On Thursday, June 9th, The Black Media Initiative and The Nieman Foundation hosted a workshop on “How to Grow Your Audience on Social Media” using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The main instructor was Adriana Lacy, a journalist and freelance audience consultant in Boston, Massachusetts.
Lacy discussed several questions to ask on how to narrow down our target audience and what strategies we can use to reach a larger audience. ”We have to envision the people we are telling our story to. Where would you find these people? Do they know who you are? If they’re not already following your journalism, why not?” she added.
She explained the importance of putting ourselves in our audience’s position. “Why would they be interested in you doing this story? How is your take more relevant to them than someone else’s? And what work are you willing to put in to keep this audience engaged?”
After answering these questions, she provides several platforms by which we can create and share our content so that it can be more engaging to our targeted audience. First she describes Facebook features for content sharing such as; Link Posts, Image Posts, Video Posts and Facebook Stories. Link Posts are an opportunity to link our stories on our website. Lacy suggested, “avoid posting the same links within the 1-2 day span, since Facebook may mark this as spam.” She added, “Image Posts are an opportunity to link out to stories on our website while also providing a visual aid. These posts are often crucial to growing an audience, as they tend to be ‘shared’ more, exposing new readers to our posts.”
Lacy then discussed Video Posts as they are “a great way to engage our readers, where it was shown 71% of people have increased their online video viewing in the last year.” Facebook Stories, she added, is another great platform to use, as its functions are similar to Instagram or Snapchat stories. In addition, utilizing Facebook Groups is a good way to create community within the Facebook setting.
Lacy also shared tips for how to create engagement on Twitter, another platform that is able to expand your audience. On Twitter, 500 million tweets are sent each day (equivalent to 5,787 tweets every second) and 326 million people use Twitter every month. Some features she discussed included Video Posts, Threads, Moments, and Spaces. Video Posts are a great way to engage our readers, where 71% of people have increased their online video viewing in the last year using this feature. Threads involve keeping users updated during breaking news, events, or provide context to a story. Moments is a great way to round-up content and can include an array of Tweets to include users in the conversation. Spaces involve lightly preparing guests, creating a “run of show document”, and discussing questions & audience participation. She noted, “it’s important to have a strong moderator and ground the conversation every 10-15 minutes. We should aim for 30 to 45 minutes per space. It’s better to schedule the Space on Twitter 3-5 days ahead of time, where the user can “add to calendar” and the Space link can be shared. The best part is, we would be able to “repurpose” these Spaces where the Spaces can live on after a conversation, as the transcript can be made into articles, podcasts or audio clips.”
Adding hashtags on Twitter posts is also recommended as it gives more context and allows people to easily follow topics that they’re interested in. She advised us to “focus on higher-level hashtags when including them in posts. They are best used around tentpole events such as award shows, television and music or specific locations.”
Last but not least, Lacy discussed features on Instagram that can allow us to reach a wider range of audience. “This is the ideal platform for newsrooms as it can reach younger, more diverse audiences,” she added. She referenced a 2021 Pew Research Center study which showcased, “76% of people aged 24 reported using the app, and it was more widely used by Black and Latino audiences with ‘half of Hispanic (52%) and Black Americans (49%) saying they use the platform, compared with smaller shares of White Americans (35%) who say the same.’”
Lacy hoped we could utilize these tools in our own way if we were looking to grow our brand and speak to a wider range of people. The age of social media is here, thus it becomes integral to take advantage of these platforms to bolster the success of our own goals.