By Emilie LutostanskiLocal News Resource Center

Torstar Local launched 10 hyperlocal news operations starting in late 2019, bringing news, events, people profiles, business features and information to communities across Ontario.

While increasing app downloads is the primary business objective for the local news publisher, social media drives significant traffic to the sites. In the last six months, the 10 Torstar Local Facebook pages have more than doubled the number of followers and tripled average weekly interactions.

Torstar Local pages have grown followers using organic reach tactics and data from CrowdTangle.

“We still have the greatest proportion of our traffic coming from social, so the work we’re doing on Facebook is important,” said Pam Laycock, senior vice president of transformation and strategy at Torstar. The Torstar Local project was seeded with funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge.

With implementation support from the Local News Resource Center, Torstar Local adopted CrowdTangle, a content discovery and social monitoring platform owned by Facebook, to maximize the impact of posting.

General Manager Leslie Osborne and a team of community coordinators use CrowdTangle data from local community Facebook pages – including their own — to increase reader engagement and cultivate new story ideas. These are the top three approaches that have helped grow the Torstar Local brand in new markets.

Getting referral alerts for community building, engagement and page growth

Torstar Local has organically grown its brand and fostered engagement on Facebook through referral alerts, which notify the coordinators when other pages share Torstar Local links.

“Our coordinators are very active in responding to people, so whether it’s a comment a like or share, we’re always actively inviting them to us and thanking them,” she said. “The referral alerts are letting us know when people are sharing our content, even when they don’t tag us.”

Generating story ideas using the dashboard, daily digest, and referral alerts

Torstar Local uses both the CrowdTangle live dashboard and daily digest features to identify overperforming stories on Facebook from pages and groups relevant to the community, such as public officials and civic entities.

“[Recently] a community coordinator was trying to find ideas of generating news articles,” Osborne said. “I showed her in CrowdTangle some of the lists, including some influencers in the market and some of our competitors. We pulled out three story ideas that she was going to run within her market.”

CrowdTangle has also helped generate several viral and impactful stories, including when The Windsor Local learned through a public page’s post that a local university coach died and compiled a story that fueled thoughtful reactions from throughout the community. Often stories about local people garner high engagement, but the post performed 20 times better than typical for the page.

“We just very timely jumped on to it and it ended up becoming one of our best-performing stories through social media,” Osborne said.

Establishing buy-in from local community coordinators

Having locally-based community coordinators who understand their markets, and know how to use CrowdTangle, has been essential to growing the total Torstar Local Facebook audience.

“These coordinators are living and breathing content all day long. They put a lot of thought behind what they do, and I think that is really reflected in our app downloads, our page views, and then just the overall engagement,” Osborne said. “The coordinators have such a good pulse on the communities that we’re starting to see a pivot now; we’re catching wind of stories in CrowdTangle before some of our other competitors.”

The Local News Resource Center, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project, connects local media organizations with the social media training, information, tools and support network needed to meet business goals, such as drive website traffic, acquire new audience, and heighten engagement. Contact us for support or to learn more about CrowdTangle for local newsrooms.

CrowdTangle helps publishers identify great stories, measure social performance, and identify influencers. It’s used by newspapers, television stations, digital media outlets, investigative journalists, researchers, entertainment companies, sports teams, and nonprofits worldwide.