The Twitter takeover — another reason to build engaged and active communities on your owned and operated properties

Monday April 25th, 2022, Twitter’s board accepted billionaire Elon Musk’s offer to buy the social media company and take it private. The announcement ends what can only be called a weeks-long media firestorm as Musk offered to buy the company for $44 billion. Twitter stockholders will receive $54.20 for each share of common stock — a significant premium over the stock’s price from just months earlier.

Musk has often referred to himself as a “free speech supporter” and has been a loud critic of content moderation policies put in place by organizations, like Twitter, to stem the flow of misinformation, enforce authenticity and prevent harassment.

Musk also seems to believe that he’s advancing the free speech movement by taking over the social platform. For instance, he claims that he wants “to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans.”

Generally, the news has raised eyebrows.

Between Musk’s recent statements and the implied return of users currently banned from the platform, many believe he’s bound to run into conflict with multiple regulators. Now, Thierry Breton, the European Union’s commissioner for the internal market, has warned Elon Musk that Twitter must follow the rules on moderating illegal and harmful content online.

What does this mean to publishers dependent on social media platforms like Twitter? According to Musk, he plans to have less content moderation on Twitter. This means that publishers will soon be at the mercy of his social media strategies, which will be based on his own definition of truthful or accurate news and a free-sharing audience.

The bottom line is that publishers must be in control of their community guidelines and content moderation. In other words, they need to be in a position where they can protect against misinformation and personal attacks on their journalists.

For this reason, publishers need to invest in building their communities and audience conversations away from social media. After all, there’s no better way to keep audience engagement where it belongs — directly on publisher-owned websites!

Many digital publishers have already started moving to adopt on-site engagement strategies and solutions, including real-time conversations and live Q&As, to grow audiences, gather first-party data and ultimately drive sustainable monetization. However, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has highlighted the need to accelerate that strategy.

Rest assured that wherever Twitter goes from here, Viafoura will be ready to clear you a path for building an engaged and safe online community.

A Socially Engaged News Network That Doesn’t Depend on Social Media

Over the past decade, the ubiquitous and overwhelming phenomenon that is social media has rocked the world of traditional journalism to its core. A reporter today who isn’t on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat is something of a dinosaur.

Catherine Badalamente knows better than most about just how profound the changes have been. She’s spent the last six years as the vice president of Digital Media at Graham Media. The company operates seven award-winning television stations and associated online media hubs in Houston, Detroit, San Antonio, Jacksonville (FL) and Orlando. It has been recognized within the industry as a news leader in digital media and technology development.

Badalamente has worked hard to embrace new, interactive technologies in an effort to make Graham Media a prime resource for the local communities it serves. With year-to-year growth of 29% in daily average users over the past five months, it seems that hard work is paying off.

Using Social to Get People off of Social — and onto Graham Media

Badalamente admits that social media engagement is a key piece of the puzzle for Graham Media — but it’s not the only piece. Rather than the final goal, Badalamente sees social media engagement as a tool to drive readers to the company’s own platforms.

“We can’t control our content on social media,” says Badalamente. She explains that tech giants like Facebook or Instagram can change their algorithms on a whim. Media companies, like Graham Media, optimize content to get maximum exposure considering the social network’s algorithms, and when something changes, the content may not be seen by as many viewers.

“It can be dangerous to put too much energy into platforms that make decisions about how our content is exposed,” says Badalamente. “Instead, we’re using social media to direct users back to us.”

An Interactive Plan in Action

Graham Media’s KPRC Channel 2 in Houston recently put this strategy into action while covering the story of missing four-year-old Maleah Davis. A KPRC reporter used a Viafoura live question-and-answer widget to ask the public for questions about the case, and then answered those questions in real time.

“I followed it live from Detroit, and it was so compelling because the audience asked amazing questions,” says Badalamente. The network then advertised through social media that the questions and answers would be reported that night on the evening news.

“It was real and interactive,” Badalamente added.

And most importantly, it directed viewership back to Graham Media’s own platform — the evening news. It’s one part of a larger strategy that Badalamente says is responsible for the 34% increase in digital revenue Graham Media experienced in 2018.

Created by an Algorithm, Driven by the Community

Making the news interactive is another key component of Badalamente’s plan to make Graham Media the first place its communities turn to for hyperlocal coverage — before social media.

“People aren’t satisfied with simply consuming the news,” says Badalamente. “They have an expectation that they will be contributing to the conversation.”

To create a venue for these conversations, Badalamente is targeting what she describes as “communities of interest.” A community of interest could be a geographical location like a neighbourhood, or a local hero – Aretha Franklin in Detroit, for example – or even a simply hobby like fishing. Graham Media uses a specially-designed aggregation tool that monitors internet traffic for topics that are of interest to the local community served by a particular television station.

When the tool finds a topic that is generating traffic in a particular community, it automatically generates a page on the relevant station’s website. It then gathers content on that subject both from within Graham Media’s platforms and from the internet at large and fills the auto-generated page with the latest relevant news on that topic.

The specialized aggregation tool has only been running for a year, but Badalamente is already seeing results. Graham Media app downloads increased by 19.6% over the past month to 131,254 downloads, and auto-generated pages have begun popping up in the networks’ most-viewed sections.

“No one is lifting a finger,” says Badalamente. “It’s very exciting.”

Now that the system is in place, it’s time to take the next step. Graham Media will search for local individuals who are heavily invested in a particular community of interest, and will make them facilitators who can help organize and share a page’s content.

“How can we build a passionate, invested audience?” Asks Badalamente. “By becoming a gateway to information for the community.”

With Badalamente at the helm, Graham Media is doing just that. The user base is growing, and with it, the company’s bottom line – year-to-year revenue is up 39%.

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