Social Media

Social Media and Engagement

Social Media Best Practices

The big question about social media is no longer “should we do this?”, but “how should we do this well?” In this section, you will find several best practices to enhance your social media efforts for sharing information, increasing viewership, and building community partnerships.

Public media users increasingly expect stations to provide a participatory media experience. If handled properly, social media can enhance traditional public media by providing valuable information, ideas, and entertainment in new ways that can reach larger portions of your local community. In addition, using social media can help your station fulfill its mission and keep viewers engaged in public broadcasting – it can also build powerful links that connect audiences to local stations, productions and content.



At a time when audiences are fragmenting and media options are multiplying, social media has emerged as an excellent way to build strong, direct bonds with your audience. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms can help your station become engaged with viewers on a much more personal level.

One of the most powerful aspects of social media is its ability to show audiences that your station is willing to listen to feedback. Instead of simply using social media as a tool to push out information for your users to consume, try to actively respond to their comments or tweets.

If nurtured, your audience will be more than simply engaged with your station – social media can help you rapidly develop a growing network of dedicated supporters who will share your content with their own personal connections and help you build stronger brand loyalty.



“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary." - Vince Lombardi

As exciting as the prospects of successful social media can be, there are challenges that need to be overcome in order to achieve the level of engagement you may expect.

The first step to overcoming these challenges is setting realistic expectations. Successful engagement won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen without a little hard work. Your social media strategy should be a long-term commitment, not a passing fad or a one-time marketing campaign. Social media takes time, effort, and resources. Twitter, Facebook, and other tools may be free, but it does take time to maintain a presence on these services - and time is money. It is important to think about your social media strategy and make it a collective effort at your station so that everyone can share the weight – and the wins.

As you start to build social media relationships with your audiences, you may not always hear what you want to from users. Social media’s ability to open two-way conversations between you and your users won’t always garner positive feedback. However, taking the time to listen to what people are saying is key, and it may not always be good news that empowers you to do better for your audience.

Although open conversation is always best, social media needn’t be stressful and you should only engage within your comfort level. Setting blog commenting to pre-moderation and reviewing them before they go live is ok, but you need to be diligent. Don’t let something sit for too long without it going live or users will not come back.

In addition, if you decide to not post a comment or take something down in post-moderation, you need to be prepared to defend your decision. Simply not liking what someone said is not a good enough reason to censor them. Posting community guidelines can help alleviate negative and offensive comments.

Feel free to copy our golden rules:

We welcome your comments, and hope to host energetic, civil discussions. As you post, please keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your comments focused on the topic at hand.
  • Do not use profanity, personal attacks or hate speech.
  • Do not promote a business or raise money.
  • When all else fails, think "Golden Rule": Treat others the way you'd like to be treated yourself.


We reserve the right to remove posts that do not follow these guidelines. By submitting comments, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which include more details.


Setting goals and building a strategy

Setting goals and building a strategy around your social media presence go hand in hand. When developing your social media strategy, it is important to look back at the past year and assess what went right and what went wrong:

  • Did you reach your goals? How? Why not?
  • Do you want more viewers?
  • Do you want more Web traffic?
  • Do you want to increase membership?

A single strategy cannot address all of your needs, so you will need to develop different strategies for different goals. Some basic guidelines for approaching your goals and building a strategy are:

  • Be clear
  • Be focused
  • Be realistic
  • Ask questions
  • Think outside the box
  • Collaborate with colleagues
  • Keep it simple

You may need to repeat this process several times. Social media does not have a “one size fits all” solution. You need to experiment to find what is right for your station and your audience.


