Q&A: Engaging audiences through personable social media

By Damon Smith

Key goals in social media engagement are making sure your content both endears itself to the audience and is seen by them. We recently sat down with Melissa Farley, an events and social media engagement producer for The Arizona Republic, to talk about her experience with community engagement. Farley is also an actress and works as social media producer for Geek News Network.

You work for both The Arizona Republic as well as the Geek News Network. Is there a difference between doing social media for something like the Republic versus GNN which is smaller in scale?

With (the Republic) you are very aware of your brand and your tone and how you’re presenting information to not be biased in any way, obviously, with the respect that it’s a news organization. With GNN it’s literally me going and finding stuff that I think is cool and I can talk about it any way I want. It’s a little more freedom and personality.

You’re an actress. Is there any difference between promoting yourself and a company?

Absolutely. It’s changed quite a bit since I first started working for the Republic. Before, they really didn’t want you to have any personality. Now, that’s all sort of going away because the younger generations really like the transparency of it. As an actor, you are your brand. You are the product. So it’s all about who you are. So I think I was really comfortable with [the change] before the newsroom caught up with it.

You’ve worked [in social media] for 6 years, that’s a pretty long time in terms of Internet development. How do you think social media engagement has changed since the early 2010s?

Obviously when we first started, social was kind of an afterthought. Now, social is integrated as a primary platform of how we want to get that content out. It’s even changing how the content looks sometimes. It’s condensing stuff from a really long story to those lists, shorter forms that are easier to consume.

Facebook recently changed its video algorithm. Are there any plans to adjust your engagement strategies because of that?

(Facebook’s) algorithm changes constantly. So a lot of times, we’ll figure out something that works for us to get our content out and promote it a certain way, then all of the sudden it doesn’t work anymore. … We have a committed team on social that knows how to construct really good content, that knows how to construct really good chatter. We just roll with it as they continue to change that. It’s why we’re exploring other platforms, because we know we need to see success on platforms other than Facebook.

Any advice for people who are seeking engagement or are trying to help their brand or network grow as a journalist?

I think the core of (engagement) really comes down to being genuine. I really believe that consistency is a powerful key. The more you can talk to people that are on your social and digital platforms the better. Letting them know they can depend on you — all of that builds trust. And when people trust you, they will come to your content because of that reason.

(Photo by Nan Palermo via Creative Commons)


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