A Social Media Plan
The Express News Group was formed in 2019 when two weekly newspaper conglomerations – the Sag Harbor Express and Press News Group – merged. The Press News Group published three weekly newspapers – the East Hampton Press, Southampton Press Eastern Edition and Southampton Press Western Edition, and the Sag Harbor Express put out one weekly newspaper.
Both publication groups currently operate on two different websites and have a combined presence on social media, though with a few tweaks to what is posted and how, the new organization could reach more people.
The main hurdle between reaching more people on the web than with the newspaper is advertising, as more money is brought in through advertisements in the weekly paper than through electronic methods. One publisher has even been quoted as saying, “Print is our bread and butter.”
As a community newspaper, the Express News Group aims to get news to as many people on the South Fork of Long Island as possible. Certain demographics are missed when the primary method of getting news out through newspapers is missed. Even with a digital first approach – a method in which news is broken on 27east.com, Facebook and Twitter as it happens, then updated for the printed product – not everyone catches the news. More digital methods can be used to cast a bigger net to attract the Latino community and younger demographics.
The use of Facebook and Twitter, with the occasional post on Instagram, has the potential to hit a large portion of the target audience in the Hamptons of New York. The Hamptons are known for the luxurious McMansions and estates that multimillionaires, celebrities, and hedge fund managers occupy two to four weeks out of the summer. Throughout the year, though, are everyday people who work in construction, the medical field and retail, just to name a few occupational fields. There is also an older demographic of people who have owned homes in the Hamptons for 50 plus years and are being priced out of their residences because of rising taxes. School attendance in nearly all the schools on the South Fork is decreasing and as the kids grow up to become adults, they often leave because of the cost of living.
But not everyone leaves. In fact, some stay and continue to try to make a living. Some go into politics; others keep up with environmental issues effecting the area.
Top Social Networks and Microblogging Platforms Where Target Audience Is Active
In the book, Social Media Strategy, Keith A. Quesenberry provides demographic information for several social media and microblogging platforms. Two of the more popular platforms are Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook, Quesenberry said, skews slightly toward a female demographic than male, with 53 percent of the users being women and 47 being men. Eighteen to 29-year-olds account for 29 percent of the users, while 30-49-year-olds account for 27 percent, 50-64-year-olds make up for 24 percent and 65-year-olds and older account for 20 percent. Income demographics are almost evenly split, with users making $75,000 or more accounting for 24 percent of people using Facebook (Quesenberry.)
On Twitter, 18-29-year-olds account for 40 percent of the users, 51 percent of users are female, and 41 percent of users make more than $75,000 per year.
If aiming to attract a younger demographic, Instagram and Snapchat are two viable options.
How Are the Platforms Used?
The Express News Group utilizes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It also uses Vimeo to post videos, which are then posted to stories on 27east.com and with stories on Facebook and Twitter.
Everyday, stories are posted to Facebook. Some days there are more stories than others, but on average, the 13,000 followers of 27east.com can expect to see between 4 and 7 stories shared on the platform.
For the past week, followers have seen updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, coverage of protests that include photos, a promotion for a new podcast that the Express Newsgroup puts out, and a story about Calvin Klein selling his oceanfront mansion. In addition to those stories, breaking news was posted about an accident, there was a story about a man raping a minor and promotions for three feature stories.
Some stories garnered more comments than others. Protests and news involving the police received several shares and comments, as did the sale of Klein’s home.
Many of the same stories that are posted on Facebook are posted on Twitter, though the deck going along with the post differs on each platform. The person posting the stories, which appears to be the same person primarily, pulls quotes and uses them as decks.
When it comes to stories being shared or commented on, Facebook comes out far ahead.
Although the Express News Group posts a few pictures and videos on Instagram, it appears to be underutilized, as if it is an afterthought.
Coverage of the protests on the East End was enhanced by Instagram. Other than protests, though, the approach seems more like a photo here and a photo there; maybe a couple of photos one day, then nothing the next.
Other Methods Used to Reach the Public
As mentioned earlier, the Express Newsgroup has two websites that stories are posted to regularly. Comments are typically allowed to be posted with each story unless the digital editor determines the subject is volatile.
The comments could be considered a type of forum. A forum that opens each story up for discussion is necessary for multiple reasons. Primarily, commenters provide different sides to each story that may not have been covered by the reporter, offering for more follow up to the subject. The forum – which could be a simple as a comment section under each story – also allows for tips to come through. 27east.com has this type of forum already.
The organization has also been conducting sessions where experts around town come together to discuss hot topics in a forum.
What could be done better?
The forums with local experts are a great way to present information to the public on hot topics affecting the community. Currently, the sessions are not offered on social media as they occur because the publishers use these to make money. A limited number of tickets are sold for each forum, that allows the holder to attend while eating a meal. But an opportunity to reach more people as it occurs is possible. Somehow, maybe through microblogging the events on Twitter and breaking out YouTube clips, the discussion could reach more people who do not live in the immediate area and want to get involved.
The Facebook posts are somewhat consistent, though more occur on deadline days Tuesday and Wednesday because the stories are being dumped on the editors and pushed to the web once edited. Creating more consistency with the dump of stories would help, but so would content other than links to stories and promotions of events.
Each reporter should have access to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and with that, they should be able to post short video clips and photos from their reporting.
For example, if the reporter interviews a woman who turned 100 years old, a simple video of the woman giving her secret to life could be posted the same day as the interview, promoting the story as “coming soon” on Facebook.
Another example is if the reporter goes out on a boat with a bunch of high school students who are tracking great white sharks, a photo gallery could be posted the same day of the experience on Instagram.
Twitter offers a great platform for doing live updates during a town board or school board meeting, but the Express News Group rarely uses it for that. Meetings are boring, but if the reporter tweets throughout and keeps people up to date with interesting nuggets of information from the meeting, it would provide value to the paper.
The Express News Group does a great job providing news to the East End of Long Island, and it would not be one of the leading news organizations if it did not. But as digital platforms continue to emerge and younger generations continue to rise, finding ways to reach them will be crucial to the future of the media company.
Quesenberry, K.A. (2019). Social Media Strategy. Maryland: Rowmann & Littlefield Publishing Group.