I’m excited to announce that #womenslives, a social news incubator by Public Radio International, and SheKnows Media, BlogHer’s parent company, have confirmed that: Excellent hard-news journalism and storytelling about women, when introduced to women by women via inclusive, quality social conversation, develops audience and drives a measurable return on investment for participating publishers.
In other words, #womenslives is a good publishing model. Read on!
From Feb. 3 to June 30, 2015, the SheKnows Media-PRI social news incubator amplified global hard-news reporting on women and girls from PRI’s Across Women’s Lives initiative. We married PRI’s stories to engagement with SheKnows Media’s community and tracked our success via SheKnows Media’s proprietary technology platform, Momentum.
It worked. During those 120 days, working with just 1 percent of our expert voices to share quality hard-news storytelling, our incubator exceeded our goals for the entire year. Specifically, by sharing a daily story with 240 women invited from the 21,000-plus social media influencers who create content and conversation to our community guidelines in Momentum, we achieved the following:
- 100 million social media exposures of the #womenslives hashtag
- 18 million unique people reached by the #womenslives hashtag in Twitter alone
- 16,000 tweets using #womenslives by all Twitter users
- 240 incubator experts = 1 percent of SheKnows Media social influencers
Source: Momentum, TweetReach
Getting those results
When president and CEO of PRI Alisa Miller and I set our partnership goals, we hoped to reach 10 million unique people across digital media this year. We achieved that goal before the first 90 days.
At a time when PRI’s headlines are in heated competition for digital users, this incubator succeeded by applying the same techniques SheKnows Media uses to create, amplify and deliver content marketing campaigns for top brands every day:
- Step 1: Create more great stories that include the voices of women.
- Step 2: Generate women-led, quality social media conversations about these stories.
- Step 3: Track these social conversations about content, and use those insights to evolve.
Here’s what we did
Step 1: Create more stories that include the voices of women and girls
Creating more stories that include the voices of women and girls was PRI’s call to arms. At UN Week last year, Alisa Miller declared her initiative Across Women’s Lives:
“The goal of Across Women’s Lives is to address a huge, pervasive problem in the news media: Women are literally missing in huge percentages from the news. In fact, the news media features women only 24 percent of the time in any way, and only 6 percent of news stories highlight gender inequality or issues,” Miller said.
“And when women are seen and heard, we are often shown as objects or victims,” added Miller. “The news doesn’t reflect the reality of our world, and this distortion damages everyone! It’s completely unacceptable.”
“We at PRI are committed to changing that ratio. To tell stories about women and our role in the world — and engage women and everyone in new ways,” said Miller. “Our goal is to tell and share important stories that increase conversation about the crucial connection between the status of girls and women in the world and progress in improving health, education and economic development.”
Step 2: Generate women-led social media conversations about these stories, using our community guidelines
I was inspired by Alisa’s vision and committed to helping journalism about women reach the powerful listeners public broadcasting needs to reach to retain sponsorship and grow audiences via social media: women.
Women make up the majority of internet users, and we use social media more addictively than do men. What’s more, since 2012, BlogHer surveys have confirmed that the person most influential to a woman in social media is likely to be… another woman in social media. So if you are building anything online, from a business to an audience, it’s possible that the most powerful advocate you can have is a woman.
We were confident in our ability to amplify #womenslives because we had two key ingredients. The first was a massive community of women who have a record of loving the news. This community has consistently placed a priority on discussing current events without being hateful or harassing, which our community guidelines prohibit (it kills conversation between women, who will leave the conversation, and that’s bad for our publishing business. More here.)
We also had a robust technology platform — the above-mentioned Momentum — to track all the third party-verified engagement for this campaign, from page views on blog posts to tweets.
In fact, we know from Momentum which of our experts regularly amplify hard news — even though they might be known (or even famous) for their opinions on food, parenting, DIY, fashion and beauty. Those predictive analytics are how we chose experts for campaigns.
So that was how we chose our experts in Momentum: We invited 713 people with a demonstrated interest in hard-news journalism. Of these invitees, 392 women participated. Of these 392 women:
- 345 joined a private Facebook group where PRI and SheKnows Media editors shared and discussed one new piece of PRI journalism each day.
- Most experts blogged #womenslives on their own websites. This community generated 240 posts about the #womenslives initiative.
- Another 240 experts also created at least one social “tout” — our code word for all social activity, be it a Facebook share, a tweet, a pin, etc. Of this group, 63 percent created five or more such “touts.”
That last bit — that 63 percent created five or more such touts — is particularly notable. A few paragraphs ago, I noted that by sharing a daily story with 1 percent of experts — 240 women out of the 21,000-plus social media profiles by women who create content and conversation to our community guidelines in Momentum — we achieved 100 million social media exposures for #womenslives and reached 18 million people.
I know, I said that already. So now I can confirm that the data is actually even better than that: It was basically two-thirds of 1 percent of our experts, those five-or-more touters, who drove a distribution campaign that would retail at about $1 million to generate these results in premium content development and guaranteed social amplification at scale. But our experts took on this assignment out of love and of a belief in public broadcasting and the stories of #womenslives.
Step 3: Track these social conversations about the content and learn what works
By collaborating with experts who already had experience leading quality conversations about great storytelling, our social news incubator partnered with leaders online, leveraged the trust these experts have developed with their readers to drive engagement and developed a brand in #womenslives.
Meanwhile, Momentum tracked this engagement via our proprietary, real-time interface, verified by third-party performance data. As a result, we confirmed that PRI’s fantastic storytelling reached the far corners of the women’s internet. Here’s a great example from March:
On March 24, Moxie Beautiful, one of our Facebook experts who is perhaps best known for her excellent style advice, happened to share a #womenslives story about WWII veterans.
Her community liked it:
Twenty-four thousand likes, 12,000 shares and 2,000 comments later, #womenslives had a great week in social media!
Candidly, this example is not an outlier — it’s just another day of commentary by the women in our community, who have demonstrated since 2005 that they are seriously interested in the economy, health care, education, social justice — all #womenslives topics. But don’t take my word for it — listen to the community: By way of example, I offer up the first minute or so of this video below, where #womenslives and #ObamaTownHall came together.
For the record, and in case you’re wondering, this video is all improv: The comments and questions by our experts at #ObamaTownHall were not prevetted by me or by the Obama administration. (Aside: This is why I look a little serious in this video, as emcee to leader of the Free World.) None of these women is a professionally trained commentator. They are, however, the voices behind their blogs and leaders at their own dinner tables.
I’ve lost track of how many writers blogged passionately in the past 120 days — indeed, in the first week of #womenslives — about being fed up with news coverage of women today, as journalists and/or as consumers, as citizens, as mothers and as daughters who feel it’s our responsibility to demand better than we are getting. To quote one of our experts about why she participates:
“I consider this a privilege, because not only am I now able to voice my opinion on issues that touch my heart, I am also able to reach women who would otherwise believe they are walking that thing alone … Stay tuned, because I’m stepping up on the platform in stilettos and a big stick!” — Trease, Transparency
So now, on to phase two. What do you think? Where would you next take #womenslives? What is your story?