Today, we are launching Snapcademy: a snackable series of bite-sized learnings showcasing how to fully utilize SnapStream's blazing-fast, online video workspace. Check out the first Clip Tip: "Clip Controls" below and start snapping like a pro!
Social media algorithms are having a moment in the spotlight. Or rather, under the harsh light of the interrogation lamp.
From last year’s documentary, The Social Dilemma, to this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the algorithms powering the major social media platforms are under scrutiny. These algorithms drive which pieces of content users watch and read. And in our current landscape where the number of information sources is high and media literacy is low, disinformation can spread like wildfire.
That said, it will take time to see whether we’ll see significant changes to the way social media platforms use and tune their algorithms. For now, content creators of all kinds still need to stay aware of the routine updates made by each platform in order to maximize reach and audience engagement.
What are Social Media Algorithms?
Social media algorithms are what determine which posts a user sees in his or her feed. Algorithms utilize a variety of factors - including user behavior, post engagement, content type, and source - to determine which content is most relevant to the user. The higher the relevancy, the more likely the content is to appear at the top of the user’s feed.
Social media platforms use data science and machine learning to power and constantly tune their algorithms with the intent of providing an ever-better, more highly targeted user experience. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a data scientist to understand what kinds of content and behaviors the platforms’ algorithms favor. Most are pretty transparent about it and provide best practices for content creators, news media organizations, and marketers to follow.
Here are 4 key things to keep in mind when posting newsworthy content across the various social platforms.
Seize the Moment on Twitter
Recently, Twitter’s big push has been around disinformation shared on its platform. Late last year, Twitter updated its algorithms to focus on limiting the spread of misleading information or fake news.
For legitimate news organizations, that means less noise and more opportunity for real news to take back the top spots in users’ feeds.
To make the most of this moment, news media and public affairs organizations should leverage every opportunity to deliver tangible proof and context in their Twitter posts. Give your audience the ability to hear directly from the source whenever possible.
Experiment with New Social Platform Features
Social platforms will often give higher visibility or promote content that leverages new features. This can be a particularly useful tactic in expanding your followers and reach.
While Instagram hasn’t officially confirmed that its algorithm is promoting Reels (its response to the popularity of TikTok), users are seeing gains in their engagement when opting for Reels over traditional videos in the feed. In fact sports organizations have gotten major traction using Reels, with the NFL seeing 67% higher engagement.
Since we're talking about Instagram, it’s also worth noting the platform provides greater real estate on its Explore page to Reels-based content, making it more likely for a new user to discover you and your narratives.
Redouble Your Efforts Around Social Media Best Practices
While social media algorithms are constantly evolving, there are ingredients that remain fairly constant in determining relevancy and where your post will appear in your users’ feeds.
Audit your best-performing posts from the past few months and look for the following patterns:
Day and time - do you get better performance on certain days of the week? Are there peak times for engagement? Sure, there will always be breaking news that needs to get posted right now. Beyond that, aim to post content designed for your core target at the times where they are most likely to engage.
Conversation starters - which posts get comments or start conversations among your followers? Most platforms’ algorithms favor content that engages users with one another or prompts a response that transcends a simple like. Examine which post types and copy structures most frequently engage your audience to comment.
Impact of video - most platforms’ algorithms favor video-based posts. Look at what percentage of your posts featured video content and aim to increase it month over month. Most news organizations find that video content performs at least 2x better than text- or photo-based content.
Skip the Algorithm Entirely
Facebook not only continues to be the primary news source for many Americans, but it also offers a feature that is essentially exempt from its algorithm. Facebook Stories aren’t governed by the platform’s algorithm. Not only that, but Stories are featured at the top of the page, no matter what.
Facebook Stories are also a great mechanism for driving users to your website to look at other news stories. Per Facebook, 58% of users say they’ve gone to a company’s website for more info after watching a Story. Make sure your Story content is easy to understand, as 52% of users rated this as the top priority for this particular type of content. Leverage stories for breaking news, quick hits, and concise narratives.
Social media platforms will continue to pursue a more perfect user experience by way of algorithms. Though with the potential for greater oversight or regulation, it remains to be seen what the long-term future looks like for this approach. For the time being, understanding and keeping pace with what your audience wants most - and what the algorithms favor - is vital to maximizing audience reach and engagement for news media organizations of all sizes.
“In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.”
