APN Australian Regional Media social media editor Alexia Purcell.
APN Australian Regional Media social media editor Alexia Purcell.

Have to like this: Our staggering Facebook growth

APN News and Media knows how to get people talking on Facebook.

The Sunshine Coast Daily Facebook page has soared to become the second most popular newspaper page in the Asia Pacific region with almost 100,000 likes.

It was only pipped by sister APN masthead the New Zealand Herald, which has more than 108,000 followers.

In comparison, the Daily's neighbouring statewide metro paper, News Corp's The Courier Mail, has 30,000 fans, while Sydney's Daily Telegraph has just over 63,000 likes.

Since joining Facebook in late 2008, the Sunshine Coast page has grown steadily accumulating more than 54,000 likes in the first three years, followed by a large spike of 28,000 likes in the first six months of 2012.

APN Australian Regional Media group digital editor Mark Furler attributes some of the 51% increase in likes from January to June 2012 to coverage of the Australia Day floods and the two flooding events in March.

"We used the Sunshine Coast Daily page as a vehicle for rolling coverage of all three floods. We were posting updates on road closures, rising creek levels and messages from emergency services as they came to hand.

"We also used the page to share and receive flood photos from our Facebook page users," Mr Furler, who was the Daily's editor in chief at the time, said.

Since June 2012, APN's network of Facebook pages - which is made up of The Sunshine Coast Daily, 13 other masthead and 24 community and weekly titles - has grown by 18% to almost 175,000 likes.

More importantly, the network's talking about this figure, which measures page engagement, increased by a staggering 548% in the past year (June 2012 to June 2013).

APN ARM social media coordinator Alexia Purcell said the huge increase in the talking about this figure is the result of changing the way the group posted content on the Facebook pages.

Mrs Purcell has worked one-on-one with the social media champion at each masthead, who was responsible for posting content on their Facebook page, to create conversations.

"Instead of simply posting a link to a story on our websites, we started creating conversations around that item - whether it be a local news story, event write-up or lifestyle piece - or providing a shareable item such as a photo or video," Mrs Purcell said.

This attributed not only to the increase in engagement but a 70% increase in referral traffic from Facebook to APN's network of websites.

Mrs Purcell said the other major attribute for increasing APN's likes and engagement was posting a variety of content.

"We make posts on local and national news and events, we create conversations with debate topics and status questions, we embed videos and posts photos and call for photos to be shared with us.

" I also run a number of groupwide weekly initiatives that have all been responsible for increasing the talking about this figure."

Mr Furler, who oversees APN's Australian news sites, said the success story was not just on the Sunshine Coast.

"The QT - The Queensland Times Facebook page has grown from a couple of thousand likes to more than 15,000 likes in the past year.

"The Chronicle in Toowoomba have increased by almost 7000 since June last year.

"Some of our biggest Facebook posts top more than 360,000 in reach.

"The most significant would have to be a photo of  Sunshine Coast teen Daniel Morcombe's family at his funeral.

" It received more than 1500 comments, was liked by almost 64,000 people and had 68,500 people talking about it," Mr Furler said. 

Apart from Facebook growth, APN ARM has recorded a 25% increase in Twitter followers bringing the total to more than 21,000 across the network and more than 15,000 daily newsletter subscribers, an increase of 72%.

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