Stations Find a 'Friend' in Social MediaLocal TV's sharpened Facebook strategy drives ratings and revenue 2/13/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
With its pending IPO, Facebook has given the business
world 5 billion reasons to talk about the social media
giant. And while Facebook’s true valuation will become
clearer in the coming weeks, TV station executives already have a
pretty good idea of how essential
Mark Zuckerberg’s creation is to
their local television strategy.
WVIT Hartford’s “Aha moment,”
says David Doebler, president and
general manager, arrived just before
Tropical Storm Irene last August.
With the nasty weather beckoning,
WVIT had planned to begin wallto-
wall coverage that night, perhaps
starting at 7 or 8 p.m. But as
staffers followed the frenzied Irene
chatter on the “NBC Connecticut”
Facebook page, Doebler made the
decision to go live at 3 p.m. instead.
“It was question after question after
question [from users],” he says,
about power outages and road closures.
“We thought we should go on
now, instead of later.”
Stations such as WVIT are advancing their social media strategy
from simply having a Facebook presence to fine-tuning a vital twoway
channel with viewers. Greg Easterly, president and general manager
at WJW Cleveland, calls Facebook a key cog in the “cycle of
information” connecting the Fox affiliate with its viewers. “It’s a cliché,
but we are a multiplatform content provider,” he says. “We are trying
to reach people on all platforms.”
Some of the top station Facebook totals come from unlikely markets.
WJW, in DMA No. 18, is a monster with more than 310,000
fans. KUTV Salt Lake City’s main Facebook page has 177,000, but
when adding in fans of talent and individual programs, the total tops
391,000—or, one for every 2.4 TV households in DMA No. 33. Smallermarket
outliers include KATC Lafayette (La., DMA No. 124) with close to
49,000 fans and WLEX Lexington (Ky., DMA No. 64), at nearly 77,000.
Stations drive fan totals with tasty incentives that include iPads,
gas cards and automobiles. KUTV
partnered with a Toyota dealer on a
giveaway. WVIT raffled off two tickets
to the Super Bowl to a Facebook
fan; the station has boosted its fan
totals from 6,000 last July to more
than 141,000, says Doebler.
Steve Safran, an independent media
consultant, says the key is offering
users truly substantial content
on social platforms. “People don’t
want promos, and they’re not going
to ‘friend’ you if that’s all you have,”
While sky-high Facebook followings
are good for bragging rights,
the bigger challenge for stations is
turning them into ratings—and revenue.
Kent Crawford, KUTV general
manager, says the CBS affiliate’s outsize
fan base has been one of the keys to KUTV overtaking longtime
No. 1 KSL in the ratings. “It’s very important to gain that emotional
connection with viewers,” Crawford says.
Since Sinclair acquired the station recently, Crawford has been sharing
KUTV’s winning Facebook strategy with his fellow Sinclair GMs
and CEO David Smith. “I think any time you give the audience input
on stories, they feel like they’re connected more to the product,”
Crawford says. “Then they’re more interested and watch more.”