Social Media Integration for Social News Organizations (part 3)

In the previous installment of our series on Social News Organizations (SNOs), we looked at how news publishers cannot shut search engines, as well as how they could actually leverage SEO to drive registered users. In this installment, we examine how SNOs also employ social media tools to reach over 70 percent of all internet users (and over half of all Americans).

First, social media offers SNOs an effective way to better engage and retain existing users. Second, social media can help SNOs grow their audience by leveraging the personal social networks of existing users. Finally, social media can offer SNOs more precise user data that can be used to better target advertising.

As a SNO acquires new users, they need to offer those users a very engaging experience to retain them. While SNOs will offer customizable user profile options, users are unlikely to complete their SNO profiles, so SNOs rely on social media APIs to acquire and retain users.

Social Media APIs & Social News Organizations

Popular services, such as Twitter and Facebook, have APIs that allow SNOs to easily integrate their site and content with users’ personal networks.

Social media APIs allow new SNO users to login with the pre-existing social media account of their choice (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), eliminating any registration barriers that might deter them from registering a profile with an SNO. Such APIs allow users to instantly and easily share SNO content with their personal network, helping the SNO acquire additional users with related interests. These APIs give SNOs access to users’ data and social graph, allowing them to better understand their audience and advertising opportunities.

With access to users’ data and social graphs, SNOs can improve their product on two fronts; they can craft their editorial around their readers’ actual interests and demographics and they can offer advertisers more targeted advertising. More targeted advertising will increase advertiser confidence, the value of SNO ad space, and the SNOs revenue potential.

Indeed, there is already a clear and present opportunity to market content through social networks and acquire new registered users. As the Pew Internet & American Life Project found:

71 percent of all internet users [get news forwarded to them via email or social networking sites]. When news is passed along to them, 38 percent of this cohort read the material all or most of the time […]

Of these internet users who get news online, 50 percent say they pass along email links to news stories or videos to others. (That represents 48 percent of all internet users.)

[…] 57 percent of online Americans use social networking sites […] and 97 percent of them are online news consumers. Some 51 percent of the social networking users who are in the online-news population say that on a typical day they get news from people they follow on sites like Facebook. That amounts to 28 percent of all internet users who get news via social networking with friends.

[…] Some 44 percent of these online news consumers [also] say that one of the factors they use in choosing where to get news online is whether it is easy to share the site’s content with others through emails or postings on social networking sites.

Social media integration helps SNOs reach more than half of the US population with their content and grow their subscription base. This segment of users,  is not only likely to share SNO content with their personal network, but will often consume SNO content when it is shared with them.

Finally, by integrating social media experiences into their content, SNOs can also gain access to invaluable sets of data that allow them to better target their advertising. On the one hand, SNOs gain first hand data through the profiles information that users provide directly — including location/IP address and content consumption patterns.

More importantly, however, social media APIs give SNOs access to the mountain of personal data that users have volunteered through these services. As users interact on social networks, they leave behind an immense amount of personal data. Not only do users often fill-out personal interests fields, but they “connect” with other users with over-lapping interests, interact with them to varying degrees, and share and consume different kinds of content. All of this data amounts to a “social graph” that SNOs can used to offer advertisers a more targeted audience, and users a more personalized content experience.

If SNOs successfully target users with advertising that actually pertains to their interests, both users and advertisers benefit. Users continue to enjoy quality content with less intrusive ads, and may even discover a product or service that’s of interest to them. And advertisers receive a better ROI on their marketing investment, allowing SNOs to demand higher rates per ad placement.

Case Study: Facebook Connect & Social News Organizations

In April 2010, Facebook announced a number of new features to Facebook Connect that offer publishers enhanced social media engagement. New features included the ability to seamlessly integrate Facebook functionality to third-party’ sites as well as more extensive access to user data. Prior to these new features being available to the public, moreover, a number of mainstream publishers, such as CNN, ESPN, and IMDB, had been selected to pre-integrate these new features.

