The number of hours Americans have spent on the internet has increased by 121% from 2005, as revealed in a study by North American Technographics Benchmark Surveys from 2005 to 2010. Most of this time is spent connecting with people, sharing one’s life and experiences, finding out the most updated information on any topic of interest – all using social media. As a publisher, this is an important tool in understanding your readers better, garner more fans and followers. Here’s the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of social media for publishers who want to start engaging readers using the latest technology available.

What is Social Media?

Authors of “A Complete Guide to Social Media” – Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as follows: “A group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

Social media can take many different forms including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, podcasts, pictures, videos and social bookmarking. Social media creates a platform on the internet to enable people to communicate and share information and resources.

What are the different types of social media options and who is using them?

Based on readers’ usage we have three of the popular social media networks, which are creating an interactive awareness for various magazine publications.

Twitter is a micro-blogging and social networking site, where users can broadcast to the world what they are doing, or what is on their minds within a 140-character limit. These broadcasts are also known as tweets and are not just limited to text sharing but also picture sharing through yFrog. By 2012, Twitter has gained over 500 million active users generating over 175 million tweets daily. Approximately 52% of all magazines have a Twitter account in the US and Canada alone.

It is one of the top 10 visited websites and is known as the ‘SMS’ of the internet. Tweets with web links are also used to drive traffic to the main site of the magazine.

Twitter has over a 100 magazines listed globally out of which the top 11 magazines have over 1 million followers each. People and Time are on the top of the list with over 2 million followers.

Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site with more than 900 million users in 2012. It enables its users to connect with friends and colleagues by sharing ideas, pictures, videos, web sites, blogs and any other web-related content. It is also the most popular way to make new friends and keep in touch with friends and relatives.

Facebook offers a more engaging option for magazine publishers with daily posts and sharing of links to their magazine page. This triggers ‘likes’ and discussions in the form of ‘comments’ among the readers, simultaneously letting the publishers know the readers’ perspectives. Playboy (4.4 million likes), Readers Digest (1.1million likes) and Parents (0.8 million likes) are the top three popular magazines on Facebook.
Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media services in the world. Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo-sharing website where a user can create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies and more. The mission is to connect users through the ‘things’ they find interesting via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing.

According to Mashable.com, Pinterest is becoming the top traffic driver for women’s magazines. Style, home décor, food and weddings are amongst the most popular pinning categories among the site’s more than 10 million registered users, majority of who are women. Pinterest users turn to the website of lifestyle magazines early on for material, and many publishers moved quickly to harness Pinterest’s potential as a traffic driver by creating their own branded accounts.

How you can get started?

Brian E. Boyd, a social media expert and consultant, in his speech to the class of ORU, has presented four start-up tips to get started on social media networking:

1) Know what they already know

First, know what people are saying about your brand by using Twitter alerts. Magazines have used tweets to interact with their readers – tweets with questions can trigger a response from readers.

2) Create strategies for interactions

Start by creating strategies for interactions with people by using Facebook pages or video links. Organising any event to interact with the potential readers and your editorial staff also can be very informative in strategising for future projects.

3) Create a sharp message

Craft an effective and sharp message to get across to people. Many magazines on Facebook have their own pages containing posts that are very informative in letting the audiences know what the publication is focused upon. Facebook’s timeline has a new added feature – Cover Picture. A few magazines have used this feature to sum up the essence of their magazine in the form of a simple picture or a note.

4) Create interaction with readers

Interact with your readers to answer their concerns or create groups sharing a common interest. Twitter and Facebook receive amazing feedback in the form of retweets or comments. This helps a magazine to engage with their readers and stay updated on their growing expectations.

Social media is time consuming, so a steady investment in research on growing trends, well-planned strategies and learning interactions, social media can prove a fertile approach for Independent publishers with strong relevant content.

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