Julian Sambles is Head of Audience Development at the Telegraph, responsible for digital audience growth, engagement and page yield.
He is speaking at our Online Marketing Masterclasses event next week to discuss how the newspaper uses search engines to acquire traffic, so I thought I’d ask him a few questions in advance about the Telegraph’s social media strategy.
How has The Telegraph embraced and adopted social media?
Social media has been a key part of our strategy, both to broaden our audience reach and increase engagement with our editorial.
What’s been working well for you?
We publish strong editorial content and with it come useful tools which allow our readers to interact with it in the social network of their choosing.
Content of the web, from the web and about the web often does very well for us but we also find that ‘traditional’ stories also yield good traffic when ‘networked’ through the web.
I read that you’re attracting 75,000 unique users per day from social media channels. Is that accurate?
That was an accurate number at the time, using the monitoring tools available to us.
What are the best social platforms for pulling in the big numbers?
For us it is not about chasing ‘big’ numbers, it is more having our rich content found and engaged with by more people in an environment of their choosing. Saying that, there is no doubt that Digg users enjoy what we do.
How do you measure social media success? What are the key metrics that you keep an eye on?
We measure our customer engagement through various metrics both globally and locally as well as looking at the customer path both before and after our site.
Have you needed to improve your hardware to be able to handle The Digg Effect and other spikes? Any observations to share?
It is imperative for usability and customer experience that our website hardware and infrastructure is able to handle spikes of traffic from popular stories. Demand can reach in excess of 200 page views per second. In general, performance is one of the things we work most on.
Do you actively push out content to specific social media sites, or is it a case of letting the community do the work for you?
We make it easy for our anyone to ‘post’, ‘digg’ and ‘tweet’ specific articles or pictures from our site to their chosen social network. They can then engage with that content in a manner that they want to and share it within that environment.
We encourage our journalists to join in this process as well. We leave it to the community to decide whether they like the story and, fortunately, often they do.
What has your social media strategy done in terms of your community and how they engage on (and off) the website?
We now have a strong following of customers who like to engage with our content regularly online.
Does a newspaper or business need a social media editor, like the New York Times?
We are not looking to employ a person with such a title at the moment. I would recommend that journalists engage with social media sites and forums around their chosen subject. And we do have Communities Editor Kate Day, who is actively involved in this area as well.
Are The Telegraph’s writers and editors encouraged to understand the basics of SEO and social media?
Key to our success online has been investing in and training our staff. We have put a great deal of time, effort and money into giving staff new skills for the changing media world. This includes video, SEO and Social Media.
The key for us is to ensure we retain our core values while at the same time reaching out to a new audience. I would point out that a very large proportion of our editorial staff now publish ‘live’ onto the site. So it is also in everyone’s interests that as many people as possible understand not just the basics but have mastered more advanced skills as well.
Some people think that social media has no real impact on SEO. I think it does, not least because reach and awareness can help generate quality links. What’s your take on this?
I would agree that there is a SEO benefit to social media, but that is not our main reason to engage with it. For us it is about getting our content to a wider audience in an environment they engage with.