Facebook Connect is a set of Facebook APIs that publishers can mix and match to offer their users access to a variety of Facebook functionality. Specifically, Facebook Connect offers publishers:

  • Registration + Login — With a single dialog, you can access data including a user’s real name, email address, profile picture and list of friends. Replace or supplement your user account system with Facebook to help drive sign ups and improve data quality.
  • Engagement — With Facebook users comes their friends; incorporate these connections to make your product more engaging. Social plugins like the Like button and the activity feed enable you to offer social experiences with just a line of HTML. The Graph API enables you to integrate the social graph into your site in deep and compelling ways.
  • Growth — You can publish content from your site into the social graph to reach your users’ friends. The Like button enables users to share your site’s content back to their Facebook stream with one click. In addition, you can integrate pages deeply into the social graph via the Open Graph protocol.

So the first benefit of Facebook Connect is that SNOs can eliminate registration barriers by letting users login and access SNO content through their pre-existing Facebook account. SNOs will also gain access to user information that users might not otherwise volunteer through a separate SNO accounts.

Another benefit of Facebook Connect is that it allows SNOs to seamlessly integrate Facebook social functionality to their site. This allows SNOs to save on development resources and time, and attract new users by promoting their content to existing users’ personal social networks. As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler noted, adding Facebook’s like-button to a site:

allows users to show their approval of any piece of content on these sites with one click. [Users] can also include a little note saying why [they] like the item […] These likes are then transported back to Facebook and integrated into users’ profiles.

In fact, several major media companies have already reported significant positive outcomes from integrating Facebook Connect. While Lollapalooza claimed a “99 percent increase in page views since implementing Facebook Connect,” Gawker reported that “[r]egistrations increased 45 percent week over week with Facebook Connect.”

Finally, Facebook Connect offers SNOs access to extensive user data through the Open Graph — i.e. Facebook’s own social graph. This data can be used to guide editorial decisions and better target advertising campaigns. As TechCrunch’s Erik Schonfield reported about the latest Facebook Connect features:

Facebook has redesigned its Graph API for developers so that not only can they see the social connections between people, but they can also see and create the connections people have with their interests — things, places, brands, and other sites. Zuckerberg calls it the Open Graph (as opposed to the Social Graph). It is really an Interest Graph.

Facebook wants developers to create subsets of the Open Graph around interests and things. […]

And to remove the friction of interacting with this Open Graph even further, no login is even required. […] Imagine coming to TechCrunch and seeing every story your Facebook friends have “liked” or going to and seeing the same thing for products.

Facebook Connect, then, offers SNOs several tangible advantages. They can get more conversions out of FCF by simplifying the registration process and allowing users to access their restricted content with Facebook credentials. They can access the Open Graph allows them to more strategically craft content and better target their advertising. Also, SNOs can further grow their user-base by leveraging users’ personal social networks to reach additional users with similar and targeted demographics.

A More Sociable News Organization

Just as SNOs accept that search engines are a primary content distribution channel, they also embrace the social web and the ethos behind it. They understand the social web offers provides a user experience that they can leverage to engage, acquire, and retain targeted users.

But they also accept that they cannot mimic that experience and, instead, rely on social media APIs to provide that added level of user engagement. And in doing so, they are able to access extensive user data that they can use to customize content experiences and better target advertising.

In this sense, SNOs are truly social. They embrace on the pre-existing social networks of users to keep them engaged and adopt the pre-existing tools that those users are already using to connect with each other online.

Read the Series:

About CT Moore

A former Staff Editor here at, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over a decade experience leveraging search, social media, and content marketing to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to start-ups, SMBs, enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed Inc.. CT is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.

Twitter: gypsybandito

2 Responses to Social Media Integration for Social News Organizations (part 3)

  1. News that spreads through Facebook is one of the best methods of social news. Someone will post a status update about a party the next day, or create an event that will not necessarily be in the newspapers. This is the advantage that social news organizations have over traditional news organizations. They create more personal and hyper-local news that affects the people that only live nearby. Users can create their own news and newspapers can only create the news that their writers decide to write about. It's all about having more custom data at your fingertips for all organizations. This is where the most popular websites like Facebook come in big with the amount of data they have available from users opinions on every subject.

  2. […] news publishers need to leverage social media APIs to learn more about their readers and grow their audience, and then diversify their ad revenues […]