- How Science Works
- Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them
- Making Sense of Science Stats
- Editing for Story
- Editing Controversial Science
- Holding Science to Account
- Covering Health Care
- Climate and the Environment
- Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True
Illustrating Complex Science Stories
- The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
- The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
- Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
- Special Considerations for Data Visualization
- Uncertainty and Misinformation
- Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
- Additional Reading and Resources
- About the Author
- Social Media and Reader Engagement
- Popular Science
- Op-Eds and Essays
- About This Handbook
Strategies and Goals
By Katie Fleeman / 3 minute read
You have probably been in a meeting where someone asks a question like, “Should we launch a TikTok?” Or, “How much time should I spend tweeting?” Or maybe even “Why are we even on Facebook anymore?”
Those good questions get to an underlying concern: It is impossible to be everywhere, in every way, and to do it all well. Even if you are fortunate enough to have ample time, budget, and resources, you will have to make decisions about which platforms to invest in, to what degree to invest, and how you will package your stories to fit those platforms. How do you choose?
Identifying your strategic vision, setting goals in line with that vision, and then crafting tactics to meet your goals will help you make those decisions.
There are generally three business areas that social media can help with. Though they are presented here as distinct items, they are inevitably intertwined:
- Editorial: Finding sources, telling stories, sharing articles, breaking news, driving traffic
- Audience/Marketing: Building and engaging audiences, increasing brand awareness, promoting products (subscriptions, newsletters, events, etc.)
- Revenue: Driving consumption, selling products, sponsored advertising, converting subscriptions
The editorial mission, business model, and organizational structure of a publication will shape which goals you are pursuing and the tactics you use. For example, revenue goals may not be appropriate for an assigning editor, but they are relevant for a social-media manager or for an editor tasked with executing tactics related to broader strategies, like increasing return visits. Regardless, establishing your goals will help you stay on target and measure your success.
Social Media and the Bottom Line
Based on the business model and where social media sit in an organization, social media can and should be part of a revenue strategy. But if recent history is a guide, don’t look for it to be a revenue driver.
For subscription-based publications, social-media engagement might be part of a customer funnel or ladder. For nonprofit newsrooms, social-media reach can demonstrate audience interest — useful for grant proposals.
Conversely, revenue goals may shape what you do not do on social media: For example, a “behind the scenes” video might best be saved for a members-only portal instead of a Facebook upload.
For the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the editorial side of things (with a touch of “marketing”) and methods you can use to find sources and build and engage with your audience.
Defining Your Audience
Who are your readers? What new people do you want to reach? What content will appeal specifically to them, and what format is the best fit? Those are the kinds of questions you are probably already thinking about while assigning or editing a story.
When it comes to science coverage, I think about audiences in broad groupings based on comfort with scientific material:
- Broad interest: People with little to no previous knowledge who are not necessarily inclined to seek out science coverage but may encounter it as part of a more generalized news diet. Examples: followers of the “main” Facebook page of a local news outlet; newsletter subscribers for a general-interest magazine.
- Science-interested: People with at least some previous knowledge who have already shown interest in — or opted into following — science coverage. Examples: members of a science-enthusiast Facebook group; listeners of a popular science podcast or radio program; readers of a science or health section of Apple News.
- Specialized interest: People with expertise in specific or related fields who have a vested interest in following developments. Examples: scientists reading the front matter of a journal to learn about progress in other disciplines; practitioners subscribed to a trade publication.
This is more of a spectrum than strict categorization, and your audience will very likely span these different groupings.
Surveys, focus groups, or other analyses of audience behavior can help you verify these assumptions vis-à-vis your publication and readers. Of course, all of that may vary on the basis of platform or traffic channel, which we discuss more in the section Different Platforms, Different Audiences.