Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Alberta Magazines Socialize With Facebook and Twitter

MagaScene 67 - January 2010

By Diane LM Cook

Social media is rapidly changing the magazine industry landscape. Many magazines have developed an online presence to stay alive in today’s electronic environment, but magazines must now also communicate directly with their readers through social networking tools. AMPA talked to three Alberta magazine editors and publishers (Canine Review, Alberta Views and Avenue Calgary) and here’s what they had to say about using Twitter and Facebook.

Canine Review

Merla Thomson, publisher of Canine Review, says “We post Best in Show winners from shows happening across Canada every weekend on Twitter and Facebook and we promote specials which we hope will drive interested parties to participate. Lots of people sign up for our features but we have come to realize we need to create excitement through this social media to provide reasons for our followers to stay engaged with the magazine online. We are currently working on a plan to measure these results.”

Thomson believes the biggest challenge of social media is figuring out the best way to capitalize on it. Thomson’s advice to fellow publishers is to figure out what your readers want to know immediately and then give them the deeper version of that knowledge in your magazine.

Alberta Views

Beth Ed, Departments Editor and Advertising Manager at Alberta Views, says the magazine uses social media to connect with people. However, she says with a small staff, it is difficult to allocate the appropriate amount of time.

“We used to post citizen challenges to our blog which generated some good responses and interesting discourse, but it fell by the wayside because of lack of time. We use Twitter to find out what people, specifically those interested in provincial politics, are talking about. And because many provincial politicians, bloggers, journalists, and news outlets use Twitter, it becomes an invaluable resource for other perspectives from all around the province. Our presence on Facebook generated some subscriptions very inexpensively.”

Ed says one of the pros of using social media is information can be spread very quickly and readers have immediate access to that information. As well, she says the magazine can reach its readers more quickly than through traditional methods. However, Ed believes one major downside to social media is its inherent social purpose.

“Because the technology is often used for social purposes, it can be perceived as something fun rather than something productive. As well, if you rely too heavily on digital communication, sometimes the personal touch can be lost. Getting out and talking to subscribers has always been our most advantageous means of generating interest and subscriptions.”

Ed’s advice is to use social media sparingly. “Understand what the medium does best, get information out quickly, and don’t rely on it for everything.”

Avenue Calgary

“We use social media to highlight the content on the magazine’s web site,” says Avenue Calgary's web editor Tony Charron. The magazine has more followers on Twitter than it does Facebook, “however, we post content on both sites that we think readers would be interested in.” This includes articles from the magazine, blog updates, web-exclusive content, and the latest surveys and contests.

Charron runs down the pros of social media:

  • A free and useful marketing tool.
  • Allows you to see and track what your readers are thinking and talking about.
  • When content is good, it is “retweeted” by your readers.
  • Helps generate traffic to your website, online contests and surveys, etc.

Cons of social media:
  • Time must be invested in order to maintain a presence.
  • Used as more of a marketing tool than a sales tool. Social media generate interest and discourse but not so much revenue.
  • Must balance frequency of posts with relevancy of content—or their is a risk of alienating readers.

He advises the following for magazines:
  • Social media is an excellent tool to gain recognition and share content with your readers.
  • Make sure the tone and voice of your magazine matches your social media.
  • Each post must have a purpose and benefit your readers.
  • For Twitter, follow the people who follow you (it’s a great way to get to know your readers personally and to get feedback).
  • The more effort you put into using social media, the more you will get out of it.