Everybody in the media is talking about social media, how to include it in the news site and how to involve the audience. 20minutos.es, a free newspaper and online site in Spain acknowledged the fact that information is highly alive online. When they publish a news story online, people immediately comment on it, they “like it” on Facebook and they send it to Twitter. If it is interesting enough people start blogging about it, and these comments are reflected on Twitter and Facebook, as well. And it goes on and on like this.

20 Minutos realised that since people to such a great extent appreciate the social activity connected to published stories, they would make it completely transparent. 20 Minutos.es’ motto is “being the social media.” And hence it would be even more important to make it visible to the audience. So how could they achieve such an ambition?

The answer was ECO, a social activity index. The name, a simplification of “echo,” reflects the social activity echo that is everywhere online. On each news article online readers will find the ECO symbol. If they point on the symbol, they will see to what degree the article is reflected socially. This means that the social activity connected to each news article gets very visible, and the focus on social activity as a whole gets a lot of attention. Obviously this will affect the associations connected to the brand, and the perception of 20minutos.es being a social media will quite quickly be strengthened.

Virginia Pérez Alonso, deputy editor-in-chief for 20minutos.es, explains that the idea of ECO was born when they were working on the redesign of the site. When the idea was launched, they speeded up developing such an index tool. To make an impact on the brand and make it easy to follow for users, it was essential to identify a graphical solution. With internal IT resources they managed to create an activity index both based on internal input like comments, visits, assessments, et cetera — and external input like impact on Facebook and Twitter.

Only news articles with a social activity higher than 60% will be assigned with the ECO symbol. The icon colour gets darker the closer to 100% it gets.

20 Minutos claims to be the only media house with this kind of social activity index linked to their news articles. The response from the audience has been overwhelming and the day they launched the ECO system, it was all over Twitter for the whole day. It is obvious that the users enjoy and appreciate this kind of transparency and focus on social activity.