We reached out to Shirley Yang, Digital Product Manager for Social Media at NBC Owned Television Stations to help tackle these common questions. She offers excellent insights into curating, scaling and measuring content and social media efforts. She evaluates and structures new strategic business opportunities and partnerships to drive audience development, content discovery and increase engagement across platforms for local news stations. Most recently, she led audience engagement experiences for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on NBC local websites, mobile and social media platforms. Shirley shares her own views below and they not necessarily a representation of her employer.
Read on and jot down your takeaways from Shirley’s insightful interview:
1) Let’s set the stage. What was your path to working in digital product marketing for NBC?
I have an engineering background and have always been in the digital media industry. Starting with Fox Interactive Media in Beverly Hills, Calif. when MySpace was still the biggest social network, I worked with a variety of News Corp’s Internet brands under the Fox Interactive umbrella: Fox Sports, IGN Entertainment, Photobucket, Rottentomatoes.com, MySpace, etc. Then at Sony Network Entertainment, I was managing the Product Design Team for the Sony PlayStation Network. We were one of the first biggest champions for the “every screen” experience: pushing content from the Sony Bravia TVs to desktop, web, mobile and PSPs.
My career focus was on mobile when I first moved to New York and worked at Audible.com (an Amazon company), leading the mobile apps evolution and development of mobile Web stores in three countries: U.S., U.K. and Germany. It was my mobile experience that attracted NBC to hire me. After a year of managing mobile for NBC local news stations, we saw the increased importance for developing audience engagement and designing social experiences around our content beyond tweets and Facebook post. Thus, my current role was born.
2) What is your biggest challenge when leading social media strategies for NBC Owned Television Stations? How do you deal with this challenge?
One of the biggest challenges comes with the territory: we have 11 different stations and at times, that means very different audiences. For example, when posting news stories to Facebook, a certain market’s audience may care more about hard news stories, whereas another market’s audience may engage better with sidebar stories. The goal for us, aside from creating interactions on the social platforms, is to have people come back onto our sites. We want to drive up social referral numbers through engaging social posts and content that is relevant to our local audiences.
We try to manage this through many different ways. One consistent way is digging into numerous data reports: Facebook Insights, Omniture, SocialFlow, Chartbeat, and various social publishing tools to draw insights into what’s working and what’s not. We also host monthly social media calls for stations’ Social Media Leads to share their experiences and findings when experimenting with different ways of engaging audiences—whether through Facebook Q&A, Twitter chats, contesting, Google Hangouts, etc. We are very locally driven, but cross-pollinate and share best practices when we can.
3) Your goal for NBC-owned social channels is three-fold: To drive audience development, content discovery and increase engagement across platforms. How do you manage each area? Can you share best practices that could scale to other types of businesses?
A lot of the content decisions we make are based on data. At any given time, you can look at Omniture data as the past—how your content has performed, Chartbeat as the present—which stories are performing well right now, and tools such as Visual Revenue as the future—what adjustments could be made to enhance content performance. Many publishers dedicate an area on the article page, often the “right rail,” to surface top stories or related content for users to click on in addition to the current story they’re reading. Ideally you’d want to use data to determine which stories to surface. For example, if they are a social audience, someone who came from a social platform referring domain, we serve additional stories that are performing well on social.
4) What is your process for defining your content strategy at NBC? Is it difficult to manage as there are so many stakeholders involved? If so, how do you go about doing that?
The main content strategy for each market is derived at the local level. I work on the national team, where we provide best practices, strategies and support for the local markets. At a micro level, we do this by tracking content performance and determining what could be done better for each station.
From a macro level, we look at overall divisional goals and set targets for key metrics: content recirculation, percent referrals from social platforms and content partners, audience loyalty, etc.
5) Do you view social media as an extension of content strategy, or vice versa?
I think one complements the other, and they could both be true at different times. Social media as an extension of content strategy means sharing content on social platforms that drive users back to our sites, embedding social posts and engagement tools (polls, quizzes, sharable graphs, etc.) on article pages, and using social media to amplify the storytelling experience beyond our station-owned digital properties.
Another way of looking at it would be that social media is the content strategy when, say, during breaking news situations, we don’t have a story yet or a reporter on the scene, we may look to verified sources on social to start the story with a tweet or crowd sourced photo.
6) Is new media a difficult plug at your organization, as NBC started as a traditional broadcast news outlet?
No, we are keen on exploring and adopting new tools and applications that make sense for our business and audiences. We often experiment with new media tools starting with one or a few of our markets. If we see success, then we share the success and lessons learned with the rest of the markets for greater adoption.