This section features digital and social media work examples for Paula Wethington of Monroe, Mich.
I have several years experience hosting or co-hosting accounts on The Monroe News’ most active and popular social media platforms while also running my own “personal brand” website and social accounts.
The social media tools, apps and services that I have experience using include Storify, Tumblr, HootSuite, TweetDeck, ManageFlitter, Ripl, Tweepi, Canva and Snappa.
A professional work history, including social media classes I have taken, can be found on my resume / CV page.
My duties for The Monroe News website since about 2006 include writing and posting snow day school reports, AMBER alerts, severe weather alerts, maintaining the calendar section.
This screen shot on mobile view shows one of those snow day headlines – and I also made that graphic.
The Monroe on a Budget project, a WordPress blog under our community blog project, wrapped up in 2015 after publishing for eight years. I pitched the idea and was responsible for all content writing, curating and social media promotions. I also hosted or co-hosted a general newsroom blog, a social media blog and the reader bulletin board for The Monroe News.
My previous digital projects include a Barbie doll collection reference hobby website that launched in 1998 and stayed up for about five years. I handcoded the site, after figuring out on my own how to use Netscape. At the time, not even Mattel had a photo library on the Internet to help collectors identify dolls. I still have a portfolio book with printouts of the pages that shows what I did.
Here are some of my standout success stories on running newsroom and personal brand topics:
- The Monroe on a Budget blog, during its run from 2007-2015, was among the biggest hits in our community blog network. Monroe on a Budget also was ranked by both WiseBread and MoneyCrashers in the top 200 personal finance blogs in the U.S. I have saved screenshots showing more than 10,000 page views a month on a consistent basis over three years of the project. The peak traffic times were 38,000 page views in October 2009 and 50,000 in October 2013. Even as I wrapped it up in March 2015, it was still getting 4,000 page views a month.
- At various times, I have hosted or co-hosted the Facebook pages for Bedford Now and Monroe News. The 29 percent growth rate on the Bedford Now page in 2015 and its 38 percent in 2016 are clearly related to my efforts as I was the lead admin during that time. To make that happen, I doubled the weekly content count as compared to 2014, researched best timing for Facebook and that page, and participated in the community by sharing and liking content from other accounts.
- Twitter is among my earliest success stories. I led The Monroe News Twitter soon after its launch in 2009. This account now has over 16,000 followers, a huge number in proportion to our print circulation size. Two other newsroom accounts spiked in numbers after I took them over or got involved; including Bedford Now Twitter that had a fan count of 285 when I started running it in February 2015 but had spiked to 1,600 fans by spring 2017. My original Twitter launched in 2009 has more than 9,000 followers; and my second Twitter, intended for local news content, has over 900 followers.
- Instagram was a runaway hit for The Monroe News in 2016. We ran our Instagram page off and on; but didn’t have a content plan or consistent schedule until 2015 when I took it over and focused on local landmarks. Once the follower numbers started jumping, I added promotional content. The impact: I took that account from 362 followers in January 2015 to over 3,900 by July 2017.
- Pinterest is also among my success stories. I have run The Monroe News’ account since Pinterest’s invitation-only days, reorganizing and replacing content even as we lost all links to photo libraries twice during website template updates. It is clearly a standout among newspaper accounts with its showcase gallery and branded board covers. My own Pinterest account also went through a rebranding and repurposing after the Monroe on a Budget project ended, it’s now a showcase of social media tips and tricks with 1,400 followers.
Now for some show and tell:
Some of the unique content that has been posted on The Monroe News’ social media accounts has been my idea – or at least my adaptation of an idea.
The Star Wars infographic was completely my idea. I wanted a local spin on the Star Wars memory memes that trend from time to time. So I spent a half hour looking through old microfilms to study up on just what was showing in late spring of 1977 in a smaller city.
I’ve posted this at least twice, perhaps three times, on Facebook since designing it:
And here’s one of my Super Bowl-themed social media posts. I deliberately used emojis in the poll replies:
Branded social media images
One of the strategies taught among marketing professionals is the concept of “branding.”
When that is applied to social media, it means a consistent use of a logo, phrasing, links, colors, themes, content choices, sizes, patterns and related design and writing elements that provide clues and context as to who the message comes from.
On behalf of The Monroe News and its weekly publication Bedford Now, this effort involved using Canva to create dozens of new file art images in spring 2017. They were specifically sized for our website but also intended to be “read” well on social media. This project was an update of our most frequently used library images, spurred by seeing how things worked (or didn’t).
Special occasion images include a Class of 2017 shout out on the Bedford Now Facebook account. The detail that Bedford’s audience would pick up on is the red and gray I used in that image are the school district’s colors. And while one of the fonts was meant to fit the theme of the day, the other is the font I had been using for the newspaper posts. The graduation shout out got 49 likes / reactions – which is pretty high engagement for a normally quiet audience.
