Newsday’s social media data analysis results in fewer posts, increased subscriptions

By Elaine Piniat


Melville, New York, United States


As social platforms change algorithms, brands struggle with how they support their goals. Newsday did several deep dives into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram data, collating it all into one spreadsheet analysing 9,200 posts.

Analysing such a large dataset took a lot of time and effort, but it helped inform our strategy, ultimately improving efficiency, and driving subscribers.

When I set out to do this deep dive, our goals were to:

  • Drive more subscriptions from social.

  • Better understand our audience.

  • Make sure our social media team was getting results.

  • Further Newsday’s journalistic mission by creating content that’s engaging and shareable.

I started by exporting 16 months of Facebook data into a spreadsheet that had more than 20 tabs, separating data by site section. I focused on engaged users, shares, comments, and converted visits from social. I calculated the averages for those metrics for all the data as well as for each individual section. 

Newsday's social media analysis focused on engaged users, shares, comments, and converted visits from social.
Newsday's social media analysis focused on engaged users, shares, comments, and converted visits from social.

Those averages became our benchmarks, helping us determine what content performs best.

On average, less than half of what we were posting met the benchmarks. In response, we reduced posting significantly, going from about 20 to 25 posts per day to around seven to 12. Our focus became quality over quantity. We would no longer post just to fill holes. We would adhere to the benchmarks to focus on the best content and engagement. 

Results inform new strategy 

Once the analysis was completed, I created a 188-page Google Slide presentation that broke down the findings, giving examples of top and bottom posts for every site section. I presented this to a number of departments and trained particular editors and producers in new posting strategies based on the changes. Doing this also helped spark discussions about the impact that framing has on the success of posts.

I then repeated this process for both Twitter and Instagram.

As a result of the reduced posting, the social media team was freed up to work across the newsroom to produce more social-friendly content. It also had more time to engage with the audience through Facebook groups, working with influencers, responding to comments, and being out in the field.

While decreasing posting significantly, we still increased our KPIs. For example, we grew subscriptions from Facebook 114% and direct subscriptions from Newsday’s Facebook page 384%. Page views from Newsday’s Facebook page doubled and we grew local, unique visitors from our page 313%, while growing overall interactions 43%. (We used tracking tags to pinpoint our referrals.)

After our Twitter deep dive, we decreased posting there by 34% but grew subscriptions 116%. We also grew page views by 263% and unique visitors by 247%.

Because we decreased Facebook and Twitter posting, we were able to increase Instagram posting by 17%. This resulted in a growth in followers of 35% and grew video views by 258%, to 1.09 million. 

Cross-departmental changes implemented

Our analytics and data research also led to a cross-departmental committee that helped people throughout the building better understand our social media strategy, develop improved workflows, and refine content and marketing approaches. 

One challenge was spreadsheets crashing because of the large datasets, resulting in loss of data. It’s important to be attentive to every detail in a deep dive like this. At one point, I noticed numbers and chunks of data were missing. These are all things that, if left unnoticed, would have skewed the data and pointed our strategy in the wrong direction. 

It’s also important to have discussions and multiple sets of eyes on the work to make sure you’re asking the right questions and that conclusions are on point.

Since this initial deep dive, we’ve continued to do mini-deep dives to stay on top of our strategy, audience habits, changes in algorithms, and best practices.

About Elaine Piniat

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