Turning the traffic around
Suppose Business A has 200 faithful followers on Facebook. Business A works diligently to keep everyone updated and looking forward to the next social media post.
Now, suppose Newspaper B has 2,000 page views a day. Newspaper B installs the widget made by Friends2Follow. Then it sells Business A on the concept of streaming its social media through the widget to Newspaper B's website.
Suddenly Business A potentially reaches 2,200 people instead of 200 with the same social media content it was already producing. And Newspaper B has done little more than offer Business A the opportunity.
The effect is that of a megaphone for the advertiser, said John Winn Miller, chief strategy officer for the two-year-old Friends2Follow. "It's simple but very effective for increasing reader engagement and revenue."
Miller, retired publisher of the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire, is the chief strategy office for Friends2Follow. The company is based in Barrington, N.H, but Miller lives in Lexington, Ky., where he is a journalist in residence at the University of Kentucky. The company was started about two years ago by two of his former colleagues at the Monitor.
"They saw a need, that the trend for marketing was going toward spending on social media, and that newspapers needed to figure out a way to take back some of that market share," Miller said. "About a year ago they demonstrated the product to me. I said, this is genius. I want in."
Once the widget is installed, the advertiser can stream whatever it was going to do on social media anyway. It also has a number of options, such as sending only some posts on to the newspaper website and changing its message at any moment. "All the production is whatever the advertiser wants to put on their social media," Miller said.
Miller said many businesses and other users of well-known social media such as Facebook and Twitter don't realize that ever-changing algorithms limit how many posts appear on a user's timeline. The number of people seeing a commercial post may be far fewer than the business owner thinks. The widget expands the audience exponentially.
"The advantage to the paper is they don't have to do any work. The advertiser does all the work. The advertiser does all the updating," Miller said. "It's almost a 100 percent margin for newspapers because they don't have to put any work into it."
But Friends2Follow doesn't just sell the widget, install it, take the money and walk away. The company provides sales training and sales generators to newspapers. It collects data on clicks, impressions, follows, shares and other measurements of success. Clients have access to a monthly newsletter, a center for best practices and demographic studies.
"We can show the newspaper and the advertiser, down to the Tweet, how well they've done," Miller said.
Newspapers that pay for Friends2Follow services and its widget usually charge advertisers a monthly fee to stream social media to the paper's website, Miller said.
"We want them to succeed. What we tell them is we don't make money if you don't make money. Our business model is a revenue share. The more money they make, the more money we make.
"It behooves us to make sure they're trained and they're selling effectively, and that they're able to retain their customers once they've sold it."
The news side can also benefit, Miller said. Friends2Follow can set up a news widget. It's especially useful for smaller papers without a full online staff to keep updating a website all day, he said.
A news widget can stream reporters' breaking news stories and photos directly to the front page of the website. Traffic alerts can go up just as quickly. Success depends on reporters being active on social media, Miller said. "The point of it is a breaking news content block that will increase reader engagement," he said.
Miller said social media are overtaking the major search engines in referring traffic to newspaper websites. Newspapers that seek out revenue from social media find evidence of circulation increases as well.
"It's just an underutilized, vital resource for most newspaper organizations."
For more information, contact John Winn Miller at John@friends2follow.com.
Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nominate your company for an associate member spotlight article!