Speed and accuracy have always been strange bedfellows in the world of news media. The advent of the 24/7 news cycle changed the very idea of breaking news. And it increased the pressure on journalists to break news at a breakneck pace. Add social media to the mix and the need to feed the content beast feels nearly impossible. Then let’s not forget we are in the age of “fake news”, and the news industry must redouble its efforts around accuracy to regain public trust. Oh, and by the way, newsrooms are constantly being asked to do more with less as even the big-name outlets shrink their staffs.
No wonder burnout runs rampant among journalists of all stripes.
With so many headwinds, what’s the recipe for success in breaking news successfully and accurately in today's media landscape?
Reimagine Your Workflows
Uncomfortable as it may be, it’s time for newsrooms to take a real look at their workflows. Any news media organization that is not structured to truly be digital first will continue to face an uphill climb.
Reexamine every part of the workflow - from research and writing to editing and publishing. Create parallel paths for activities where possible. Ensure your workflows and processes are optimized for speed and accuracy. Then take them to the next level by optimizing for production of the type of content that impact your audience reach and engagement most. Social media posts containing video clips continue to drive higher engagement and have the benefit of providing the visual proof audiences demand.
And seek out the self-proclaimed “workflow nerds” in your midst. We guarantee your organization has at least a couple of them. They can help by taking a more holistic look across your organization's processes while you stay focused on your next story. They will ensure you rethink your processes to maximize speed, accuracy, and efficiency, and help you find the right tools to get you there.
Augment Your Angle
Quantity of content is only one part of the equation. The sheer number of messages and news stories audiences see every day makes it challenging for digital journalists and social media managers to create content that truly sticks. In fact, it’s arguable that the angle a journalist brings to a story is more important now than ever. When every news outlet covers the same events, the content and quality of coverage determines who rises to the top and captures reader attention.
By no means are we saying a quality angle negates the need for speed. You still have to be fast so you don’t miss out on riding the wave of a trending topic. However, the need to stand out among the noise does make a case for taking some time to carefully craft the messaging and context around a news artifact to provide the detail audiences desire.
Build a Searchable Digital Library
Right or wrong, certain topics have a tendency to stay in the news cycle, like high-profile public figures or global pandemics. Others at least rear their heads on a semi-regular basis, like wildfires, mass shootings, and corporate scandals. Shorten the timeline to finding the reference and fact-checking materials you need by building and maintaining a curated, searchable digital archive.
Sure, broad-based search engines may eventually help you find what you're looking for. Depending on how far back you're looking, it may be hit or miss whether the footage you need is still available. Curating your search universe to focus on your most-used sources saves precious minutes and allows you to be sure you're referencing reliable, accurate information. And we all know that when it comes to breaking news, every minute counts.
Curious how improvements like these look in practice? Check out our POLITICO case study.
It’s official. Powerful audio and video moments can come from literally anywhere. We now know what a strong breeze sounds like on Mars. MARS.
For the first time, we are able to see the moment a rover touches down on another planet. Not only could we actually view the landing of the Perseverance, getting to also hear the sounds at Jezero Crater brings the environment on the red planet to life.
As if we weren’t already creating enough video content here at home, now we’ve got it coming from other parts of the universe. (Which is incredibly cool and makes our nerd hearts smile). It begs the question - if we can see and hear Mars - what might we be missing? If we can get video footage of nearly anything, won’t we expect to see everything? Is there any boundary to the potential of visual (or audio) proof?
Video hasn’t yet hit its peak - and likely won’t for some time. Yes, consumers are spending 86% more time consuming digital video than they did just five years ago. However, in many digital channels we still see large year over year increases in video consumption. Twitter is still experiencing gains in video use and watch time among its users, with no signs of slowing down.
With the growth of video-driven platforms such as TikTok, and the ability for anyone to capture a newsworthy event on their cell phone, we’ve only scratched the surface of building a collective video library of epic proportions.
As video sources and consumption grow, two significant challenges emerge for digital content creators:
Let’s quickly explore both and a few things to think about in addressing each one head on.
Find Video Gold by Reducing Your Search Area
Broad-based search engines give us access to the whole world. A few keywords can lead to discovering new worlds, new foods, new products, new people and more. It can actually be a bit mind boggling. It's why a quarter of users click the first Google search result and few venture beyond the first page.
