Social traffic is not audience engagement

It's a common mistake - but it's time to stop making it

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Editor & Publisher has published a fairly generic piece about the use of social in journalism, but it only really gets interesting towards the end, while talking to David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, about the future of social in the news biz:

It’s also a lot harder to combat misinformation when it spreads within private networks, which is why media companies need to engage more directly with their audiences, Chavern said.

And this is the money quote:

“While it’s not a great way to distribute content, it is a wonderful mechanism to talk to your readers about that content,” he said.

I'll keep repeating this until I'm blue in the metaphorical faec, but the journalism business made two massive mistakes around social media over the past half decade:

  1. Confusing "traffic from social" with "audience engagement"
  2. Focusing so much of its energy on Facebook

Many publishers are paying the price for that right now. Others are taking the opportunity to get audience engagement right again, revisiting things we were trying in the late 2000s. It's now or never — there won't be a third chance for many publishers.  

I hear on the grapevine that some publishers are still just hammering away on Facebook because they have literally no strategy for doing anything else. That's worrying, but somehow not surprising.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.