Exclusive interview with Financial Times’ community manager

By Chris Lee

The Internet has applied well-publicised pressures on the “traditional” print sector, enabling a fragmented media sector and forcing established publishers to innovate with their content and outreach.

The Financial Times (FT) recently released some interesting statistics about the impact of its social media programme, so NMK decided to have a chat with the FT’s community manager, Rebecca Heptinstall, to learn more.

Crunching the numbers

The Financial Times recently created this infographic to illustrate the FT’s global membership, which provides some interesting insights into the newspaper’s readership. Key take-outs include:

· The average reader age is 41

· 49 per cent of the FT’s readership is based in the UK or US, with 51 per cent based in the rest of the world

· The FT enjoys a combined social media audience of 3.9 million, made up of 2.2 million Twitter followers, 1.3 million Google+ followers, 430,000 Facebook fans and 18,000 LinkedIn members

According to Heptinstall, nearly two-thirds (58 per cent) of the FT’s social media audience agree that social media enhances its reputation and 40 per cent read the FT more as a result of it.

“Social media is the fastest growing traffic source to FT.com and the second highest driver of registered users,” Heptinstall told NMK. “In the last six months traffic from social media has increased by 20 per cent, with Twitter being the main channel for known users and Facebook driving new ones.”

The geo-targeting functionality on Facebook allows the FT to target users in specific countries with relevant content, which Heptinstall said increases engagement compared to global posts.

“This kind of personalisation is important to the FT in order to reach new audiences as well as keeping them engaged,” she added.

Increased personalisation

For the FT, personalisation is an area of focus for its social media strategy, which means giving the right content to the right people, at the right time.

“Social media is still new and fast-changing, so we have to be flexible enough to adapt to what our readers want,” Heptinstall explained. “It’s less about the FT being absolutely everywhere in social media and more about us being in the right places and doing it well. Measurement will continue to be on our agenda to make sure we’re going beyond counting likes and tweets and analysing the statistics in a meaningful way.”

So is it challenging to be the community manager of such as high-brow title as the FT? It’s a team effort, Heptinstall said.

“As community manager I look after social media on the commercial side of the business, working alongside our community editor who oversees social media in the newsroom,” she said. “We are both part of FT’s social media strategy team, which decides where to concentrate our social media efforts, how to measure success and which tools we need to achieve our goals. Social media has been adopted and is encouraged across many departments at the FT, and as such the strategy team plays a key role in equipping employees with the tools to go out and do it well.”

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