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Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

How Montenegro’s Vijesti uses social media and events to build audience engagement

By now, most news organisations realise the power of social media to increase their reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…

How do I get more followers or fans? How do I encourage readers to share my stories?

At MDIF’s Media Forum 2012, I spoke with Srdan Kosovic, the online editor of Montenegro’s Vijesti, on how they found success.

“It was the trickiest question when we started, how to get new followers, how to get more likes,” he told us, but he cautioned, “You have to be careful with that. It’s all about what you want to do with those followers.”

It is not just about increasing page viewsPage ViewsWhen the page is actually seen by the user. Some platforms, like Facebook cache…

Protests drive new social media strategy

The development of this strategy was sparked by protests in the country in January 2012. They were the largest protests in decades, he said, and they quickly realised that people wanted to be a part of sharing accurate, verified information.

Vijesti sent its own journalists, and like journalists elsewhere, they realised that using Twitter and Facebook and their mobile phones, they could report on the protests as they happened. They created a hashtag, a keywordKeywordSpecific word(s) entered into a search engine by the user that result(s) in a…

The reporting and the hashtag helped increase their following on Twitter. They encouraged people to send them pictures and information using the hashtag, and they promised to verify the reports that were sent to them.

“We said help us to do the best to cover the protests for the people who can’t come to the protests or watch them on TV,” he said. They didn’t ask people at the protests to help Vijesti but to help each other.

“The result was immense,” he said. “We got many new followers, many new connections between our followers and Vijesti’s portalPortalA Web site that often serves as a starting point for a Web user’s session. It…

Vijesti benefitted by breaking new ground amongst Montenegrin news organisations in using social media in this way and to highlight the public’s use of social media in their coverage.

Listening to their new followers

One key lesson that many journalists quickly learn with social media is that it is not just about broadcasting your views and sharing your stories but also about getting feedback from your audience.

Of course, Vijesti does share their stories using social media, but Kosovic says that they do not share every story.

“We share those that we think are funny to be shared or retweeted but also important matters for the community so we can get more angles for the story and investigate deeper so that we can have an impact,” he said.

After the increase in fans and followers, Vijesti realised that they now had a way to directly contact members of their audience. The Twitter community in Montenegro is a relatively small and tight-knit group, which makes managing this engagement relatively easy.

They try to find out what expectations their followers have and why they decided to follow Vijesti, he said.

“We always reply to tweets. We always comment on interesting comments on Facebook. We even get direct messages (on Twitter) that aren’t related to Vijesti,” he added.

While this high level of engagement is showing obvious results for Vijesti, it might not be possible in countries with higher levels of social media use. For larger news organisations or simply news organisations that operate in very social media saturated countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, it is probably more realistic that you have a community manager who helps manage the engagement and alert journalists to story ideas or comments they should respond to.

Kosovic knows that if their success at growing their social media following continues that they will need more resources, but for the moment, it is manageable. “We don’t want to go viral just to promote our brand. Of course, that is a part of it, but it is not only that. It is a process of meeting the expectation regarding trust and providing the right information at the right time.”

Offline community supports online engagement

Another way that Vijesti has worked to engage their social media fans is by attending Twitter parties. The idea actually came from the Montenegrin Twitter community, and they come together to watch a football match or television show and tweet about the event using a hashtag.

Kosovic said he and other people with the portal team went to the party to put a face to a Twitter name. It has deepened the relationship that started online, and now Vijesti’s Twitter followers know the people tweeting for the portal. “We get to meet them face to face. If I have a problem, I can now address you,” he said. “An institution always has a mask, and we try to remove the mask.”

Article by Kevin Anderson

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