Michel uploaded the photo of Ev Williams. Some backgrounds courtesy of subtlepatterns.com.
Thanks to Mary Gaulke, Tom Harris, and Chris Thilk for editorial oversight.