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Economist Decides Which Social Platforms Work for Them

Economist tests social platforms and axes Pinterest and Tumblr, hones Twitter, and dives in LinkedIn.

According to Digiday, The Economist recently “axed its ailing Pinterest and Tumblr accounts while ramping up its commitment to LinkedIn.” We’ve all been there right. For a lot of publishers, especially those in B2B, it’s Facebook that they’re questioning. Beyond limited reach to non-advertisers, you have to be a significant force to survive on Facebook as a B2B publisher.

So it’s no surprise The Economist nixed flippant social networks like Pinterest and Tumblr. Digiday reports, “The publisher had been experimenting on Pinterest for the past six months. But even with a social media team that had grown from two to 10 people, The Economist couldn’t make it click.”

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“From day one, it was a struggle,” said Denise Law, community editor at The Economist. “We found it difficult to articulate what our raison d’être for Pinterest was. It’s not the place to share serious content; it’s more where people go to share ideas.” On Pinterest they were posting content from 1843, Gulliver’s Travels, and archived articles.

Back in July, they also reduced the number of Twitter accounts they were publishing on. For some time, it’s been a popular strategy to divvy up a new publication into sections (USA Today does it as well) so that subscribers can get individualized category content rather than every piece of news that comes out. But they had accounts with 33,000 subscribers and ones with 700, and both were getting the same effort, so they cut the accounts with few followers.

“On Twitter, the Economist has about a dozen accounts, split by region or topic — such as EconEurope, EconAsia, EconBizFin or EconSciTech — some with hardly any followers, whereas its main account has 15 million,” reported Digiday at the time. And they were publishing 5-10 Tweets per day, per article.

Efforts on LinkedIn, however, are blossoming.

Digiday reports: “The Economist’s approach to social media is, according to the publisher, to promote quality over quantity. It’s taken that mission to LinkedIn, which it uses for brand awareness rather than to drive traffic. By tweaking its approach to publish a broader spectrum of content, The Economist saw its LinkedIn follower count grow from half a million last year to 2.4 million, and it continues to grow at a rate of 25,000 followers a week, according to Law.

When it first started actively posting to LinkedIn in September 2015, the team focused on posting only business and finance content in line with assumptions about its readers on the platform. By June 2016, the growth rate started to plateau. The publisher realized readers on LinkedIn, professionals who are trying to get an edge in their career, have a variety of interests.”

And so, “it started to include more articles like this about a machine that blends wine, or this on how not to annoy a flight attendant, and started posting content, audio, visual, charts and articles, on the hour throughout the day.”

But they’re testing, and always testing. That’s one of the things we love about The Economist. On Linkedin, “it posts red templates with questions that link to an article. It prompts the readers to respond to the question in the comments, building up direct connections with them. Again, anything overly local, too wordy or complex tends not to fly, but so far readers are engaged. Questions like “Should company boards have gender quotas?” or “Do you have common sense?” have had hundreds of comments, where usually posts on LinkedIn get just one or two.”

Digiday notes that “Digital subscriptions are up 31 percent year-on-year, but tying that to social is still a challenge.”

Your turn. How would you help the Economist succeed in social?

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