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This week, Liz Heron revealed WSJ's five steps to social media success in an interview with Abigail Edge on Journalism.co.uk.

In just two years since emerging media editor Liz Heron joined, WSJ saw an increase of 235% followers on Twitter and 375% followers on Facebook.

It all seemed like pretty sound advice and I thought it was worth sharing here.

Rather than just repeat her advice verbatim though, I'm going to use some of her quotes as jumping of points to show actual examples of the WSJ social media strategy.

The venerable financial news institution achieved over 4m Twitter followers last weekend and its Facebook page is edging closer to achieving 2m Likes.

For what could be considered a niche publication, this is an incredible achievement. How about the competition though? These numbers may not mean much without comparison... 

In the UK there's the Financial Times, which has 1.75m Twitter followers and 1.2m Likes for its Facebook page.

Back in New York there's Bloomberg News offering a similar finance based news service. It has 1.3m Twitter followers and just 444,000 Likes on Facebook.

Clearly The Wall Street Journal is doing something right. 

1. Images, everywhere

Whenever possible, use images to tell a story... We often put photos and charts directly into tweets, and almost everything we post on Facebook has an image.

From the fairly straightforward method of uploading images of fancy charts and graphs…

.. to the art of picking particularly arresting, colourful images, WSJ has a talent for using the right image for its Facebook audience.

In fact the WSJ photo desk spends a lot of time either sourcing great images or creating bespoke ones especially for the post, rather than just using whatever image happens to be embedded in the article.

It’s certainly worth spending time thinking about this, and that’s where social media automation can let you down. A random image can be uploaded, with odd cropping or unfortunate segmentation. This is particularly true of twitter, where the letterbox snippet can be particularly destructive.

Here’s another tip, and it’s one that’s found within Facebook’s own best practice guideline, the Facebook news feed algorithm loves images. If you upload an image to a page, this is far more likely to be seen than just a link or a video embed.

2. Post things that will engage a mobile audience

The majority of our social audience is coming to us on a mobile device... Post incredible stats, something that will really tell us about the world today, rather than just breaking news stories.

Although the above post has a link to the full article, it works as an interesting piece of ‘news’ in its own right. It’s a fun little bit of trivia, it’s relatable, it’s on-trend with the upcoming series of Game of Thrones. Also it’s an original and large sized image

Mobile optimisation means the right size, the right amount of information and the right formatting. Nobody likes pinching and swiping endlessly.

3. Design posts to be shared, not just read

I think the more you give people a taste of what they're going to get and what you want them to talk about, the more they will talk about it.

This is a great tease for an interesting article and the image is perfectly optimised for Twitter. The key is revealing just enough information to not give away too many surprises, but also not just solely blurting out the headline. Chances are that’s in the URL anyway.

Curating the right 'sharable' content is an artform in itself. Although somethings are a no-brainer. Who the heck isn’t going to share this little guy?

4. A human touch really matters

Have editors write all your social content and make sure you're replying to tweets and regularly asking questions of your audience based around the news.

WSJ was the first to break the story of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death on 2 February and during the course of the evening the WSJ website experienced major technical difficulties.

Heron and other reporters claim to have answered as many of the thousands of users’ questions as they possibly could within a fairly small window of time, and did so from their personal Twitter accounts.

Although I would criticise the fact that WSJ doesn't seem to engage with its Twitter followers and Facebook commenters as the above above quote suggests. There's very little engagement to be found scrolling through the last two weeks of output.

It seems WSJ has nailed how to broadcast effectively on social media, but isn't quite practicing what it preaches yet on the 'human touch'.

WSJ does regularly use Facebook as canvas for opinion.

This post prompted 46 comments, 179 shares and 465 likes, so the 'surveying' Facebook post is something not to be sniffed at.

5. Become a Facebook 'scientist'

Make it your business to be on top of every tweak in the algorithm and change your strategy accordingly, in real time.

Well, this gets trickier every day. It’s not really possible to predict what will ‘work’ in terms of audience reach, but Facebook has recently revealed in its news feed changes that posts from Facebook pages will be given low priority in the new algorithm.

That still doesn’t mean that you should give up with it though, you just have to become savvier and indulge in a little more trial and error when it comes to formatting posts, picking the right time of day and optimising copy and images.

No matter what the changes, if people are engaging with your page, your posts will still appear in their news feeds. It’s a just a tougher competition now.

For more from us on brands winning on social media, check out how Oreo owns social media and how Samsung owns social video
Christopher Ratcliff

Published 7 February, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

According to the @statuspeople Fakers tool, 31pc of the WSJ's 4 million Twitter followers are fakes, and 46pc are "inactive", leaving 23pc "good" - so roughly 900K are what you might call people who would likely engage with the WSJ's content.

I note the WSJ uses a branded bit.ly URL shortener - so anyone can see what the click through numbers are for individual links - looking at a few of these seems to show the typical WSJ post gets between 300 - 500 clicks. (Though the business card Tweet you reference above got 1800 clicks in total - just over 1000 on the original link and 800 more via other links - https://bitly.com/1c25eyQ+)

Assuming 900K is closer to the "true" WSJ Twitter audience - and assuming that not all 900K of those will be on Twitter at the same time and the shelf life of a Tweet is between 5 and 20 mins, then it shows how much work has to go in to get engagement and visibility via Twitter (or social media generally) - even for accounts which on the surface have a huge audience.

As we all know, raw follower numbers and FB likes rarely tell the whole story - I'm sure many people make assumptions that large numbers of followers or Likes must translate into substantial engagement or clickthroughs. Would be interesting to know if WSJ has insight in terms of whether socially referred traffic results in people who spend more time consuming WSJ content on the site itself, etc. Even though the numbers might seem small compared to the apparent top line follower figure, the quality of engagement and visitor is paramount.

Focussing on quality of visitor and looking at the impact on defined business goals is surely the way forward to demonstrating success in commercial social media?

over 2 years ago

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ziad k abdelnour

nice and good article,

“One of the hardest decisions you'll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.”

Thank you

over 2 years ago

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Pascal Rosier

Par contre il ne faut pas dormir sur ses lauriers et continuer a produire du bete de contenu pour garder cette avance,..
Bloomberg??? ce n'est pas du Media, c'est de la technologie, completement different, incomparable...comparer a FT, NYT, mais surtout pas a BBG, ou meme RTRS...

over 2 years ago

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jake

Thanks great post. Well i don't think that they all are real followers, here is the place you can buy them like 1000 followers for $10 - http://flytwitter.com , even Obama has fake ones, but still it creates account boost.

over 2 years ago

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John Thompson

Funny how there is no mention of the original article from which a lot of this story has been taken - http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/five-tips-for-social-media-success-from-the-wall-street-journal/s2/a555772/

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

I mentioned the Journalism.co.uk interview in the opening few lines, and also state the following...

"Rather than just repeat her advice verbatim though, I'm going to use some of her quotes as jumping of points to show actual examples of the WSJ social media strategy".

This is meant to be a critique of the advice given, using our own insight and specific WSJ examples.

The reporter's name, Abigail Edge, has subsequently been added to the text along with a link back to the article.

over 2 years ago

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