Your Biggest Asset Is Sitting In Your Newsroom

Your internal talent could be the key to a great distribution strategy.

Welcome to HuffPost’s Keeping It 100. From infusing our culture with data to figuring out how to reach Gen Z and cultivate niche distributed communities, we’ll give you an inside look at the hits and misses of HuffPost’s biggest bets.

When it comes to audience development, we often look to outside social media platforms and tools to give our content that extra edge to engage users. Whether it’s a new Facebook strategy or a third-party bot CMS, our eyes are often diverted from what’s literally staring us in the face: the editors in our newsroom.

Of course, the value of our colleagues is obvious ― without them, this behemoth doesn’t run. But when it comes to brand marketing and content distribution, they often aren’t part of the strategic roadmap.

We recently did an experiment to turn that notion on its head, asking ourselves: “What if our editors were the front door to HuffPost?”

The Thinking

  • Influencer marketing is the future ― heck, it’s the present.

  • Brand advocates can add diversity to a brand message.

  • Eighty-three percent of people will take an action on a recommendation from a connection in their network.

  • Brand advocates have the highest retention rate of any user acquisition strategy.

  • Industry click-through rate on Facebook marketing hovers around 0.5 percent, while brand advocate CTR ranges from 10 percent to 13 percent.

The Framework

When we launched this project, we had more than 200 editorial staff members with a social reach of 2.4 million followers across multiple platforms ― 1.4 million on Twitter, 900,000 on Facebook and 125,000 on Instagram. We knew we could grow those numbers. We came up with a sprint framework to cultivate some buzz and kicked off what we named our “internal influencer sprint.” The sprint would aim to help cultivate our colleagues’ personal brands through a series of best practices sessions and amplification of those editors’ accounts on legacy HuffPost distribution channels.

The Implementation

The program was well-received. It brought together editors from all corners of the newsroom who were giddy in this common goal of influencer-level status. The word “thirsty” was thrown around at kick-off meetings ― and we owned it. We started with a group of 85 editors who were game to go all in on a platform of their choosing. Most of them picked Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, while others gave their all to Pinterest or email. We set up an email distro called “Amplify” that editors could use to pitch links to our core social team and ask to be retweeted or shared from our legacy HuffPost social accounts. We had leaderboard check-ins to see who was leading the pack on percent growth and percent engagement.

The Results

We’ll get to the numbers, but let’s start with the qualitative results that were just as important for us. Much like we do with external publishers, we saw internal editors create “partnerships” throughout the sprint. People found participating colleagues in complementary topic or audience categories and formed casual cross-promotional strategies: “I’ll retweet you if you share the sign-up page for my email.” This kind of strategic implementation on the individual level was fascinating to see and an entirely new product even emerged from one of these collaborations: Queer Voices editor James Michael Nichols and Women editor Alanna Vagianos collaborated on a Facebook Live show to drive new followers to their respective professional Facebook pages.

“Thinking about how to expand reach and influence intersectionally and outside of one’s niche audience proved crucial,” Nichols explained. “[It] ultimately contributed to our individual success, and our success as partners in this experiment.”

As a whole, our sprint led to a 24 percent increase in total followers of those who participated ― that’s a raw increase of 53,570 followers who, on average, will have a 9.5 percent higher click-through rate and be 17 percent more likely to take an action.

Not bad for an internal program that had the pleasant byproduct of increased morale and collaboration.

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