The Local Media Association announced top prizes in the annual Local Media Digital Innovation Awards in March. LMA awarded best social media strategy, among companies with fewer than 750,000 unique visitors per month, to Jackson Hole News&Guide. The winners will receive their awards at the LMA Digital Revenue Summit, April 22-23 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare, during a red carpet reception with sponsors. Social News Desk sponsored the Best Social Media Strategy category.

Seeing Facebook and Instagram as the most popular platforms with its audience in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the weekly newspaper initiated an intense social media strategy in 2018. Its data-driven approach, with performance analysis and an established posting schedule, helped increase the Jackson Hole News&Guide Facebook following by 158 percent, and Instagram audience by 68 percent, year-over-year. The publisher’s engagement rate increased 239 percent on Facebook after initiating the new strategy.

In the contest entry, Social Media Manager Sofia Jaramillo said the strategy has encouraged staff to post more often and use social media to connect with readers. One piece of the 17-part social media strategy was the creation of an internal “Bagel Bucks” program, in which reporters are rewarded for going above and beyond on social media weekly with gift cards to a local bagel and coffee shop. Another tactic was to introduce the #staffpick program, in which staffers are encouraged to share posts, photos, and news relevant to the community from other community members’ Facebook pages.

The judges’ comments on Jackson Hole News&Guide noted the “social media plan had rigor (best practices), rewards (bagel bucks!), and strong organization (posting schedules). Nice collaborations like #staffpicks and strong performance tracking, used to refine strategy!”

We caught up with Jaramillo for a brief Q&A following the announcement of the Local Media Digital Innovation Awards.

How would you summarize the actions taken to improve the social media strategy?
We took many steps to improve our social media strategy in 2018. Our overall goals were to increase social media presence, increase engagement and referral traffic to our website. One thing that helped us reach these goals was making sure each individual action we took was consistent with our overarching goals.

How did you determine your social media goals?
Since I was starting from scratch, as the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s first ever Audience Engagement Producer, I didn’t have much on which to base our goals. I looked at our previous year’s analytics for each platform and decided what we needed to improve the most.

What challenges did you face in accomplishing your social media goals throughout the year, and how did you manage that?
One of the biggest challenges with social media is that it is ever evolving and so are the expectations that go along with it. This can be taxing on staff when they frequently have to adjust based on changing rules. It was initially difficult to get staff on board with some of the changes, but sharing our successes with them and creating the “bagel bucks” program encouraged staff to participate.

What have you learned from this effort that you’re using in 2019?
Using third party programs to monitor analytics was key in 2018. We will continue to do that in 2019. Sharing content from other community pages was also helpful in boosting our engagement. We will continue to do that while also being consistent with replying to our commenters.

Do you have any advice for other small, local publishers who are trying to step up their social media strategy?
Set specific attainable goals, come up with realistic approaches to meet the goals and then track them. Data is your friend in the social media world. You don’t know if what you are doing is working unless you track it. Consistency is important to ensure that your data is dependable and gauge whether or not you are meeting benchmarks.