Our social media team tracks analytics on Twitter and Instagram, as do I. We also keep an eye on site traffic for our website. Analytics is not something we use to make content decisions, only inform them. It is a helpful tool to see what has gained traction in the community and what stories we might want to follow or develop more.
Our best month on Twitter analytically was July 2020, when I covered the federal occupation in Portland for two weeks. In that month, we had almost 9.8 million tweet impressions and gained 1000’s of followers, the majority of which we have retained.
Knowing that we could never replicate the circumstances that brought us that much interaction, we have to infer lessons from it. It shows that people like topical news about important issues that are prominent in national discussions and they like a consistent flow of information.
September 2020 taught us a similar lesson about content with our coverage of the wildfires and continued racial justice protests in Salem resulting in 780k Twitter impressions. Our coverage again was topical and consistent, and resulted in high engagement on social media.
We can take these lessons and apply it to future coverage.
Instagram analytics often tell us different things than Twitter analytics. Posts that are popular on Twitter, aren’t always as popular on Instagram, and vice versa. This is tied to the varying audiences on the two platforms, with our Instagram audience engaging more with school-focused information, as well as community focused.
Instagram insights show us how many people we are reaching with each post, where they viewed our posts, as well as comparative reach from week to week.
Here is the announcement I posted to the Clypian Instagram account after the School Resource Officer contract was canceled by the Superintendent, in early March 2021. The post had some of the highest engagement we had seen in several months.
Through Instagram analytics, I have found that photo galleries are the most popular, along with breaking news, particularly when it has a photo instead of a graphic. People also engage when we post consistently on the Instagram Stories.
Meanwhile, website traffic analytics can tell us what kind of stories people want to read the most. Looking at our most popular stories, they all consist of topical content related in some way to current events, just like on Twitter. This includes more positive stories, such as a profile on a local Black Lives Matter leader, and protest recaps, such as from the first night of Salem’s racial justice protests and from one of the nights when the Wall of Moms was out in Portland. Exposés were also popular, such as my article about the violent history of a member of Oregon’s alt-right.
These analytics can be used to see which stories people engage with the most. We can then use that information to write similar stories or follow up on those stories if more information comes to light. For example, I am working on an extension to the exposé on the August assaults on Black community leaders, as the DA’s office considers the case.
In the past few years, we have worked to make the Clypian a more seamless and professional brand to help with marketing.
This branding includes having consistency across all social media channels. For Instagram and Twitter, we have our logo as the profile picture so that our accounts are synced visually.
On all platforms, we make sure to advertise ourselves as student-run media or student journalists. We want people to know who we are and what we do, without having to dig for information.
Similar information is promoted across all of our social media channels and presented in different ways depending on the format. This consistency means that no matter which channel you visit, the same information is present.
For example, I published a story after touring Marion County’s ballot counting facility right before the 2020 General Election. On Twitter, we simply shared the article. On Instagram, we posted photos with five fun facts from the article.
On our website, during my sophomore year, I worked with the former Editor-in-Chief to make it easier for people to get information about who our editors are. We created a “Meet the Editors” page, updating it each year to keep the information current. This helps humanize our work.
This past year, I have worked to brand myself as a student journalist, turning my personal Twitter into an account that I use to share my own reporting and the reporting of others.
I have worked to establish a clear relationship between my account and the Clypian’s, sharing most of the stories I publish on both. Sometimes, I create reporting threads on my own account, which will then be shared from the Clypian account and vice versa. The Clypian is tagged in my bio so that people can navigate directly there.
One of the reporting threads that I published on my own account and then retweeted from the Clypian’s was a series of tweets about a well-known fixture of Oregon’s alt-right who was in DC during the insurrection on January 6. The tweet thread had 10,000’s of impressions, per Twitter analytics.
I also use my own account to share articles that include an interview of me or use my videos or photos. This helps solidify my own personal brand as a student journalist. For example, I retweeted this interview that I did with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker about the Portland protests.
In doing media interviews this summer about covering the Portland protests and student journalism, I was able to further establish my personal brand. These media interviews included features in the Washington Post, the Oregonian, the Center for Public Integrity, Harvard’s Neiman Foundation, the Student Press Law Center, and more. Vice News also featured me in a segment about the protests.
Now, when you Google my name, information about me as a student journalist is what fills the first several pages of results. This all means that most places where people interact with my name online, information will be provided about my student journalism and it will direct them to the Clypian.
Some of the most important branding work that I’ve done both personally and for the Clypian has not been public, but has been in establishing relationships with sources and professional journalists.
This will serve both me as a journalist, and the Clypian in the future, as this relationship building will give reporters at the Clypian access to information long after I leave.
In establishing relationships with sources, it became apparent to me that one of the biggest struggles for student journalists is access. It is hard to find these sources and facilitate working relationships, and it takes time and energy to maintain.
When I first started getting information from Salem Police Department’s Public Information Officer about plans for the Salem protests, he told me that I was the first student journalist he had ever worked with or given his contact information to.
I have also established relationships with professional reporters. For example, I talk to one of our local education reporters approximately once a month about stories. Reporters from various outlets across Oregon, such as OPB and the Oregonian, greet me at news events and have promoted our work at the Clypian on their platforms.
For example, Sergio Olmos from OPB, has shared our live-tweeting.
In a recent article, an update to an arrest that I broke, OPB linked to my Twitter thread about the initial arrest.
When we were printing a paper, we would sell several ads each month to help with fundraising. Most months we would have ads from Jamba Juice, Birthright, and Odd Moe’s Pizza. We have long-standing relationships with these organizations and they would often buy a year’s worth of ads from us.
With everything online now, we have a donation link on the front page of the website in a sidebar, so that people can donate easily. This is where we directed people to donate when they ask how they can support my coverage of protests, for example.
All of these things drive audience engagement. Our goal is to produce high quality journalism and provide the community with access to it. We want our audience to find our content interesting and engaging.
We use branding to tie all our platforms together, which in turn drives more people to follow us on multiple platforms. We also use branding as we work to establish our place in the community.
We use analytics to see what the community is most interested in and find ways we can keep them more engaged.
We work to increase audience engagement in other ways, too. I encourage my social media team to post question boxes on our Instagram stories every few months. They ask people if they have questions about major events, such as schools reopening, and then provide answers. Sometimes they ask if our followers have any content requests, which is an easy way to continue to engage audiences.
Another way we engage audiences is through diverse coverage. This includes diversity in the content of what we are publishing, such as posting about reopening schools and the wildfires in the same time period. It also includes diversity in platforms and using a multimedia approach when covering events.
For example, I try to publish articles and complementary photo galleries. We try to post lots of videos on Twitter. By diversifying how information is conveyed, we are able to make our content more interesting and, in turn, engaging.
Audience engagement is an ever-evolving challenge and opportunity. Before I graduate, I plan to support our next Editor-in-Chief in developing an effective audience engagement strategy based on what we have experienced in recent years.