KHQ has more than 3.1 million actions on social, 37% of the total engagement generated by the DMA (No. 72), with more than 8.4 million social actions.
Country-formatted KCLX-AM in Colfax, Wash., owned by Inland Northwest Broadcasting, led the market in actions per post on Facebook with almost 1,500.
KREM, Tegna’s CBS affiliate in Spokane, was ahead on Twitter with almost 25,000 actions while The Spokesman-Review, also owned by Cowles, and Spokane’s only daily newspaper, led the market on Instagram with almost 13,000 actions during the same period.
One of the reasons KHQ is ahead on Facebook is a regularly scheduled Facebook Live at around noon called Lunch Break, according to Traci Zeravica, KHQ’s news director.
“We decided to flip the newscast thought process on its ear and actually do a newscast only on social,” says Zeravica. “The interaction has been incredible.”
In addition to high engagement, Zeravica says Lunch Break is successful in another important area — revenue.
“We have been fortunate enough to be able to get some sponsorships for Lunch Break.”
Lunch Break is hosted by Cory Howard, KHQ’s executive producer of interactive, and reporter Nichole Mischke.
“Our audience loves to engage with us,” says Howard, “and they love to talk to each other. We like to get their opinions, get their thoughts, and get the conversation going.”
“They can ask about a story and Cory or Nicole will answer it right there,” says Zeravica. “So they feel like they are talking to us. That’s probably what we all need to do as an industry in order to retain this next generation of viewers and consumers.”
Zeravica says that Lunch Break is an attempt to influence people who wouldn’t normally watch local news on KHQ, with Howard and Mischke as the antithesis of other news anchors.
“The engagement is pretty high and it’s doing really quite well because of it.”
Daily weather briefings on Facebook Live in the evenings are obligatory for KHQ, with the hopes of driving that Facebook audience to the newscasts.
“We do Facebook Lives with weather,” says Zeravica, “because we know we are bringing in that audience who is engaging in the two-screen platforms at some key times.”
Facebook Live from the scene of breaking news also works well for KHQ in driving engagement.
Howard himself went on Facebook Live when he came across the scene of policemen in a neighborhood.
“People get to go along on a journey with you and they went along with me,” says Howard.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but 25 minutes later we are answering questions, we are getting people the information they need.”
But it’s not just hard news that drives engagement for KHQ.
Howard likes to think of his team as ‘content hunters’, searching for the stories people can enjoy.
“It’s knowing your audience and what they are going to like and what they are going to eat up.”
And sometimes, judging from the reaction a story might get on Facebook, the station will follow up on that story and include it in the newscasts.
The recent announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions about repealing legalized marijuana in the state of Washington is a good example.
“We put that up on Facebook and it took off as far as engagement,” says Howard.
“Based on the reaction we were getting on social media, we knew it was something we needed to include in our newscasts.”
Zeravica and Howard stress that the main benefit to KHQ from its Facebook page is the interaction, the instant feedback, it gets from users’ comments that helps the station keep a pulse on what viewers want.
“The big topic around here when it snows is where are the plows,” says Howard.
“So we put out a poll that said, ‘what do you think of how they are doing’? You can look at the comments and see what people are actually focusing on.”
Zeravica sees Facebook as reaffirming in “that we have a place in our community if we do it the right way.”