This week’s Social Scorecard stops at the Motor City to explore how WJBK is able to hold off its competition on Facebook with local news content that is mostly exclusive to the station.
Fox’s Detroit O&O led in social media actions in the market over the last six months according to data from audience insight firm Shareablee.
But it’s a highly competitive race as only about 5,000 actions separate WJBK from the second-place station, WXYZ, the market’s ABC affiliate owned by Scripps.
WJBK has more than 4.6 million actions on social, 23% of the total engagement generated by the DMA (No. 14), with more than 19.8 million social actions.
WJBK also led in actions per post with 500.
WDIV, the NBC affiliate owned by Graham Media Group led the market on Instagram with more than 123,000 actions.
The Detroit Free Press, a daily newspaper owned by Digital First Media, dominated on Twitter with more than 232,000 actions.
Jay Dillon, WJBK’s senior web producer, says the station has a big newsroom staff that produces a large amount of news per day, but not all of it works on Facebook.
“We look for the local news that our audience is interested in. We are very in tune with what our audience is engaged with; what stories will drive traffic. We just push our local content first and foremost.”
Dillon admits that what’s successful on Facebook is different every day, every week, especially since the changes Facebook made recently in its algorithms which downplays posts by publishers to emphasize content by friends and family.
What’s he’s finding in the last month or so that works “is unique content that only we are creating.”
Like the story that came to the station through a tip from one of its Facebook followers.
“There was a story we did first about a family who had an elderly member of their family that had been abused in a nursing home. They had video, they brought it to us, because they wanted us to do a story about it. That was our most popular story on our website. It was also one of the most popular stories on our Facebook page that month. So that’s what we’re looking for. Not just what our competition is reporting, because we’re all going to have that. But the more successful stuff is that unique content.”
That focus on unique content exclusive to WJBK also extends to how the station uses Facebook Live.
“We have a program that’s called Fox 2 News Now,” says Dillon, “and we have a special setup where one of our web producers will go online. We want to have a way for people to find more about the content that they’re going to ask questions about. We’ll prepare stories for our website because every Facebook post that we do, we want to have a link back to our website.”
Dillon says that the segment, hosted by reporter Kellie Rowe, doesn’t go on Facebook Live at a designated time, but rather as news breaks.
“When there’s something live, we’re going. We’re going to be on live, and Kellie will be there to kind of moderate things. We have a lot of success, especially in February, with our Larry Nassar coverage.”
Nassar was the USA Gymnastics team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University who was convicted of being a serial child molester.
Dillon says court cases in general get high engagement, comments, and shares because people pass judgement one way or the other.
WJBK’s morning team does a Facebook Live segment called The Doctor’s In, where they take questions on Facebook Live and then answer them on TV.
“It’s kind of a little bit of synergy of bringing our TV back to Facebook and vice versa,” says Dillon.
Another feature of the morning news is a two-hour show called The 9, which incorporates user comments.
“It’s on from 9 a.m. to 11. It’s an engaging show. Our talent are on their social media pages. They interact with their audience, also with our station page as well.”
Overall, Dillon views Facebook as an experiment.
“Every post, every day, every week is just like: OK, what’s working, what’s not working? In the end, it’s the same thing I’ve been saying since I started here four years ago: local news works.
“People rely on us to be their source. When we have a major event, like we had a meteor crash here in January, and our Facebook numbers, our web numbers, were through the roof for the story, because people wanted to know what was going on. People weren’t going for a national source. They were coming to us because we have developed and earned their trust that what we’re going to post is what we know, and what we know to be accurate. So above everything else, we want to be accurate, we want to be trustworthy, and that’s where we stand.”