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KABC in Los Angeles leads TV stations in social followers

The ABC owned-and-operated station in Los Angeles, KABC has the largest like/follower count across both Facebook (344K) and Twitter (78K) than any TV station in the country. In our experience running our social media leaderboard here on Lost Remote (freshly updated), it’s the first time we’ve seen any TV station top both the Facebook and Twitter list.

Now, KABC’s VP/News Director Cheryl Fair is the first to admit that sheer reach isn’t everything: “It’s more than the total ‘Like’ number, it’s the high level of engagement,” she said. And sure, the station is in the nation’s second-largest market, but market size hasn’t been a big driver of social success to date. So how did KABC do it? We asked Fair a few questions:

Lost Remote: What’s the secret? How did you attain this level of social reach?

Cheryl Fair: As a news organization, we see social media as a way for our viewers to talk to us, and not just as a way for us to talk to them. Listening is important. Since starting our Twitter feed in 2008, we have made it a commitment to reply to comments and questions as often as we can. People will frequently Tweet us to let us know about what’s happening near them and to ask us for details. That carried over to our relationship with our viewers on our Facebook page. To accelerate our reach, we did a combination of community service campaigns and traditional sweepstakes, in addition to paying close attention to the news stories we post. We initially had concerns that running sweepstakes would lead to people with no real interest in ABC7 to “Like” us just to win something. However, we are pleased to see how much of a real community we have attracted on Facebook. We view our sweepstakes prizes as a thank you to our viewers for their loyalty, and they seem to see it that way too. And when people come to the station to pick up their prizes, they are usually just as excited about seeing the newsroom as winning their prizes. We have a lot of fun meeting them and showing them around.

LR: Were there any big events that fueled a big uptick in fans, followers and engagement?

Fair: We have such a great time engaging with our Facebook fans. We had huge engagement and added a lot of “Likes” for a Facebook campaign to raise money for our Spark of Love Toy Drive in December, offered our viewers a chance to “Pay It Forward” to someone they knew who deserved some help, and promoted ABC Digital’s excellent Oscars app with an iPad 2 giveaway leading up to the Academy Awards. For Oscar Sunday we really wanted to find something unique and special. We gave away a Mercedes-Benz in a random drawing, and that obviously generated a great deal of excitement. The most rewarding part of this, however, were how many people have stayed with us since the giveaway and continue to engage with the station. That giveaway may have been a good reason to “Like” the page, but it was the daily conversation that kept them around once the sweepstakes was over.

LR: How do you staff your station’s social media accounts? Are reporters and other staff encouraged to participate on their own accounts?

Fair: Facebook and Twitter are handled by members of our digital production team at the station. Our reporters and anchors are encouraged to participate, but not before going through an in-house “social media university” to learn how to really listen and engage with viewers.

LR: Can you attribute your social success to success elsewhere in the organization, such as an increase in ratings or real-life community involvement?

Fair: This is not due to any sudden increase in TV ratings. We are fortunate to already be the most-watched TV station in Los Angeles and grateful that our viewers have showed this trust in us for quite some time. We think our social media progress is just another logical outcome of the station’s focus on delivering the best possible content for every platform we serve.

Now, it’s important to mention that KABC’s rise to the top of the Facebook heap has happened very quickly. That first spike refers to the Toy Drive — the last and largest spike corresponds with the Mercedes contest tied to the Oscars. There are have plenty of debates here on Lost Remote over the effectiveness of Facebook contests — reach vs. engagement — but Fair argues both are important. Once new users have connected with the page, it’s incumbent upon the media brand to entice them to like, share, comment and click.

What do you think about KABC’s approach?

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