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Express revamps its social media channels, taking small steps to big numbers

By Philipp Nesbach

KStA Digitale Medien

Cologne, NRW, Germany

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Why do people on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok subscribe to pages — in our case, Express? As a publisher, we previously asked ourselves this question too infrequently and tended to use our social media channels as simple distribution vehicles for our news site content.

Until March 2022, the number of underperforming posts, especially with our reach driver Facebook, was tremendously high: one in four posts did not even reach 3% of our 267,000 page followers. Our analysis — we will get back to this later — showed topics posted were chosen way too randomly, edited impersonally, and not meeting people in their reality. Our profile remained unclear and washy.

To become more attractive (and thereby successful) as a brand on the social Web, we created a path of small steps to gain more clarity about ourselves and to finally get that algorithm boost. These steps were:

  1. Elaborating specific missions and goals for each social media platform.
  2. Establishing a posting guide with top and flop topic categories per platform.
  3. Setting up control questions that must be passed before creating/posting.
  4. Cooperating with talking heads that match our brand values and mission.
Express has found outstanding numbers with tailor-made content pieces, such as gaining 5.7 million views on a single Facebook post.
Express has found outstanding numbers with tailor-made content pieces, such as gaining 5.7 million views on a single Facebook post.

Defining our mission

To determine what we wanted to achieve and how we would do that, we first defined a clear mission for every single channel. For Facebook, this was: “What triggers us, what happens around us, what we stand for. What you interact with, what you click on, what you share: fast, faster, Express.”

The common goal for all platforms was to increase the average reach per post and the interaction rate while seeing the number of significantly underperforming posts decline.

What do users want?

At the same time, we conducted both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of our social content over the past six months that ended up in a posting guide showing what categories of topics and which particular posts were the most engaging and/or wide-reaching on these platforms during this period. That allowed us to decide which topics to make our own permanently, and which to reject.

On Facebook and Instagram, we settled on fixed visual templates to guarantee a higher recognition value and a consistent look and feel for users. We wanted to make it clear to our audience that this is the content they love — and this is how to recognise it and how it stands out in their feed.

Quality across the board

To make sure that each content piece really does meet the requirements we set in advance, so-called posting control questions have been established that every social media editor has to answer before publishing. What sounded strict or rigid at first was important to evolve independent channels with original content tailored to the target audience — and not to become the “advertising pillar” of our news site Express.de again.

On TikTok, we changed our name to @express.queer and — since we, as Express and the city of Cologne stand for diversity, tolerance, and openness — dedicated ourselves exclusively to topics from and for the LGBTQI+ community. For outing stories, we interviewed queer celebrities. For entertaining, educational content pieces, we signed talking heads who share stories from their lives or thoughts with the community.

By the numbers

On Facebook, we halved the number of monthly posts (from 1,074 in February 2022 to 482 in December 2022) but still reached exactly as many users on the platform as before. Also, we increased the number of visits to Express.de via Facebook. In December, those 482 monthly posts led to 2.5 million page views, while in February, we had 2.1 million page views with 1,074 posts. Moreover, we could gradually double the average reach per Facebook post (from 28,628 in February to 61,088 in December). The same applies to the average interactions per post, from 1,990 to 5,160.

On Instagram, we successfully focused on a mix of local (good) news, opinion, and community posts. By consistently posting original content pieces in our new, recognisable look, we increased our follower count by 5%. Some of our reels even reached more than twice as many people as we have followers.

On TikTok, we grew to 10,000 followers with @express.queer in quite a short time. That's up from 3,800 followers in April 2022. Thanks to the collaboration with talking heads, we gained a foothold in the LGBTQI+ community quickly and, with several overperforming videos, reached far more people than we have followers, in one case, 241,000.

About Philipp Nesbach

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