Eight smart tactics to finish your year strong

For one, start treating Facebook like LinkedIn

Late last year, our team at Atlantic Media Strategies predicted that the media landscape in 2016 would be more complex than ever. Consider that a candidate for understatement of the year.

We’re halfway through a year that has already proved to be one of the most eventful on record in the media/tech space. Emerging distributed platforms provide more ways than ever to communicate your organization’s mission and message (like our Medium publication). New mediums such as virtual reality are a challenge for even accomplished storytellers. And no one really knows how to build a credible chatbot yet. With all of these potential avenues for exploration, you’d be forgiven for not knowing where to start.

Our team is here to help you prioritize. We identified the top tactics your team should try in the second half of this year — from easy-to-deploy research tools to rethinking old channels like email newsletters. The top priorities don’t necessarily have to be the biggest slogs — we focused on tactics that any organization can implement.

We want hear from you too — chime in with your own ideas as responses.

Start treating Facebook like LinkedIn

In case you missed it, Facebook’s VP of Product, Adam Mosseri, made a potentially scary announcement for publishers a few weeks back: the company is changing its newsfeed algorithm to favorably promote content from friends and family (as opposed to content from news organizations and brands).

Rather than dwell on what’s been lost, consider: hasn’t the idea of focus on the individual expert … and their personal network been your brand’s strategy on LinkedIn for some time now? Now look at Facebook’s engagement metrics (yes, even among the thought leaders) in comparison to LinkedIn’s.

comScore’s 2016 Cross-Platform Future in Focus (pages 31–32)

It’s time to try making Facebook a platform to build up your experts. Just please … leave those cringe-inducing headlines behind. What do I mean by that? No more “Unleashing Your Inner Thought Leader.” No more “3 Stages to Become a Successful Thought Leader.” And no more combining thought leadership with internet jargon (“Is generosity today’s thought leadership ‘killer app’? No. No, it’s not).

Jean Ellen Cowgill, President

Reconsider email

It’s likely that your brand currently uses, has used, or has thought about using email as a way to connect with your audience. But what email may lack in the inherent sexiness of the latest social networking platform, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. Not only is email mobile-friendly and content-flexible, it’s also popular among every generation born after 1945, according to Mary Meeker’s latest research.

Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report (page 107)

For brands that need to connect with a 21-year-old right out of college, the 42-year-olds looking to buy their second home, and 63-year-olds who are about to retire, this type of consistency is invaluable. Consider the English soccer club Manchester City, which uses email to communicate and engage with a diverse set of fans and stand out in a competitive digital space. But if the ROI doesn’t sell you, I’d suggest thinking about email as a way to shake off the constant pressure for virality in favor of a more considered way of connecting with the people that matter to you.

“Newsletters mark a turn in our online communications,” writes Clive Thompson in Wired, “away from the hummingbird metabolism of status updates and toward something more contemplative.”

Aaron Morrissey, Senior Manager, Client and Content Development

For one month, pretend that your organization doesn’t have a website

Instead of publishing new content to your blog or homepage, publish only on social platforms or through email. For organizations that don’t rely on advertising dollars for sustainability, this is a worthwhile experiment. For starters, email and social networks (and really just Facebook) are how people get most of their information and news. Plus, maintaining an organizational website requires a lot of time, energy, and resources that, for many, are in short supply. Upstart media organizations like The Ringer, NowThis, and Obsessee have enacted variations on this strategy and developed big audiences.

The Ringer’s Medium homepage

What might happen if you strip everything away and just focus on creating compelling content that meets audiences where they are? Answering that question could offer valuable insights for your publishing and communications strategy. Your website will still be waiting there when you get back.

Jason Tomassini, Senior Manager, Editorial

Do a little research

Summer is a great time to dip your toe in the waters of audience research. While many organizations operate on a “gut feel” for who their audience is, not many conduct even a modest amount of research to arrive at these ideas.

Too often, audience definition is based on personal experiences, anecdotal examples, or secondhand information. Research can be a great tool to confirm or deny ideas about your audience that have been kicking around the office for as long as anyone can remember.

