Each morning when KUOW social media producer Brie Ripley gets to work, she asks herself the same question: How am I going to bring journalism to social media today? Ripley has been with the station for just a year, but as their second full-time social staffer, she has been able to innovate and grow audiences in the social space. More specifically, Ripley asks how she is going to bring region-specific stories to the accounts, which she says is key in reaching audiences and engaging with them.
When digital director Jodi Westrick was hired at Michigan Radio, she knew her new station was excellent at telling stories with audio and website content. Her goal was to expand the reach of those stories to new and different audiences.
Westrick and her team began synopsizing the station’s reporting on the Instagram platform using single images, slideshows, and video. These Instagram posts link back to the full stories using instructions to “visit the link in our bio.”
Back in 2012, a tiny radio show called 99% Invisible was desperate to continue production of what seemed to be a wildly popular podcast. With few options, host and creator Roman Mars popped up a page on the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter and asked his small-but-loyal fan base to keep his show in production. They answered. More than three times over.
The success of 99% Invisible’s Kickstarter campaigns captured a lot of attention in public media. Since then it’s become clear that crowdfunding isn’t ideally suited to support the overall health of a public media station. Rather, the best candidates for these campaigns are stand-alone projects over which an audience feels a sense of strong ownership, and projects that likely could not exist were they unable to meet their funding goal on Kickstarter.
KPCC (Southern California Public Radio)
In 2018, KPCC acquired a shuddered altweekly called LAist. The acquisition was part of a transformative digital strategy aimed at growing and diversifying their audience. Though they purchased the website, they needed funds and supporters to bring it back to life and incorporate the assets with existing KPCC assets: enter Kickstarter.
Last fall, WBHM 90.3 in Birmingham, Ala. ran their first paid social media ad campaign, and it led to very successful results.
The ads were direct solicitations for donations and offers to buy WBHM socks, t-shirts, and pint glasses in hopes of cultivating these individuals for membership later on. But the success lay in the use of targeting.
Targeting, as you probably know, is the magic (or creepiness) of digital ads that have been selected for people based on their past actions online. WBHM purchased targeted ads through Facebook, uploaded the email addresses of current and lapsed members, and then had Facebook target those users with ads, along with owners of email addresses they had from the NPR One database.
The owners of the ad-targeted email addresses made 279 donations totaling $32,441 during the station’s fall, 2017 membership drive. (Donations made up to one day after an ad was viewed by an individual and up to 28 days after an individual clicked through an ad were considered part of the fall, 2017 drive).
In 2017, my station, KCUR 89.3 in Kansas City, Mo., had a content-driven weekday email that highlighted important news of the day. The content was hand-curated and high-quality, and we knew it deserved a wider audience. My digital department allocated a small budget ($1,200) toward paid Facebook and Instagram ads aimed at generating email address leads. My colleagues in audience development also saw the newsletter as a major opportunity to get to know our audience as a result of the email addresses generated by their subscription to our list. Finally, we all believed we could convert many engaged readers into donors.
When the newsletter was a year old, it had 2,100 subscribers. We set this as our baseline; our goal was to grow the list by 100 percent. This felt ambitious but attainable for what was a first-time experiment. We didn’t have clear, in-house benchmarks, nor did we have easy access to paid-social metrics for our industry, so we referenced general Facebook benchmarks for success to help guide our goal. (At the time, internet research suggested $2/lead was phenomenal success for our industry.)
In 2017, St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU) Digital Media Specialist Brendan Williams made a connection that led to the station’s most successful social media experiment to date.
The station was paying an agency to, among other things, deliver brand content for their social media channels like image carousels and animated video aimed at listening options. But the investment yielded little ROI. KWMU's digital team realized they were making tons of content in-house that could be repurposed. They could easily take a portion of money they were paying the agency and divert it toward in-house experimentation in paid social media ads.
The station had an appropriate target in mind for the leads: a daily content-based email that they were looking to grow. Williams’ team had experimented enough with paid Facebook ads to know they did a pretty good job generating email leads.
So, KWMU decided to reappropriate some of its agency budget to pay for Facebook and Instagram ads promoting the station’s daily content email.