How To Run Your Social Team Like a Newsroom

Everyone in the industry is dying to be the master of content. And not just any content…content that is ticker moving, culturally relevant and smart. But how does one produce this kind of impact, especially in social? There are a few ways to go about it since social is a constantly evolving space. I’ve learned a few things along the way, thanks to my past as a journalist and from my present role as digital strategist at FCB, for creating a newsroom-style content creation process that works.

Map out your editorial calendar like a magazine

During the planning phase for every social brand, an annual editorial calendar of monthly/bimonthly/quarterly themes should be created. Identify compelling recurring content series to start with, and then have “story meetings” (i.e., brief the creative team) to explore what specific, relevant content needs to be produced each month. This has proven to be a great way to map out always-on content and brand campaigns while leaving room for any real-time opportunities.

Obsessively learn everything about your audience

This seems like a no-brainer, as relevance is key in all forms of storytelling, but this is where thinking like a publication is helpful. For a monthly magazine to be successful, it needs to truly understand its readership, what resonates with them and why. The same goes for social. You need to truly understand your target audience, what their online behaviors are, what their mind-set is like, and perform constant social listening to see what’s on their radar at any given moment that your brand can authentically tap into.

Here’s a real example of what this looks like. For FCB Toronto’s client Ritz Crackers, the target is the Millennial Mom and the objective was to help her view Ritz not only as a special occasion cracker, but also as an everyday snacking cracker. She’s a busy person who loves inspiring, high-utility content that simplifies her life and customizes ingredients to suit her needs. The team also found that there’s a huge trend of moms creating beautiful works of Bento Box art for their kids’ snacks. With this in mind, the creative team put together a series all about snack hacks and specifically a post about an imaginary “Cracker Cutter” to help Millennial Mom simplify snacking with Ritz. This post went viral, exploding with hundreds of people wishing it were a real kitchen tool they could own.

And so, the team created one – manufacturing a limited run and delighting the community with their very own Ritz Cracker Cutter. Two hundred Cracker Cutters were claimed (organically, mind you) in just 16 minutes.

And then we did it again. This time, surprising 1,300 lucky people from the Ritz Cracker Facebook community, with all Cracker Cutters being claimed in less than 3 hours. The demand had grown so much for the Ritz Cracker Cutter, it even spurred on a larger campaign for the holiday season.

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Keep your team agile by planning ahead

Structure your creative team and approval processes ahead of time so you can be as agile as possible (and operate more like a newsroom). When news breaks, there’s no such thing as waiting for multiple levels of approval over a day or two to get something on air. It’s challenging to have that level of agility in an advertising agency, where creatives are working on various brand campaigns simultaneously and resourcing can change from week to week, but planning ahead can get you close to a newsroom structure. Additionally, it’s best to have consistent teams that work on social brands and act as brand “journalists,” which saves time by not onboarding new team members every time a real-time opportunity arises.

Become a masterful trend hunter

In the spirit of testing and learning, there are a number of tools and websites that you can leverage to create relevant annual calendars, briefs and real-time posts. Here’s a list of great websites and tools to tap into:

  • Sysomos: social listening tool that helps you dig into trending conversations and competitive reviews. It also helps give a sense of how people are talking about brands
  • Reddit: websites for discovering shareable content
  • Mashable’s Velocity, Buzzfeed and Trendspottr’s Signal: websites where you can predict and track potential trending content before it goes mainstream
  • Facebook and Twitter: social platforms for discovering trending topics and hashtags

Plan for the unexpected: The Flash Brief

When creating relevant social content, tapping into a cultural moment can frame your brand as one that has its finger on the pulse (similar to news organizations). In fact, FCB Toronto is currently testing a tool called “The Flash Brief” (it is a micro version of our FCB creative brief), and its purpose is to quickly help translate a trending moment into a real-time time opportunity and help validate why it’s a good fit for a brand. If all key stakeholders are briefed on a tool like this in advance, its additional benefit is getting these stakeholders aligned quickly so that content can be produced while the iron’s hot.

A wise entrepreneur once told me that if you see a good idea – copy it. And while that sounds like a journalistic sin, mimicking the structure and processes of newsrooms has worked remarkably well for producing relevant and impactful social content.


 Anastasia (Nat) Tubanos is a Digital Strategist at FCB Toronto.