Facebook & Twitter Best Practices: A Case Study

Mark Smith posts on Twitter as @markdubya.
Mark Smith posts on Twitter as @markdubya.

Though Huffington Post regularly links to its website on Facebook and Twitter, its social media curators do not typically respond to the comments of its fans and followers.

According to Mark W. Smith, the incoming director of social media for USA Today, they could do better. How? Social media users want to know someone is “showing up” when they interact with a page.

Smith, who entertains and informs readers on the subject of social media, interacts constantly with his followers on Twitter. The point is not so much what he says, but the simple fact that he shows up. A seasoned PR specialist might disagree. Still, Smith has a point.

Even though Huffington Post ignores comments on its channels, the news conglomerate is getting social media right in other ways. Its messages are clearly designed to engage, as illustrated by the following examples from its Facebook page, which currently has 541,245 fans:

  • Can you believe he said this?  This post introduces a video showing an MSNBC commentator saying it’s “weird” when husbands cook dinner.  It got 595 comments and 159 shares.
  • Do you support legalizing same-sex marriage?  This post, which introduces an article titled, “Maryland House Of Delegates Passes Marriage Equality Bill,” got 757 comments and 204 shares.
Huffington Post could do a better job interacting with fans on its social media pages.
Huffington Post could do a better job interacting with fans on its social media pages.

The news organization also tweets 3-6 times on a normal news day, and more frequently on big-event days like Super Bowl Sunday.  @thehuffpost currently has 20,169 followers, and posts seem to compel them to click, with teasers like “Meet the woman engaged to Washington’s Sexiest Nerd!”  Indeed, a quick scan of this morning’s tweets showed that many were re-tweeted or marked as favorites. But on Twitter as with Facebook, @thehuffpost could get more action in followers’ news feeds by simply responding to its audience.

The news conglomerate may be doing fine in spite of this, but neglect of social media channels can have serious consequences.  Some social media experts even argue that presidential elections can be won on Facebook.  A recent Forbes article compared Obama’s social media presence to that of Mitt Romney. Not surprisingly, Romney, who has difficulty overcoming the “stiffness” factor on the campaign trail, suffers from a similar malady on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

~For Washtenaw Community College, 2012.


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