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Trade Publications Meeting Audiences Through Social Media

In 2005, only about 5 percent of people in the United States used social media. Fast forward a little more than a decade, and seven in ten were active in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center (Lipschultz, 2017, p. 4). The rapid diffusion of social media over the past decade has changed the way consumer-focused publications and trade publications meet their audiences.

Cision reported in 2014 that as consumer-focused publications began getting comfortable incorporating and marketing content through social media, trade publications were beginning to learn to adapt to social media and appeal to a broader audience. With a changing audience desiring quick, concise information in a short amount of time, trade publications will have to continue to adapt to an audience whose attention span will keep getting shorter (Zimmerman, 2014).

Trade publications have the luxury of publishing long, detailed articles online and in their print editions, so social media provides them with the ability to deliver short bursts of news and information in real time. According to a 2014 report by Marketing Dive, 81 percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers employ a social media content strategy, utilizing the most popular social media outlets for distribution, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ (Zimmerman, 2014).

Choosing the right medium for any given purpose depends on the target group to be reached and the message to be communicated (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 65). Integration is key at Convenience Store News (CSNews) — a trade publication covering the convenience store industry, and operating brand of Chicago-based EnsembleIQ, a premier business intelligence resource — where the integration of social media plays a key, influential role on this traditional media organization. Social media serves as a conduit to a larger portal of information (the physical trade publication with a circulation of more than 90,000 subscribers) in a way that is rapid, timely and convenient to meet the needs of convenience store operations across all organizational levels.

While social media and traditional media are two arenas that are completely different, in consumers’ eyes they are both part of the same: the company’s corporate image (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 65). CSNews, which will commemorate its 45th anniversary in 2019, began to hone in on the full potential of social media in its content marketing in 2013. Today, to ensure that all of its social media activities are aligned with each other, CSNews is predominantly the most active on Facebook and Twitter, but also manages a members-only LinkedIn profile, in addition to a YouTube channel.

In its day-to-day operations, CSNews posts anywhere from five to eight Daily News summaries on Twitter and Facebook with accompanying links to the stories’ landing pages on csnews.com. These stories highlight what the organization finds the most pertinent to the convenience store industry during that particular day. Twitter and Facebook are also utilized for “How to” posts, including “How C-stores Can Protect Their Tobacco Business” or “Five Ideas to Maximize Your Grab-and-Go Foodservice Offering.” According to Lehr, how-to articles earn 18.42 percent of shares and are highly practical and technical in nature (2015).

Other content posted to Twitter and Facebook include, but are not limited to: special features (“The Eight Factors Prospective Employees Are Looking For Today”); breaking news (“TravelCenters of America Exists Standalone C-store Business With EG Group Deal”); research and data (“Immediate Need & Convenience Increasing Click-and-Collect’s Allure”); and upcoming events (“Retailer Roundtable: Growing Your Tobacco Profits”).

Facebook and Twitter offer publics the opportunity to engage with these organizational messages through three different engagement tools: Like, Share or Retweet, and Comment. Therefore, these two social media platforms maintain dominancy in CSNews’ content marketing in raising brand awareness. While LinkedIn has the most members at nearly 17,000 (vs. 6,673 Twitter followers and 2,302 likes on Facebook) it is utilized primarily for marketing purposes, such as upcoming events, special features, proprietary research releases and videos from the brand’s YouTube channel, including event recaps such as “2018 CSNews Foodservice Summit – New Orleans.” Videos draw 18.94 percent of total shares and do the best in September with more than 24,000 shares (Lehr, 2015).

Defining engagement as “the collective experiences that readers or viewers have with a media brand,” (Lipschultz, 2017, p. 25), social media provides a vale for engaging with publics and is strategically intrinsic in the current business environment, and CSNews is no exception. As a decades-old media organization, the rapid movement of social media allows the company to continually adapt with the evolving media landscape by engaging in timely and direct end-consumer contact at a relatively low cost and at higher levels of efficiency than can be achieved with more traditional communication tools (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 67).

The increasing interactivity of and relationship building with the target audience across social media are becoming the winning formula to gain attention and response among members of today’s audience (Allagui & Breslow, 2016, p. 28). CSNews’ social media goals in the current business environment are predominantly related to brand awareness, as is the case for several other organizations implement similar strategic social media plans. In fact, 87 percent of marketers believe that the goal of social media is to increase brand awareness, while 62 percent find that social media increase web traffic (Allagui & Breslow, 2016, p. 20). CSNews uses Buffer analytics, a social media management platform, to measure measures brand awareness through likes, shares and comments on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, continually evolving its strategic social media content marketing for the present and for the future.

References:

Allagui, I. & Breslow, H. (2016). Social media for public relations: Lessons from four effective cases. Public Relations Review, 42, p. 20-30). Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.12.001

Kaplan, A.M. & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizon, 53, p. 59-68. Doi: 10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Lehr, A. (2015). New data: What types of content perform best on social media? Hubspot. Retrieved from: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/content-social-media-popularity

Lipschultz. J.H. (2017). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics (2). Routledge: New York.

Zimmerman, E. (2014, April 22). Trade publications adapt to social media based on audience. Cision. Retrieved from: https://www.cision.com/us/2014/04/trade-publications-adapt-to-social-media-based-on-audience/

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