But if you really think about it, you probably have a handful of go-to sources. Those that you trust and continually go back to. Most people do, whether they are content creators, social media managers, or video journalists.
So as you think about ways to minimize the growing noise to find key moments or clips, look for tools and solutions that allow you to create your own curated search engine. Start building a library of video moments from your most-used sources, the ones you can count on to drive engagement. That way, when you need to find video content quickly, the universe you're searching in is drastically smaller.
Clips, But Make It Contextual
The rules for video in social media channels vary. For advertisers, a viewer's attention span is exceptionally short. The average watch time per video ad on Facebook is currently around 10 seconds. And some marketers have found the greatest success with YouTube pre-roll ads that are no longer than eight seconds.
For news, educational, and entertainment-based video content, the story is a bit different.
Digital journalists have plenty of room to use longer, more context-driven video to build trust in news content found in social media channels. According to the Pew Research Center, while half of Americans get news on social media sites at least sometimes, 60% of them expect the news they see in these channels to be inaccurate. Only three in 10 say it helps them understand current events. Using video as the basis for crafting well-rounded narratives can go a long way in closing these gaps.
Longer-form, more detailed, context-rich videos can also have a positive monetary impact. BuzzFeed has reportedly increased its Facebook Watch revenue by approximately 20% through production of more videos that are more than three minutes in length. When there is a real story to tell, and it is told well in a way that promotes understanding, viewers will engage.
Maybe a massive influx of video from outside the boundaries of Earth isn't imminent - yet. But now is the time for digital content creators to develop methodologies for quickly seeing through the noise to get to the video moments that deliver context, build great stories, and are truly out of this world.
Video connects us. From lighthearted TikToks and Zoom happy hours to the sobering images from Black Lives Matter protests and the insurrection at the US Capitol, moments captured in video drive our conversations and shape our opinions.
The social isolation and turmoil of 2020 only reinforced the importance of meaningful connection and shared experiences. While we continue to be physically isolated from each other, journalism and technology have kept us current and engaged with the world around us. Reliable information has been crucial in the face of an ongoing global pandemic and tumultuous political climate.
However, bias and misinformation has called journalism’s ability to provide impartial, transparent information into question. With the very definition of truth up for debate, we saw a meaningful increase in video usage and viewership as people looked for ways to validate the news with their own eyes.
More Video Means More Video Clips
At SnapStream, we saw increases across all our usage metrics in 2020 - from video recording and search to clip production and social sharing.
SnapStream customers created 25% more clips compared to the prior year, with a significant uptick in the months preceding the presidential election. News outlets, think tanks, and other media providers leveraged key moments to inform and persuade voters as they navigated a relentless influx of both facts and fiction.
SnapStream Clips Created 2020 v. 2019
Tweets Featuring Video Improve Engagement by up to 3X
According to Reuters, “ will be a year when text-based newsrooms invest more heavily in online audio and video content, in data journalism, as well as the snackable visual ‘stories’ that work well on social media.”
We already know people rely on social media to get their news. More than 70% of Twitter users say they use the network to stay informed. In 2020, the number of tweets posted with SnapStream featuring a video clip increased nearly 100% over the prior year.
SnapStream Tweets with Clips 2020 v. 2019
Tweets including video clips proliferated for a simple reason - they perform. Readers are far more likely to engage with social content powered by video proof.
2X more likes
3X more retweets
2.5X more replies
Video proof gives the reader a level of context for the information they’re consuming that quotes or static images can't match. As Graham Lampa of the Atlantic Council says, “Bite-sized pieces of easily consumable video content come packaged with incisive commentary that situates the source material within a broader political, cultural, and journalistic context.”
This tweet sent via SnapStream by Oliver Darcy generated ~500K engagements and 8.6M views
What's in Store for 2021?
The pandemic and concerns about misinformation during 2020 has altered how we interact with the world. We've seen that these themes will continue well into 2021, which will keep journalism and news at the forefront. We expect usage of and engagement with video moments to continue to accelerate as video can uniquely help newsmakers deliver their audiences vital context quickly and maintain the engagement and connection we all crave.
What is SnapStream? There's an unlimited amount of video content out there: 24/7 news channels, breaking news events, sports, talk shows, awards galas, entertainment shows, and so much more.
SnapStream makes a real-time news and media search engine that makes it fast and easy to find the video moments that support our customers telling great stories.