We’ve heard this a lot lately: Fun stories, not serious stories, work on social media.
But we’ve found otherwise. You can shape serious stories to make them shareable and more informative for the public. We’re not talking about watering down serious journalism — we’re talking about crafting stories for the digital audience.
This happens every day in the Local Stories Project, which curates the most shareable member station content and distributes it through the NPR Facebook page. We’ve seen that people have an appetite for interacting with important stories that affect their lives. We found similar results in our research into the types of local stories that foster engagement.
Still, we wanted to be sure. Can serious stories actually get as much attention as fun ones on social media? And how can reporters and editors shape serious stories so that the audience will like, share, comment, retweet, etc.?
To help answer these questions, we reviewed 809 stories from the Local Stories Project that we then classified as either fun or serious. These were station stories that were posted to the NPR Facebook page and geotargeted — only people in each station’s local region could see them.
The surprising results offer insight into how serious stories can be shareable.
How do you make a serious story shareable? Through the Local Stories Project, we’ve found that serious stories can be just as -- and sometimes more -- shareable than fun stories. See our definitions of serious and fun stories.
Is there a world renowned professor at a nearby university? How about a famous local chef? A local filmmaker, artist or writer? The people who make up your community don't have to just be sources in stories — they can be part of the storytelling process. This is the idea behind Cognoscenti, WBUR's new ideas and opinions site. The site is made up of contributors from Boston's community of thinkers and influencers.
In this webinar we had a conversation with Iris Adler and Frannie Carr Toth, who run Cognoscenti.
What is the Local Stories Project? In a nutshell, it’s a collaborative project between NPR Digital Services and stations. We take local public media stories, make them shareable and deliver them to the people who care most about them. The result: huge spikes in traffic to member station sites, hundreds of shares and localized community-focused comment threads.
We started this project in 2011 as a Facebook experiment with one station. We're now partnered with 33 stations in 28 cities, with more to come. We invite all interested public media stations to apply for the next round here.
As we've said before, social media is great for sharing your own station's content. It's also a valuable tool for finding story ideas. Here are 11 examples of stations using social media to create content.