Why NPR Wins at Social Media Marketing

One of the biggest keys to content marketing is making a story have legs of its own on social media marketing channels. Figuring out how to go viral on Facebook can make or break your business. Knowing that it needs to be done is the easy part. Figuring out how to make that happen, however, is much more difficult.

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) decided to get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out what it takes for content to go viral. They asked themselves what kind of content do people want to share, and began conducting studies through their social media networks to find out exactly what takes on a life of its own and what falls flat.

A Well Thought-Out Study
The initial study began in February of 2012, and when it concluded in November, it showed some results that were surprising and some that were pretty predictable. It went a little something like this. NPR’s Seattle radio station posted a variety of original stories on Facebook. The goal was to find out what percentage of people who saw the stories liked, shared and commented on them. They were geo-targeted, which means that only people who live in Seattle were able to see them in their news feeds.

Then, in July, they expanded the study to include stations in San Francisco, Austin, Boston and Southern California. They found that localized geo-targeted stories fared an astounding 600 percent better than ones posted to the international NPR Facebook page. Those aren’t the only trends that they uncovered. Here is a list of nine types of geo-targeted stories that NPR found to be most engaging:

  1. Local Pride
    People take pride in their cities, and if you can write content that taps into those sources of pride – a historical district, a local legend – then you’re likely to get a lot of feedback on Facebook.
  2. Location Explanations
    Every major city has a handful of popular destinations, neighborhoods and cultural districts. For example, in Dallas, people flock to the Deep Ellum cultural district, but how many of those people actually know the area’s history and why it’s such a popular destination? Local history lessons like these do really well on Facebook.
  3. Head Scratchers
    Explain the inexplicable. Sometimes stories sell themselves, all you have to do is write a good headline. Every city has its quirks and oddities. Writing about them is an easy way to get content to go viral.
  4. Breaking News
    Breaking news is still a good way to catch people’s eyes. When Big Tex, the 60-year-old giant robot mascot of the Texas State Fair, was destroyed by a fire, it was just about the only thing being shared locally on Facebook that day.
  5. Area News
    People care about community news. If you can write about local laws being passed or weather news, for example, NPR’s study shows that those types of stories are likely to get a good amount of views.
  6. Happy Stories
    People love to share feel-good stories. An elaborate flash mob that ends in a marriage proposal at a popular destination and other similar happy stories or videos are sure to go viral on Facebook.
  7. Controversial Stories
    People like to argue on Facebook. It’s a fact of life. Local government news often brings out the best and the worst in people, but it also gets people talking. These types of stories go viral fairly quickly.
  8. Local Buzz
    Sometimes local memes occur that have everyone talking. Maybe a famous person was spotted canoodling around town and mixing with the locals. The best way to have the most impact is to get in on these stories early. If you’re late to the party, chances are someone else’s take on the story will be more popular.
  9. Stunning Images
    Everyone in Dallas loves it when photographer Justin Terveen takes one of his stunning images and shares it. Sometimes it’s lightning filling the sky or the city skyline after a massive storm. His images take on a life of their own on Facebook.

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

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