Humans are innately social. Why else would Facebook have 2.89 billion active users each month?
But these experiences shouldn’t be limited to social media platforms. In fact, failing to support news content with social and interactive experiences is a wasted opportunity for media organizations.
Because social media sites are rife with misinformation, data privacy issues and trolls, users have come to trust news sites 25% more than social media platforms, according to a Reuters report.
Experts in the media industry are now noticing that users are losing interest in sharing content and engaging with their connections on social media.
“Instead, people want to actively seek out opportunities to join communities and conversations that are more isolated or centred around topics of interest,” says Dan Seaman, VP of product management at Viafoura.”
A two-way conversation between editorial and audiences
Without a two-way dialogue between audience members and editorial staff, media companies are unable to fully understand or connect with the community around their content.
“Your audience expects to have the opportunity to like, comment, leave their opinions and submit questions,” states Mark Zohar, president and COO at Viafoura. “By giving them that opportunity, media companies can create a healthy level of engagement, gather data insights and build a direct relationship between content, authors and readers.”
Media organizations that allow their audience members to ask questions and share their thoughts have access to a goldmine of information about their community. And that information can be used to make their overall content strategies more relevant and aligned with reader interests.
Offering a two-way dialogue also forges lasting, meaningful relationships with audiences that encourage them to return more frequently to consume and interact with content.
“We know that when authors leave comments in the conversation experience, that absolutely does drive engagement because people want to respond to credible authors and sources,” Zohar adds.
So establishing strong social connections that lead to audience loyalty isn’t just about allowing readers to chat with one another. Journalists can also contribute to community conversations for deeper insight into reader preferences, thoughts and opinions.
Sourcing insights and follow-ups from your audience
Zohar outlines that media organizations can use their audience’s comments to find potential sources for future news stories.
“You can look through the community to see if anyone’s written about a specific experience they might have had in a comment,” Zohar explains. “In this sense, community members can become anonymous sources for content, including investigative stories.”
Journalists can include questions as conversation prompts at the end of their articles or within the comment section to encourage people to share their personal experiences and opinions.
Occasionally, users may also post their burning questions and concerns around specific content topics, which could help inspire journalists to form new ideas for follow-up stories.
As journalists begin to pay more attention to the words of their audience members, users will see their thoughts and preferences reflected in the content, leading to a more captivating on-site experience.
Viafoura data even highlights users’ time spent on-site can increase by 16 times when media organizations simply support their content with social tools.
Establishing healthy conversation guidelines
Despite the need to cultivate conversations with their audiences, media organizations also face the challenge to maintain the right commenting conditions to encourage participation from both their community and journalists.
“When dialogue isn’t healthy, and you don’t have the mechanisms to support civil conversation, the social environment quickly devolves,” Zohar says. “Your newsroom will not want to converse with an audience engaging in personal attacks, whether that be against the community or an author.”
So to keep conversations on-topic, troll-free and healthy, organizations must rely on support systems, like automated moderation and human moderators, to enforce community guidelines.
If you’re searching for an effective moderation system, keep an eye out for one that can automatically block up to 95% of offensive comments for the best results.
Organizations that keep their commenting spaces free from harmful content have the social power of their communities at their fingertips. Journalists can then tap into their audience’s healthy conversations to better connect with their readership and create content that people will actually want to stick around to read and pay for.