February 26th, 2011
One of the biggest communities in the Lexington DMA is the Facebook fan page on WLEX-TV with over 54,000 “residents.” It is also one of the fastest growing communities in the market with several hundred “moving in” every day. That has propelled the LEX18 Facebook fan page – in the 62nd market – to the #1 local TV Facebook page – by population – in the country.
It is an amazing story of using social media to its full potential. The numbers are staggering.
LEX18 had 11,000 Facebook fans in January of 2010. Thirteen months later – it has exploded by 500% – to over 54,000 fans. The station projects that number to be 80-to-90,000 by the end of 2011. That would be more Facebook fans than watch LEX18’s #1 six p.m. newscast.
LEX18 news director Bruce Carter is the driving force behind this growth. He remembers thinking a year ago that “Facebook was something people did for fun with their friends. How can we tap into that as a news organization?”
Today, Carter says, “Facebook is a vital part of what we do on a daily basis.” At least one-in-eight TV news stories every day come from tips from their Facebook community. It also allows them to keep in touch with viewers’ concerns and issues, have a daily conversation with them, and is a source of major referrals to the station’s website.
News tips come flowing in every day on Facebook – along with pictures and video – from around their DMA. Bruce cites the ease of doing this on Facebook as a major advantage. Before Facebook, he says, a viewer may have wanted to give them a news tip – but first they had to look up the phone number and then wonder whom they should talk to. As at most TV stations, there also was a big chance of getting someone on the phone who was very busy and not interested in taking the call.
So – the big question is how did LEX18’s Facebook growth explode? Bruce began engaging viewers every morning on Facebook – asking them questions about the day ahead, issues that were important to them, how they were feeling etc. He also began asking them for news tips (“if you see something in your community let us know”).
The big turning point came in May of 2010 when there was major flooding overnight in the Lexington area. That’s when Bruce says he saw the “real power” of Facebook as a community. People flocked to the LEX18 Facebook page to tell the station where the worst flooding was occurring, the problems it was causing and they sent hundreds of pictures – and for the first time – video of the flooding.
Then another Facebook phenomenon happened. The LEX18 Facebook community started talking to each other – “here’s a street to avoid” – then more neighbors chimed in – “here’s another street you need to be aware of” – suddenly the true social media advantages of being part of the community blossomed.
Something else happened during the big flooding conversation – the number of LEX18 Facebook fans grew by 2,000 in less than 72 hours. The station put together a promo spot thanking their Facebook community for being a major part of their flood coverage – and for helping each other through the dangerous situation. The population of the LEX18 Facebook community exploded.
WLEX continues to engage the Facebook community every day through those daily morning “conversations” (including their morning anchors during the newscast), they do web polls and invite comments that become a big part of their 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. newscasts. The topics vary but center around topical issues and pop culture. They post a Facebook question for their 4 p.m. newscast by about 2 p.m. every weekday – and get from 30-to-150 comments by the time the newscast airs.
Some companies are reluctant to use Facebook so strongly – fearing it will harm visits to the TV station’s website – “where we make money.” That is misguided. Facebook is tied with Google search as the #2 source of referrals to the LEX18 website.
Lex18.com is averaging 120,000 page views daily in 2011. And listen to this – over 400,000 people have been referred from the LEX18 Facebook page to the station website in just the first 7 weeks of 2011!
The increase in referrals from Facebook to the station website is incredible. There were 10,000 referrals in January of 2010. That increased to 39,000 by last April. It jumped to 173,000 referrals in December of 2010 – and to 235,000 a month later.
WLEX reporters post from the field to the LEX18 website – and Facebook page – throughout the day. They ask for help with their story content, sell ahead to the next newscast and engage their community.
If you don’t have a strong Facebook strategy – you are missing a great opportunity to truly connect with your fans every day – and also drive them to your station website and newscasts.
February 4th, 2011
Didja hear – watching local television newscasts causes cancer? Really? Well, it had to happen sooner or later since everything we eat or drink causes cancer, right?
It seems that every day there is a new story that this or that causes cancer – followed, of course, a few months later by a story that it really doesn’t cause cancer. So, now it is local TV news’ turn to get labeled as causing cancer. OK – they really didn’t say it “causes” cancer but they did say it was a “significant source of cancer fatalism.”
Researchers from Cornell University, and The Ohio State University say that a “steady diet of local TV news leads people to believe that they have little or no control over whether or not they get cancer. Come on! Really?
These researchers theorize that happens because local TV news “is more likely than other news outlets to emphasize recent scientific findings and less likely to include context and information about prevention.” This is just a thought – but don’t you think that maybe all those crazy so-called “scientists” who one day say artificial sweeteners cause cancer, and then the next day say they don’t cause cancer – might be the real root of the problem? Just sayin’?
So let’s take this theory one step further – like the scientific community tends to do. That would mean that watching too much local TV news with its penchant to show an inordinate amount of crime news will make you go out and commit a crime. I guess based on these cancer theories – local TV news needs to always add – “and committing this crime is illegal and you shouldn’t do it” – just to add context and information about prevention. Right?