I’ve also made images specifically for Pinterest that are meant to be branded to The Monroe News. This included recipe board pins that promote an online cook book; the font is the one I’ve chosen to represent The Monroe News on social media and the images were the same ones my co-worker chose when he created the cookbook site.
The content on my personal accounts also has been shifting to branded images via the careful selection of colors and fonts.
Here’s a peek at the visual pattern I created on Instagram: Every other image is a quote box in specific colors; the rest is just for fun, informational or promotional content one would expect to see on a public Instagram run by a social media geek.
Special project support
The Gandee brothers of Temperance, Mich., are known as the boys who walk piggyback style, with the older brother carrying his physically disabled younger brother, around the community and on highly publicized walks to raise awareness for cerebral palsy.
The Gandees took on their most ambitious project in April 2016 with a walk to Lansing. Monroe News photographer Tom Hawley spent much of the week with the family as a special project.
I attended the kick off and wrote some of the articles for the ongoing feature. But my most significant contribution was providing social media support that included monitoring Facebook and Twitter to see what we should share from the family and their sponsors, linking up all The Monroe News content on our social media accounts, creating a Storify roundup of the last day, designing the digital version of our promotional image for the project, and tracking the web analytics for our executive editor.
You can find our home page for the project at The Gandee brothers’ Cerebral Palsy Swagger walk to Lansing.
This photo was taken fall 2015 at Bedford Community Stadium to go with a feature story I wrote about on student cheer sections. The students had just thrown a burst of baby powder into the stands. I love the laughter on their faces.
One of my “multimedia journalist” assignments was a feature story in June 2014 about the behind the scenes activities at NASCAR races at Michigan International Speedway. I not only pitched the story, but ended up handling all writing, photography and social media on the project.
I brought back numerous photos not just for the main feature that was published a week later, but a photograph at Victory Circle that was chosen for the sports page the next day and also a spinoff feature on autograph collecting.
This scene that I took during the first snowfall of the 2015-16 winter became one of the most popular images of 2015 on the Monroe News’ Instagram account. While I’ve since created images that pulled in 75-100 likes, this is still among my favorites.
Animated and video content
I’ve used Facebook’s native video upload, Vine and Tout while on breaking news and feature assignments to create and upload short videos. Specifically to Tout, The Monroe News became one of the GateHouse Media partners for that network in May 2016 and I helped set up the reporter accounts that feed into our website channel.
I also have produced occasional news reports and public service announcement videos for YouTube using Splice and Windows Live Movie Maker as the editing tools.
One of my favorite YouTube pieces was called What to Eat When the Power Goes Out – a relevant question for those who are closely watching grocery budgets! It was a public service video in conjunction with Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. I scripted that piece, also did all the production work. A family member did the filming.
After Twitter polls were introduced in October 2015, I started running them occasionally on the Monroe News and Bedford Now accounts. The record number of participants was in September 2016 as Monroe High School and Bedford High School picked who would win their rivalry football game that week.
And this example as the 2016 national college football championship game was set reflects the fact many of our readers cheer for Michigan State University. They were not happy about the loss to Alabama.
What’s a great trick to get the most out of your content? Keep it in mind for a re-post or re-share, or across platforms. And here’s that example:
On Jan. 26, 2016, I remembered it was the anniversary of two significant blizzards that had hit Monroe County, Michigan; and that I had a great opportunity for a quick repurposing of content. Because the winter of 2014 and 2015 were so harsh, people kept telling stories and sharing pictures on social media during those years about the Blizzard of 1978 and Blizzard of 1977.
In response to that chatter in 2015, I researched and written a listicle feature with local facts about the 1978 storm.
I realized in 2016 that the content still resided on our website (although it has since been lost in an update).
I reposted the link out on Facebook on the blizzard anniversary date. That post hit a reach of 41,079 within a day; which is impressively viral for a page that had about 24,000 fans at the time.
Pinterest and evergreen content
One of my favorite boards on The Monroe News Pinterest account is the Cherries vs. Blueberries. This was spurred by the state fruit designation debate in 2014.
By the way, Michigan still has not chosen an official state fruit. But I keep the board fresh and updated, as this is perfect evergreen content for Pinterest while being of interest to our target audience.
Content management systems
This website is among the several personal or newsroom blogs I’ve hosted or co-hosted on the WordPress format. I also used the Blogger format on a short run project.
I have used the Ellington website content management system and Saxotech Online while handling web production duties for the Monroe News and Bedford Now websites.
I have been lead admin for The Monroe News’ online calendar editor since 2006, using three different website calendar formats over the years. Our newsroom is now on the Evie Says platform.
Social media analytics
I routinely use Facebook Insights, Facebook Pages to Watch, and Twitter Analytics to track trends and see what’s working. In addition, I’ve used StatusPeople, Likealyzer and WordPress analytics to review accounts.
These numbers have been useful for our managers and editors when they wish to review key metrics or gauge the success of a project. I’ve also used that data to relay best practices, popular topics and success stories to my co-workers.