Deeper storytelling boosts Newsday’s social media engagement

By Gabriella Vukelic

Newsday Media Group

Melville, New York, USA


Long Island spoke — and Newsday listened.

We had previously conducted deep dives into the three social media platforms we focus on the most: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. With the information we learned, we restructured our social media strategy by becoming more selective on our posts and paying close attention to how our audience reacts. We also got insight on what topics Long Islanders really care about.

It’s no secret social media changes constantly, and platforms punish publishers who don’t pay attention to the algorithms. So, we used the algorithm to our advantage, adjusted our strategy, and increased our engagement by creating content that resonated with Long Islanders. 

Iconic restaurants on Long Island proved to be our highest performing content in 2020. We saw even more success by shifting our restaurant video strategy from restaurant reviews to inside looks into the backstory and lives of these local business owners. 

We also strived to increase our following on Facebook and Instagram. Research shows people who follow a publisher are four-to-six times more likely to subscribe, so we worked diligently on using hashtags and posting about the most relevant topics to Long Islanders. 

Focusing on what Long Islanders wanted to know most helped drive more social media interaction.
Focusing on what Long Islanders wanted to know most helped drive more social media interaction.

One specific approach we had for Instagram was to experiment more with posting breaking news. We created graphics with the latest updates about the coronavirus on the Island, like closings, reopenings, grocery store hours for seniors, vaccine distribution plans, and vaccine eligibility updates.

Each post consistently performed well, and we noticed Long Islanders were sharing the posts on their Instagram Stories. This expanded our reach and following to a younger audience who may not have known Newsday was on Instagram.

We also experimented with deeper storytelling. We thrive on telling stories about Long Islanders, given we’re the largest newspaper here. We spoke with diverse groups on the Island to hear what they want to read from Newsday, and one of the answers was always “talking about individuals in my community.”

From using the caption space on Instagram to social-first videos, we always tried to apply that knowledge and find stories that were relatable and about locals in various communities. We moved away from just posting videos we think would go “viral” and focused heavily on videos that add to the conversation.

For example, our election coverage varied from talking to younger or first-time voters to covering the rallies across Long Island. We noticed our audience loved hearing what others had to say, so we sent our multi-media journalists out in the field to ask people in diverse communities what they thought about a particular topic, such as former President Trump testing positive for the coronavirus. 

The Long Island Remembers page was immensely popular on social media.
The Long Island Remembers page was immensely popular on social media.

One of our key goals was to also increase our coverage of traditionally underserved communities. Long Island was hit hard by the pandemic, and many lost loved ones. As of March 2021, New York lost more than 40,000 people to the virus. We created a page that featured many obituaries called “Long Island Remembers.”

This got a big response on our social media platforms because most Long Islanders know someone who was affected. In the past year, we’ve made efforts to diversify the obituaries we’d write and feature. We proactively reached out to diverse communities who have lost family or friends, and we wrote about people who lived in those communities. 

We also wanted to feature more Millennial and Generation Z voices, too. During election season, we featured videos of first-time voters on our Instagram Stories talking about who they were voting for and why. Tagging the subjects in the stories allowed them to share it and expand our reach.

We also have started experimenting with Instagram Reels, a new feature that mimics TikTok and lasts anywhere between 15 and 30 seconds.

About Gabriella Vukelic

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