Be Tactical

Once you have your strategy planned out and your goals set, it’s time for the real work to begin. Social media changes so fast that if you don’t plan your attack and allow for flexibility, you won’t be able to keep up. Your strategy should define what you are going to do to achieve your goals, but you need to define the tactics and outline the steps you’ll take to execute it:

  • Walk the walk

    • If you are managing a social media account for your station, you may want to set up your own personal account to experiment and learn the lay of the land.
  • Collaborate

    • Work with a well-rounded team of people at your station. For example, a marketing manager, Web director, and human resources coordinator will each bring something different to the table.
    • Establish relationships with community partners and local bloggers. This builds larger networks and provides an opportunity for information sharing.
  • Experiment

    • There are a lot of new things popping up in social media all the time. Try geo-location stunts, engage with contests, or open up creative conversations. See what works and what doesn’t – you may be surprised. But most of all, you should never be afraid to fail. You learn either way.


Measuring Progress & Assessing Your ROI

After you have established your strategy, goals, and a tactical plan to reach those goals using that strategy, how will you measure your progress? How will you know if you are successful?

First, you need to determine what you want to measure. Do you want to measure traffic? SEO rankings? Reach? The key takeaway, no matter how you choose to measure engagement, is that you have a success metric before you begin – this is how you can determine your ROI. The following tools can help you measure your progress:

Google Analytics ( is the superstar of measuring your station’s Web site traffic and effectiveness.

Feedburner: an essential tool to help analyze reach and subscriber count for blog content.

TweetReach ( After entering in a url, Twitter name, phrase, or hashtag, TweetReach will analyze the tweets that match your search and then report the reach and exposure data of what you entered.

Facebook Insights: a free tool for Facebook Page owners and Platform developers that provides real-time metrics.

Xinu Returns ( type your URL in the search bar and Xinu will return data on how well your site is doing in popular search engines, social bookmarking and other site statistics.

Kurrently ( Want to know what others are saying about you in real time? Kurrently is the fastest, most up-to-the-minute search engine for Facebook and Twitter.


Getting Management Buy-In

Selling a social media strategy to your GM and other executives does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Investing in social media can change the way your station’s resources are allocated, and you’ll need to show your boss what values this can bring to your station. Try considering a few of these ideas:

  • A traditional Web site is a passive experience for Web users – they come to you and then leave with the information they need, but may not come back regularly. With social media, you go to them where they are and, by doing so, you are creating a vibrant and engaging two-way conversation that keeps people coming again and again.
  • People are already talking about your station. Join the conversation by getting involved and learning what they are saying about you.
  • Social media is largely free and easy to get started. Yes, this takes some resources, but if it’s fun and you can get others involved at your station. Sharing the load can increase the effectiveness of your social media strategy.
  • Your competitors are probably using social media. In these tough economic times, you want to hold on to your audience as best you can.
  • Social media can help you provide useful information to your audience that may not otherwise have a place on your Web site, such as last-minute schedule changes, community event reminders, and behind the scenes information about your station.
  • Because social media creates a two-way conversation between you and your audience, it can help reduce the cost of expensive mailers and incoming viewer services calls.
  • Social media can help increase your audience by reaching new people who otherwise may not tune in to a program on-air or visit your Web site, but who may have friends who do and share information. Social media can expand your station’s reach and mindshare in the community.

If they are still not convinced, you can present them with the facts (as of January 2012):

  • Facebook has more than 800 million active users
  • 50% of active Facebook users log on in any given day
  • The average Facebook user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • The average Facebook user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • On average, people on Facebook install apps more than 20 million times every day
  • Every month, more than 500 million people engage with Facebook on external Web sites
  • More than 7 million apps and Web sites are integrated with Facebook
  • There are more than 350 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices
  • Twitter has over 175 million registered users
  • 250M Tweets are written per day
  • Foursquare currently has about 15M users
  • People are watching more than 2 billion videos a day on YouTube
  • YouTube’s user base has a broad age range, 18-55, evenly divided between males and females, and spanning all geographies.

*Info collected from:


Myth Busters

Myth #1:Social Media is FREE Sure it costs nothing to join Facebook or Twitter, and PBS Interactive provides myriad tools, professional development, best practices, and more, but engaging in social media does not come at zero cost.

