WLS Out Front On Chicago’s Social Scene

Chicago skyline

WLS, ABC’s O&O in Chicago, is ahead in social media actions in the market over the last six months according to data from audience insight firm Shareablee.

WLS has almost 25 million actions on social, 36% of the total engagement generated in the DMA (No. 3), with more than 69 million social actions.

WLS was also first on Instagram with almost 950,000 actions.

WFLD, the Fox O&O there, was first in actions per post with almost 22,000.

The Chicago Tribune, owned by Tronc, led the market on Twitter with just over 480,000 actions.

Jennifer Hoppenstedt

Although Jennifer Hoppenstedt, WLS’s social media executive producer, says the entire newsroom contributes to creating content for social, being the only TV station in the market with its own digital reporter “sets us apart from others.”

“He’s definitely a rock star,” says Hoppenstedt when talking about Jesse Kirsch, WLS’s digital reporter.

Hoppenstedt cites a recent story by Kirsch.

“It was just a sweet story of this man, we call him the flower man now, but it was adorable. It’s one of those things that when it turns up in your newsfeed on Facebook you are going to share it. I mean who doesn’t want a touching story that really is about simple kindness. It was great.”

When it comes to Facebook Live, Hoppenstedt says the stories that get the most engagement are about breaking news.

And sometimes, a Facebook Live from a reporter on the scene can initiate a reaction from someone involved in the story.

“We had a reporter out in the suburbs,” says Hoppenstedt. “He was doing a story of a junior high kid that had been severely beaten in a hallway of school that day and was hospitalized. The family picked up the phone, called our assignment desk and said ‘hey we’re sitting in the hospital room with our son. We see your reporter and we would like to give him some information.’ I mean it’s just an incredible experience.”

Sometimes, Hoppenstedt believes, a Facebook post can lead to increased viewership in a newscast.

“One example comes to mind. This was a case in Chicago where six people were found dead in a home on the south side and it was 3:30 in the afternoon. The only video we had to reference was an aerial shot of the home. I took the shot to Facebook Live. That Facebook Live post topped six million people and we had a huge spike in our 4 p.m. viewership. It was so dramatic it could be nothing else. The people that saw us were reached in this Facebook Live report. They saw that we had it covered and they tuned in at 4 to see what in the world is going on in Chicago. It really was powerful to see that.”

Hoppenstedt says WLS has a regular feature in its newscasts called Tagboard, which allows the station to pick and choose and display comments.

“So it makes it really easy, but super engaging for the audience.”

When it comes to finding ways to monetize Facebook, Hoppenstedt points to a tie-in with the ABC telecast of the Oscars as one example. And the station partnered with the Chicago Cubs for something completely different.

“We most recently did a Chicago Cubs game, actually a couple of Cubs games live on Facebook. So that was a perfect example of something that we were able to sponsor and present to our audience, something different, an entire live baseball game.”

While generating revenue from Facebook is important, Hoppenstedt says the real value of Facebook is connecting with people.

“We’re finding ways to monetize. I think that will happen even more, but I think what’s more important at this point is that we see Facebook as an invaluable investment in people, in our fans, and we are truly energized for the opportunity to connect with people 24/7. So we never underestimate the value of the audience. As far as sales and monetization, the value is coming.”

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