How 2 Organizations Used Social to Gain New Subscribers

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"We saw a statistic that 31% of health care professionals use social media for networking," Lyndsee Cordes, senior managing editor for the American College of Radiology, told an overflow audience yesterday at a session titled Stop Chasing Likes. How Social Media Can Transform Your Publication. "We saw that this applied to our audience, so we thought, 'How can we provide content to help their networking?' What works for our members? [The answer was] strong visuals and images."

It was refreshing to see a social media strategy that's leading to more subscribers, through thousands of new followers. Cordes' colleague, Jess Siswick, digital content editor at ACR, then showed us some of the photos they use on social—"action shots," she said. "We used a picture from our podcast [because] that feels exclusive to us."

Here are more takeaways from the session:

Use images in your social outreach and embed a quote into your image sometimes. Tweets with images get 150% more retweets, 89% more likes, and 18% more click thrus. Embedding a quote allows you to use your word limit in other ways.

Stop trying to make the CLICK HERE happen. "Get more creative!" Siswick urged strongly. "People know what highlighted text means. You don't need to write 'click here.' Don't be afraid to keep experimenting and trying new things."

Justify your launch into a particular social channel and once there, leverage your existing content. "We didn't just jump in and start our Instagram account," said Dorea Reeser, audience engagement editor for the American Chemical Society. "We wanted to justify starting it." They did a soft launch in October with exisiting content and in a month gained 1,000 followers. Then they created features like chemistry in pictures and chemistry comics. The hard launch followed, and they started asking for feedback on other content that readers desired. "They wanted to see inside people's labs, real people in the field like grad students. And it all started from this Instagram post. We weren't expecting these conversations."

Be consistent, pick a day and time and stick to it, said Siswick. She was referring to their very successful Tweet Chats, but it applied to Reeser and ACS as well. They started #FluorescenceFriday and it became some of their top performing content. Readers wrote them to say that they looked forward to seeing this every Friday. "People looked up our news stories and now they're a subscriber," she said. "It was about putting resources in the right place."

Use social strategically to get more audience diversity. "Our website audience was primarily male," Reeser said. "But on Instagram it shifted more to women."  Also invite different voices to moderate, if you do a Tweet Chat or anything else on social.

Be open-minded. You can broaden your topic, Cordes said. "We had a social media and medicine special issue come out of our Tweet Chat." For their bi-monthly podcast, instead of just always featuring radiologists, they got a psychologist to talk about important decision-making. 

Be cordial. Promote to your audiences. Invite community influencers. For the Tweet Chat, because of the newness, Siswick advised treating your audience like it's the first time they've participated.  

Partner with another group. An audience member said that his group was approached by ABC News to do a Tweet Chat, but they would have to do it with one of their competitors. They agreed, cringed a bit and it got huge exposure.

Make sure the speakers and moderators you get are active on the channel you're using. "Do they even use Twitter?" Siswick asked.  "When we first chose moderators for our Tweet Chats, I didn't even look if they're on Twitter," Cordes said. She found herself explaining what a hashtag was. Not good. "It's best to partner with someone who has their own following. That way they can promote it to their followers. 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…