CNN released the results of an inaugural global research study on the power of news and recommendation. They surveyed 2,300 people around the world between June and August to help advertisers understand the value of news stories that are shared via social media.
CNN executive Didier Mormesse says that people who receive news from those they know through social networks are “19% more likely to recommend the brand that advertised around that story to others and 27% more likely to favour that brand themselves.”
I bear in mind that CNN was looking at ads that accompany stories, not brands or companies mentioned in the stories themselves. As a PR person, I’d care more about the latter. But the study was still informative because it gives some insight into the most popular shared content (not to mention that it shows how CNN’s been able to quantify the value of social media to their business). “Ongoing stories” about international or national news make up 65% of shared material, breaking news is 19% and 16% is stuff people are sharing to kill time or to provide a distraction. “Visually spectacular” stories are most likely to be shared via social media, as are pieces on science or technology.
CNN also notes that “the 80/20 rule applies to the findings. 27% of all sharers account for 87% of all news stories shared.”
Adapting these survey results for PR, I think that if I can offer a compelling video or interesting photo to a journalist, it may make the resulting story more likely to be shared. In fact, you could back up a step and make what I think is the reasonable assumption that if you have images or video to offer, you may up your chances of being included in a story in the first place.
Another thing I think PR people can learn from CNN’s survey results is that once the story appears, I’d want to make sure to get it to the 20% of people who push out 80% of news that travels via social media. Naturally I’d already need to know who in my industry is a prolific sharer or news and have worked to get them following me. If I can find the news just as soon as it appears and share it with them while it’s still fresh and not hours old, I’d think it would up the appeal of my news to the 20%.
The Boston Globe is taking a different tack. On September 30, the Globe announced that they’ll create a paid version of the site next year and make much of their content available only to subscribers. The paid approach has worked for WSJ.com, certainly. I’ll be curious to see how things pan out for the Globe, although I suspect they won’t if they don’t offer some pretty differentiated content. (Paul Gillin takes a deeper look at what’s up with the Globe with “Milking the Circulation Cow.”)
I’d think the Globe will still make that content attractive to people who want to pass it around by allowing shared links to work for a short time.
To my eye, CNN’s approach of showing the people who really pay the bills–advertisers–the value of sharing content via social networks, putting some specificity behind the kinds of stories that get shared and the resulting impressions that readers have of those advertisers seems more promising than sequestering content on a paid site.
That’s just me, though. Which approach do you think is likely to succeed? Or are both strategies to making money smart given the companies’ individual situations?
Laura Kempke is Senior Vice President, Content Marketing Services at Schwartz Communications. She works with companies across the technology, life sciences and advanced materials industries to guide their public relations, social media and analyst relations strategies.
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