How KTVU Dominates Social Media In San Francisco

By almost every performance metric Shareablee provides, Fox O&O KTVU has led the social media scene in San Francisco over the last six months. This week’s Social Scorecard shows how quality posts and breaking news help the station dominate in nearly all categories.

KTVU has more than 7 million actions on social, 22% of the total engagement generated by the DMA (No. 8), with more than 22 million social actions.

KTVU led on Facebook with over 5 million actions, is No. 1 on Instagram with almost 2 million actions, and tops Twitter with almost 320,000 actions.

In addition, KTVU led in actions per post with 567 despite having the least content of the top five media outlets in the market.

Michelle Toy

“Our strategy on Facebook is quality over quantity,” says Michelle Toy, KTVU’s managing editor of digital and content.

“From the beginning, we have tried to really get organic growth and really connect with our audience. We find content that caters to them, causes that they respond to. We craft each post, we take a lot of time and care into the image, what’s the headline, what’s the spin, if it’s a link post, if it’s a live post, if it’s a photo post, if it’s a specially edited video post, what is the best way to present this particular story to our loyal audience that is going to stand out from what they are getting from the competition.”

Toy cites a recent breaking news situation in the market, a shooter on the loose in a quiet neighborhood, as an example of how the station’s strategy on Facebook is much more deliberate than just posting a graphic, which, Toy says, was the response of one of its competitors.

“We’re posting a live video with our chopper over it. We found out that two people have been shot, and we’re giving them updates as soon as we get them. We’re interacting with the audience while it’s happening and they say thanks for letting us know, thanks for keeping us in the loop.”

Amber Eikel

Amber Eikel, KTVU’s news director, says the station doesn’t use Facebook to tease what’s coming up on the station’s newscasts.

“Teases do not do well. Like if we say ‘hey coming up tonight at 10 watch this’, no one is going to engage with it and we understand how the algorithm is going to drag our whole page down.”

However, says Eikel, a better, more organic way to raise viewership for the newscasts is to use the news content itself to begin a conversation.

“When we have stories that we are breaking, we put them on Facebook. The conversation begins and our hope is that conversation is happening throughout the day and by the end of the day, when they are home, they are like, ‘Oh I want to see that story’ and then they are turning on the news.”

Both Eikel and Toy believe that KTVU’s Facebook coverage of that shooter on the loose story led to higher ratings on its newscasts.

“Our afternoon numbers were fabulous,” says Eikel. “We had a big boost in afternoon numbers. Do I know it’s because of that story? I have no idea, but I think that they saw it on their Facebook page and then turned on their TV.”

Toy is certain that, indeed, Facebook did lead to better news ratings.

“I can tell you a hundred percent they did that,” says Toy, “because in the comments section yesterday, I know that multiple people were watching two screens. They were watching our Facebook page and they were watching us on the news and they were telling us that.”

Having a main anchor, Frank Somerville, who has a “crazy Facebook following,” also helps the station’s news ratings, believes Toy.

“He has been here forever and they know him as the Facebook guy and they feel like they are friends with him. I truly believe that people tune in to watch him at night because they saw him on Facebook and they think he is their buddy.”

Plus, says Toy, “the Frank Somerville page is a wealth of story ideas.”

Keeping close tabs on his page and what the station’s Facebook users say in their comments, says Toy, often leads to story ideas and news tips, like a recent story of a user who had video of a prowler.

“I was chatting with her on Facebook all morning. She didn’t want to do the story. She was nervous. I had the reporter talk to her and she didn’t want her face shown, but she said you can use the video. When people are giving us story tips, we look at every single one of those and we answer them back.”

Other ways KTVU is able to generate high engagement are polls.

“We have a Question of the Day poll every morning. We always tell people go to our Facebook page and comment and then all throughout the morning show for several hours, we take the comments from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we read them on the air.”

A recent poll about a controversial sex education policy in a local school district got a lot of people to weigh in.

Viewer-submitted photos are another way KTVU creates engagement.

“Beautiful weather shots from all over the Bay Area whether it be the beach, from the mountains or the creeks. We have a lot of beautiful places and those do very well on social.”

KTVU’s chopper over landmarks of the Bay Area are popular as well.

“People will get on and be like, wow that’s such a pretty view’. If they are on their way to a story, we will live stream that as kind of a beauty shot and it does really well.”

In the end, Eikel says, much of the station’s Facebook success is about being flexible.

“We are always re-evaluating our posts and looking at what’s successful and what’s not and adjusting from there.”

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