And getting started doesn’t have to be expensive. You can always start with what you have — such as your Facebook communities or email lists — and ask questions about your users’ habits and needs. What are they interested in? What do they expect from your organization? What don’t they expect? Using simple polls such as these can help you get an authentic understanding of your audience and tailor your communications to meet them where they are, ultimately driving engagement and return on investment for your organization.

Jim Walsh, Associate Director, Editorial

Rethink your photo strategy

As Quartz demonstrates time and again, a compelling feature image for your article can make all the difference. Today, organizations have mere seconds to capture a digital user’s attention. A great photo is a quick and effective way to draw audiences in before they move on to the next thing in their news feed. Great photography is also highly emotive, and can help break up text-heavy pieces.

Quartz: “On one of the world’s largest rivers, floating clinics bring doctors and medicines to millions”

Luckily, finding a compelling photo doesn’t have to be hard — or expensive. Check out these free resources, and you’ll be well on your way to adding visual impact to your organization’s ideas.

Kristin Hume, Director of Brand and Marketing

Try out social sentiment analysis

With the proliferation of two-way communication on social media channels, organizations should now be looking to collect, organize, and curate those comments. This effort can help them quantify what might typically be identified as qualitative data.

Cognovi’s social sentiment coverage of Brexit

This exercise — of aggregating the emotions, concerns, and tonality underlying sentiments expressed over social media — allows companies and strategists to better understand attitudes towards brand and marketing campaigns as well as public policy and societal challenges.

On a broader level, this kind of analysis has been leveraged to foresee volatility in the stock market, gauge employee attitudes toward company practices, and anticipate election outcomes — including the recent Brexit vote. There are a bunch of tools you can use, but no matter which you go with, being mindful of social sentiment can go a long way toward supporting your digital strategy in 2016.

Anita Sharma, Research Director
Sarah Guinee, Intern, Strategy and Research

Hashtag trademarking is the new frontier

In the coming months, I predict a surge in the number of hashtag trademark requests; because honestly, why wouldn’t you do it (see here and here)?

According to research from Thomson CompuMark, major consumer brands across the globe have finally caught up to the “early adopters” and are beginning to see the value in protecting their brand in the social media space, and that includes the #hashtag. Companies that have already ventured down the trademark path include Pepsi Co. (#sayitwithpepsi), clothing retailer Madewell (#everydaymadewell), Procter & Gamble (#LikeAGirl), and Mucinex (#blamemucus).

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows companies or individuals to register a hashtag “only if it functions as an identifier of the source of the applicant’s goods or services.” Keep in mind that the trademark process is not for the faint of heart — it can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to secure. It’s still great to get the ball rolling if your organization or brand has campaigns that are using popular terminology, have the potential to be misused by their competitors, and are (in my humble opinion) #SoFetch. So plan accordingly.

Hillary Beulah, Social Media and Audience Growth Editor

Pull your readers into the editorial process

Readers today no longer expect a perfect product — as our current obsession with the oft-broken Pokemon Go proves. This is one of the key tenets of lean media — building audience feedback into your editorial and product process.

Curious City

But there’s no single way to crowdsource editorial content—you have a few models of outreach to choose from. The Guardian asked its readers for help parsing through the 2.6 million word Chilcot Report. Public radio stations like WBEZ and WAMU have open conduits for reader input into the stories they produce through Curious City and What’s With Washington respectively. And The Washington Post has gone so far as to craft a reader community around the subject of the gender pay gap — Pay Up — leading to a range of interesting editorial content.

No matter which way you go, you’ll be on your way to crafting content that fits the preferences of actual audience members rather than abstract demographic slices. In the words of Jennifer Brandel, CEO of Hearken and founder of Curious City, “By reframing audiences as individuals, new methods of engagement and interaction are possible, which make plain specific and actionable insights about people’s information needs. More varied, original and personally relevant content follows.”

Joshua Lasky, Senior Manager, Digital Trends and Insights

Smart digital strategies are just one of the many things we think about for clients at Atlantic Media Strategies. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Digital Trends Index, and get in touch with us on Twitter.