In this week’s edition of Social Scorecard, KWCH reveals how its focus to be digitally first with news is why it’s on top of Facebook in Wichita, Kan.
KWCH, Gray’s CBS affiliate, is the leader in social media actions in the market over the last six months according to data from audience insight firm Shareablee.
KWCH has nearly 1.7 million actions on social, 33% of the total engagement generated by the DMA (No. 67), with more than 5.1 million social actions.
KWCH also led in actions per post with 180.
KZCH-FM, (branded as Channel 963), a Top 40 station owned by iHeartMedia, led the market on Twitter with 32,542 actions.
KAKE, the market’s ABC affiliate owned by Lockwood Broadcast Group, led on Instagram with just over 6,000 actions.
Shawn Hilferty, KWCH’s digital director, says one reason his station is ahead on Facebook is its digital-first approach when it comes to local news.
“That’s our main goal. We break things on social media and make constant decisions on what we are posting on social media, looking for the interaction from the end user. It’s to either solicit a comment, a share, something to get a conversation going — and that’s our main focus when using social media.”
Kim Wilhelm, KWCH’s news director, and Angela Smith, the station’s digital content manager, point to three recent news stories that were first reported on Facebook as examples that got high engagement.
One story was about a worker killed when a trench caved in and another was a grain elevator accident in which two men died.
“We were able to go live with our reporters out in the field,” says Smith, “and have them pop up a live stream and then people just clicked on that video to see what was going on.”
A third story, the hunt for a murder suspect, happened between the station’s newscasts, but it was a frightening situation to people who lived in Western Kansas, says Wilhelm.
“They told the residents out there to lock their door.”
The station did a four-hour Facebook Live that eventually led to crossover viewership into the station’s newscast.
“We had 4,500 shares just on that Facebook Live alone and a lot of the comments that we were getting in that Facebook Live were from people saying thank you, you are the only ones providing this information,” says Wilhelm.
Wilhelm adds that those people watching the Facebook Live stream posted comments telling the station to not stop the feed, as they wanted the newest information. And in those comments, Wilhelm says people talked about crossing over to watch KWCH’s newscast.
“It was really interesting. We could actually see the Facebook viewers moving over to the on-air platform just because they were so hungry for this safety and security information.”
Those people watching the Facebook Live stream about the hunt for the murder suspect also added comments that helped the station focus its resources better to cover that story as it unfolded, according to Dominic Gauna, KWCH’s creative services director.
“It gave us leads to go on as the story was unfolding and where to put reporters,” Guana says.
“We were getting that information fairly quickly and putting bodies in spots a little bit ahead of our competition.”
Reporters who do a Facebook Live from the scene of breaking news do very well for KWCH, says Hilferty. One reporter’s Facebook Live about bees had a large reach, even though it affected a small number of people.
“Bees took over and it was quite the talker from people viewing it as constant entertainment. It did very well for us.”
Facebook is often the place where tips and story ideas start. At Christmas, the station asked what people wanted as presents. A woman showed up at the station and looked through the responses.
“She decided to be a little secret Santa,” says Wilhelm, “and grant wishes for some of the people. It truly is the way that people reach out to us now to give us story ideas.”
It’s that interaction between users and the newsroom that Gauna feels has made Facebook such an important tool for KWCH.
“We understand it’s a great avenue for us to touch our viewers in a way that we have never had before. We want to utilize that because we are serving our viewers more than anything.”