Profiles in Social Media: Has Your Brand Found Its Social Soul Mate? the Onion, Real Simple, National Geographic and WIRED Have Found Ways to Bolster Their Brands by Leveraging Platform-Endemic Content

By Welton, Caysey | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, July-August 2013 | Go to article overview

Profiles in Social Media: Has Your Brand Found Its Social Soul Mate? the Onion, Real Simple, National Geographic and WIRED Have Found Ways to Bolster Their Brands by Leveraging Platform-Endemic Content


Welton, Caysey, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Much like trends in magazine publishing, social media is becoming a niche-focused market. This means there are an increasing number of networks that serve very specific functions. For instance, the difference between Instagram and Twitter is similar to the difference between a photography enthusiast magazine and a newsweekly.

Keeping that in mind, there are platforms that are naturally suited for some publications, while others might require a more forced effort. Still, even if your content is well matched for a social platform, you can't bank on that alone.

Publication: The Onion

Social Network: Facebook

Likes: 2,396,117

For a pure-play publisher like the satirical "news" site The Onion, social media objectives are centered on driving traffic to the homepage. Not only that, but Facebook also offers readers an outlet for comments and conversation.

"We like to play with the line quite a bit and some argue that we cross it, but the best way for us to figure that out is to gauge reactions on social media," says digital producer, Jordan David.

Nearly crossing (or sometimes) crossing the line seems to be paying off. This year the website's traffic is up 300 percent when compared to 2012. And social media drives 55 percent (up from 31 percent in 2012) of traffic, which is largely due to Facebook, according to David.

The publication admits that much of its success in the space is due to the nature of the content itself. Still, as marketing manager Bob Marshall points out, content can't do all the heavy lifting. "There will be times we introduce a headline and don't see a lot of traffic from it so we spin it a little bit and just release a quote from the story that's maybe out of context in some weird or bizarre way," Marshall says.

Beyond anything else, David and Marshall maintain that the hundreds of shares each post usually generates is the metric they value most. "Until Facebook pays me for likes I'm really not all that intrigued by them. But shares do a lot more for sustainment. I can see what my friend likes, but I may not care, but when they share something it's a stronger endorsement," David says.

Publication: Real Simple

Social Network: Pinterest

Followers: 329,634

It is not subjective to state that Real Simple and Pinterest are an ideal match. As a magazine, Real Simple offers insightful lifestyle content accompanied by rich visuals. And as a social network, Pinterest offers users an opportunity to seek out insightful lifestyle content accompanied by rich visuals.

"Pinterest is such a natural fit for us," says Kathleen Harris, managing editor of RealSimple.com. "It can be summed up by just the photographs alone; as we like to say: A picture is worth 1000 pins," she adds. And perhaps that is why Real Simple entered the space in October 2010-several months before most had even heard of the platform.

The velocity of growth in recent months has been impressive. It took Real Simple nearly two years to reach 100,000 followers, but it has grown 250 percent since June 2012. Harris says, "The growth is very organic. We have partnerships but what's amazing is we haven't done any massive campaigns to get people to follow us."

In many ways the Pinterest platform is similar to a digital edition. That is, the brand's 109 pin boards maintain its core content objectives. What's different, however, is that Pinterest allows for curated content.

"So much of what's happening on Pinterest informs us of what's going on elsewhere and we can use that for the magazine. …

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