Time is money and there can be a significant time investment involved with social media. Basically, what you put in determines what you get out of it. When you first start with social media, you will not see an impact right away. You need to experiment and you need to take the time to truly engage with and grow your audience. Read their tweets and participate in the conversations on Facebook and on your blog.

Myth #2:Social Media is just for teenagers

This is a popular myth, but it’s just that, a myth. Data has shown time and again that more than 60% of Facebook and Twitter users are over the age of 35. In fact, according to a recent study, only about 1/5 of social media users are under 18.

Myth #3:Social Media can’t be measured

Tracking social media is no different than tracking traffic and conversations for almost any other Web site. Google Analytics, for example, can track a wealth of data by using some simple plug-ins to provide metrics from several social media sites. There are also tools, like Tweet Reach, that enable you to track specific Twitter events and discussions.

Myth #4:Social Media is too time consuming

You get as much out of social media as you put in to it. So at a base level, it only takes about 1-5 hours a week to participate. That’s not a lot of time to engage your audience and connect with your community. Super users may spend 20+ hours a week doing social media – they create content and engage in conversations across the Web on a regular basis. The key is finding your sweet spot – the time you feel most comfortable with and where you are able to maintain good relationships with your audience.

Myth #5:Social Media is too informal; there are no rules

The rules may not be traditional, but there are some best practices and guidelines to follow while participating in social media – generally, the golden rule applies: Do unto others…

Proper social media communication requires some thought and strategy. Most good users abide by the proper “twitequette.” Hate speech, unsolicited criticism, spam, and abuse don’t play well in the real word and it doesn’t work in the social media landscape either. Even if there is more anonymity in social media, it still isn’t considered okay to disrespect the community.

Myth #6:Social Media is a fad

If building strong, lasting relationships with your audience is a fad, then social media is a fad. But building strong, lasting relationships is invaluable to any organization that depends on others for its survival. There may be social media sites that come and go, but the overall concept of social media is here to stay. If you wait for the “fad” to pass, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Skipping out on social media also gives your competition a larger corner of the market and allows them to take away value from assets that your organization depends on.

Myth #7:Social Media is hard

This myth is actually only half wrong. Social media isn’t hard – it’s very simple to create a Twitter or Facebook account and send out a few messages. Doing social media well, however, isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be HARD. Like most things, the more experience you get, the better you’ll be. Social media may take a little getting used to, you need to experiment, try new things, and open up in ways that may make you a little uncomfortable, but the ends justify the means and once you break past your initial inexperience, you’ll find that it’s pretty easy and rewarding to connect with your audience in exciting new ways.


PBS Social Media Policy

As a multi-platform organization, PBS is experimenting more and more with emerging technology and platforms on the Web. Using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become standard practice for PBS, its producers, and its member stations.

We recognize that employees are participating in online social activities such as blogging, commenting on message boards or live chats, participating in social networks, or being active on platforms such as Twitter.

To provide guidance for employees interacting with social media PBS has created a company policy that would underscore PBS’s support of social media while protecting PBS and its employees. This policy outlines the expectation that PBS employees will be responsible in their social media interactions and similar forums. There are situations where the social media activities of PBS employees and others associated with PBS can have an impact on PBS’s brand and reputation or could lead to potential legal liability for PBS.

Please feel free to adopt the following PBS Social Media policy to meet your station needs.


PBS Engage Reference Material





Blog Best Practices

From moderating comments, to SEO, to promotion, the documents below offer the best practices for managing successful blogs on member station websites.

User Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC) is various kinds of media produced by end-users. PBS Engage showcases here how PBS member stations and program producers are integrating UGC into their projects across the system. This document created for PBS Teachers offers some best practices for managing successful use of UGC that is helpful in any context:

Social Media Resources

Products and content for member stations to better serve their audience.


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