Strategies to build content interaction on social networks
Yesterday PostRank released the results of research they performed on the frequency with which press releases that originate on commercial newswire web sites are shared in social networks. PostRank found press releases on PR Newswire’s web site were shared much more frequently than content posted to our competitors’ sites. The study counted the number of times press releases were shared on 20+ social networks. (Read the full PostRank study.)
We’ve known for a while the audience we’ve cultivated on PR Newswire.com is more likely to share content than the average internet user. A study of PRNewswire.com users we commissioned Forrester Research to perform revealed that despite the diversity of the PR Newswire audience (it’s comprised of professional journalists, bloggers, individual investors, and consumers researching products and services) they share a common trait – they’re more likely to share the content they consume than the average U.S. internet user.
However, we were honestly surprised by the fact that press releases posted to PR Newswire.com are shared much more frequently than those found on competitor sites. Why is this the case? Well, in addition to cultivating a quality audience, several other tactics we’ve employed have helped boost the sharing of PR Newswire content. And we think these lessons we’ve learned from running a news site are useful for anyone developing a content strategy:
- Make it easy for your audience to share your content – and to credit you when they do so.
- Employ humans, not automated feeds, to distribute content thoughtfully in social networks.
- Set the bar high for content quality.
- And don’t forget search engines. More of your content will be shared the more easily it can be found.
This list might look simple, but each of these tactics requires some real effort on our part. Let’s look at each aspect in more detail.
- We encourage sharing, and make it easy. This may be a bit obvious, but we’ve had a variety of social sharing tools embedded in all the press releases displayed on PRNewswire.com for years. Readers can tweet, blog, share, like, email, print, download, Digg, Stumble and post press releases without leaving the page. Additionally, we don’t put barriers between the audience and the content by requiring registration, or restricting access to certain types of news.
- We’re carefully distributing press releases and multimedia content in social networks, and are blending the messages with curated content. Blasting audiences with content they don’t want has never been a good idea. You have to take the same care in developing your audiences in the social layer you did when developing the audience for your web site. They aren’t necessarily one and the same! PR Newswire has taken a measured approach to distributing press releases within social networks, and we’re using actual, real-live humans to guide and curate the content we share online. Some of the content we post is fed automatically, via RSS feed based upon industry and subject. However, we also have a variety of folks sharing interesting press releases we see, and other industry news, within the news feeds, to add extra dimension and value to the content we share.
Our efforts are paying off – the different Twitter feeds we host are well received, and, well, the results speak for themselves. Clearly, press releases do have a place in social networks.
- We set a high bar for content quality. This is less obvious, but we’re pretty sure the fact that we keep the bar high on content quality (and have done so for years) is why people – from professional media to consumers browsing the web – consider PR Newswire news to be credible and trustworthy. We vet organizations when we establish accounts, we authenticate and verify all of the press releases we receive, we refuse copy that is advertorial or can’t be verified (e.g. unsubstantiated claims) … the list of the measures we take and criteria we use go on and on. And, as we noted earlier this week, PR Newswire editors proofread press releases carefully, finding and fixing thousands of mistakes in press releases submitted for distribution each week.
- Search engine visibility. Before someone tweets or shares a press release they’ve read, they have to find it first. PR Newswire has been devoted to delivering the best online visibility in the industry. We established the lead in unique traffic and search engine referrals years ago, and maintain it today. Obviously, in the news business, the more interest you can generate in content is an important measure, and visibility is a key driver in creating interest.
There’s no question that press releases are popular fodder on social networks, despite the frequent assertions they’ve gone the way of the dodo. A quick search on Twitter for “prnewswire” yields scores tweets with links to press releases.
A similar search of Facebook posts yielded the same result. PR Newswire is a credible source of information for social network denizens.
So, we’re pretty happy about the PostRank findings, and are glad of the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about the work happening behind the scenes here at PR Newswire, and are happy to share our tips for building engagement with content. We’d love to hear from you about strategies you’ve employed to increase social interaction with the content your organization has developed, too!
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.