Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | 7 min read
Since the advent of the written word, there has been one fundamental dynamic that underlies every aspect of media: a few people create content, and a lot of people consume it.
But today, things have changed. We live in a time of media disruption. Audiences no longer just read content created by a chosen few – they now also actively provide feedback and generate content in their own voices. The consumer perspective is now a part of the experience of reading the news. The changed dynamic between publishers and writers has upended every aspect of the publishing business except for one: quality still matters.
The tension between user-generated content and the pursuit of quality is something every publisher and brand must contend with. We are all asking ourselves, “How do you facilitate a two-way conversation, while still ensuring superior content quality?” Forbes has been at the forefront of solving this challenge, and I’m excited to share some of our lessons.
Our overall goals at Forbes Media remain unchanged: We have always and will always create thought-provoking and intelligent writing. Only now, the scale that social and mobile provide means we can produce those articles and interact with our readers in a huge number of new places. In addition to our editorial staff, we now have 1,300+ expert contributors creating content on Forbes.com.
The core of our social strategy has been to use social to understand our audience, distribute content wherever that audience lives, and engage readers where they are most comfortable.
In today’s publishing landscape, your audience is both omnipresent and elusive. People consume more content than ever before in human history, but as they move from article to article, their attention is hard to pin down. Social is an enormous asset in helping us understand the content habits of our audience. What and where do they share? What do they discuss and grow passionate about? Our socially active readers tell us this every day, as they engage with Forbes content. It’s up to us to listen to them and adjust accordingly.
Once we identify those insights, we can use them to develop deeper relationships with our audience. Many of our readers are influencers in their respective fields. If we can induce organic sharing among those leading voices, the reach and authority of our content skyrockets. As a brand that is always looking to expand our reader base, this is incredibly powerful.
Social has changed the way people seek out information and discover news. According to eMarketer, 60% of adults consume social media on their smartphones. At Forbes we are capitalizing on that with 15% of our mobile traffic coming from social. But we can no longer expect audiences to seek out our content directly. Instead, both brands and publishers must bring content to the audience.
At Forbes, we are taking advantage of the explosion in available channels and reader access to content in print, online, on mobile, and on all social networks. We currently have 12 million people connected to the Forbes brand across two dozen social groups on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and we only plan to increase these numbers.
As part of our strategy, we aim to spark discussions around thought-provoking topics and encourage readers to engage with our content as frequently as possible. User- generated discussion is essential to our publication and brand.
Social has replaced the traditional reader’s comments in Forbes magazine. We can now monitor comments on particular stories through social activity and integrate this feedback into the direction of the magazine. The conversation can now be much more interactive both between us and readers and amongst readers themselves.
A great example of how we pursue reader engagement is the way we combine social activation with live events. In 2014, we held a Forbes “Under 30 Summit” in Philadelphia.
The #Under30Summit hashtag generated an owned and earned reach of 750 million impressions during the week of the conference, where we gathered 1,300 entrepreneurs and change agents, including Sara Blakely, Malala, Lucky Palmer of Oculus Rift, and Sean Rad of Tinder to name a few. Monica Lewinsky even joined Twitter for the first time at the Under 30 Summit, gaining 40,000+ followers within the first few hours.
Using social listening, we were able to see what attendees were saying about the conference on social media and gain insight into the topics and themes that mattered most to them.
With all of the investment and strategy involved in social, it’s crucial to monitor results across various metrics and KPIs. Every business is different, but at Forbes Media, our best measure of success is the response of our audience. We focus on driving meaningful growth in both digital and print readership.
And it’s working.
In 2014, Forbes.com had 31 million unique visitors a month (according to comScore), up 18% from just a year ago. We also now have 6.7 million readers (according to MRI Fall 2014), which is up 10% from our previous highest all- time readership. We attribute much of this growth to our successful digital transformation and focus on driving business value from social.
As a publisher in this time of disruption, we are in a unique position to lead the way in social content production and distribution.
There are many ways our readers can connect with our company and the Forbes Media brand – through our magazines, websites, conferences, live events, and now our social channels. Creating this cohesive experience, and elevating it with conversation and participation from readers, is going to be the key to our continued growth and distinction in the space.
About the Author: This article originally appeared in Sprinklr’s Journal of Customer Expereince Volume 2. Ann Marinovich is responsible for leading Forbes Media’s digital, mobile, and print advertising products and strategy across their integrated product line. She currently lives in New York City and is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.