Facebook & Twitter Best Practices: Case Studies on Engagement

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

Huffington Post regularly links to articles from its website on Facebook and Twitter, but does not typically respond to the comments of its fans and followers.

But according to Mark W. Smith, the incoming director of social media for USA Today, who addressed students at Washtenaw Community College last Saturday, social media users want to know someone is “showing up” when they interact with a page.

Smith, who entertains and informs readers with his social media expertise, interacts constantly with his followers on Twitter. The point is not so much what he says – “love where your head’s at,” for instance, – but the simple fact that he shows up.

Huffington Post’s 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.

But the curators of the page are not interacting with their followers.  By this analysis, although Huffington Post is clearly drawing readers to website via its Facebook page, its impact could be much greater.

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 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 would seem to compel them to click, with language like “Meet the woman engaged to Washington’s Sexiest Nerd!”  Indeed, a quick scan of this morning’s tweets showed a number of its tweets were re-tweeted or marked as favorites. But on Twitter as with Facebook, @thehuffpost could get their posts on more users’ 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 the presidential election can be won on Facebook.  A recent Forbes article compares 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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