When COVID hit in 2020, Pulse Senegal had a decision to make. Should they delay the launch and expansion of their brand on social media platforms? Or should they move forward with their mission to reach and engage their audience?
“We have decided to make sure we have a large presence on social media,” said Caroline Mbodj, managing director for the media company, said on day two of the INMA Africa Media Summit, sponsored by the Google News Initiative.
Since deciding to launch on social sites, Pulse has half the population of Senegal on Facebook who are connecting with the brand every day. Their following there is strong as well as on Instagram where they created two different pages: one dedicated to news and entertainment and the other to sports.
Pulse found people would turn to them when a popular futbol team would win or anything big would happen in the sports world, she said: “We have seen a lot of people engaging in a lot of content for sports so we have decided to invest in a certain way on a Pulse Sports platform.”
Here they create content dedicated to sports and do a lot of testing on social media to look at engagement.
Pulse makes sure its social media platforms work in tandem with the Pulse Web site, which is a more traditional way journalists inform Pulse readers through stories and content. Social media compliments those stories with more entertaining and engaging content.
“We’re trying to find the best way to display our engaging content on TikTok” Mbodj said. “We are trying to find the right balance between the Web site and social media.”
The reason Pulse dedicates so much time and energy to social media is the country’s population is really young:
“Our way of doing things is making sure we have a strong Web site because we want to inform, we want to display content, and social media is relevant for our audience,” Mbodj said. “When we launched it in 2020, we were not investing in TikTok. So after seeing that TikTok was relevant for our audience, we just decided to launch our platforms on TikTok.”
If in the next year or two Pulse sees a new platform that is relevant for engaging young people, they will launch their media content on that platform with the strategy to both inform and entertain.
“It was interesting to see how we could mix both information and entertainment both on different platforms,” Mbodj said.
Pulse has a four-pillar approach to its social media strategy:
Distribution: Pulse makes sure they regularly post content at times when engagement is high. They want to be reliable and dependable in this practice until they see the trends and engagement scores change.
Fast on trends: The goal is to keep content new and refreshing. “With TikTok for example, trends are growing so fast that we sometimes have issues with all the trends,” Mbodj said. “We have to stay new, we have to stay refreshing, so every trend our audience is following, we have to also follow them.”
Key formats: Pulse consistently tests new formats and sees what works. “We have to make sure our content is really well recognised,” Mbodj said. They know they can better share important and straightforward information on the web and on the social media side, they can be different, more creative, entertaining, and informative.
Reach: Pulse is aware that social media algorithms are changing all the time so they work closely with influencers and content creators to quickly expand their reach. “We can not reach all the young audiences we want to reach by our own platforms.” Mbodj said. “What we decided to do was have a collaboration with influencers with their own platforms that we can work together with to reach our audience.” Influencers also tend to have that same younger audience that Pulse looks for.
To better serve that last pillar of reach, the media company launched three products:
Pulse Fun Facts: a quick, fun interview series where celebrities and influencers answer questions to help audiences get to know them better.
Pulse Spotlight: inspirational stories from people who are trending or doing things that are highly relatable to the audience. This also helps provide Pulse with diverse content.
Pulse VoxPop: a series of street interviews to get the audience's point of view or trends, politics, and other interesting topics. “We asked people what they would do with $5,000. The reaction was very interesting. We used the different reactions and posted them to our social media,” Mbodj said.
The company believes it will continue to increase profits by putting more work into sponsored content and also investing in employee training, Mbodj said: “It’s in our DNA that we test a lot of things, we train our employees to make sure the content we have succeeded in creating is kept.”
Pulse also plans to continue being a leader in innovative media. They see the value in platforms like TikTok where they were one of the last of their competitors to enter the space, yet they already have 410 thousand followers, Mbodj said.
“We call it new social media because it’s very trendy, it’s helping a lot of engagement, and, even if we are smaller because we are the latest one to arrive, we have succeeded in a short period having the largest community on TikTok.”
Complete coverage of the two-day summit can be found here.