This review is a part of our ‘Social Media Strategy Review’ series where we do a 360 degree analysis of a brand’s entire social media activity. You can read the reviews of more brands here.
Journalism and type of news items aside, the brand Times of India, TOI for short, has created a standing for itself that is hard for any other publication to surpass. The newspaper represents the mindset of young India and it is at the forefront of globalization led consumerism experienced by the vast Indian middle class.
TOI has some great innovations up their sleeve, which when clubbed with its marketing efforts, has brought significant success for the brand. In this article, I am going to see how far Times of India has succeeded in translating its print media success to social media. Let’s dig deeper and try to unearth TOI’s social media strategy.
Audience Analysis of Times of India
TOI is the newspaper of young India, or is it? The newspaper is read by all sorts of people from various age groups and both genders. It is not just the youth who reads this English daily. If their social media fan following is any indication of their readership, then it is safe to say that people of all age groups read TOI, and its readers are mostly men. This explains the glamorous supplements that one gets with the newspaper.
Although there is a good deal of negativity flowing on various social media profiles, most of the the negative remarks are not directed at the newspaper, but on the news items published in it about the current political scenario. The age-gender sentiment analysis may not be an exact representation of the feelings people have for the newspaper in general. They might just be reacting to the news items published there.
Social media is a digital outlet through which people receive news items, so it is a natural extension of a daily newspaper. And as one can guess, Times of India uses social media in the same spirit. It uses the various social media platforms to share news items with its fans and to keep them informed about the things that happen around them.
Times of India on Facebook
TOI has over 28.5 lakh fans on Facebook, of which around 1.5 lakhs are actively engaged with the page. The main reason behind this is the nature and the frequency of updates made on the page. Although an average per page engagement is decent for the brand (see the image below), on manual analysis I found that the likes, shares, and comments increased or decreased based on the nature of the story.
As stated above, if the posts are of general interest it is shared, liked, and commented on more (see the first image), but if it appeals to a specific group, the engagement is low, which is understandable (see the second image below).
Updates from TOI on Facebook take up a good deal of screen space, as it is composed of an image with the gist of the news. Almost all the posts are liked by a lot of people. The engagement on the posts are so high that even the least engaging post will put many brands’ Facebook posts to shame by the sheer volume of likes, shares, and comments it receives.
You can see from the image below how actively people are engaged with the posts. They move beyond simply liking the updates. More than anything it is the nature of the content which is responsible for this.
I suggest TOI should use shortened urls for their Facebook updates so that they can exactly measure how many people clicked on the link.
Times of India on Twitter
On Twitter, TOI has above 8.76 lakh fans, which is a fairly large number. The newspaper is pretty active here, and it keeps the little birdie busy with multiple updates every hour. There is not a set pattern of hourly updates, which depend on the volume of incoming news. For a newspaper, it is quite understandable.
TOI has replicated the success of its Facebook page on Twitter as well. It has created some good engagement here as well (See the second image).
TOI has appropriately used twitter, but it could have gained more by using hashtags in the news items it tweets.
Comparison with competitor
Hindustan Times (HT) is the closest competitor that Times of India has. It may have given some solid competition in the print readership, but when it comes to social media, it is nowhere close to TOI. HT not only has a fewer number of fans – the total fan base of HT is one-third of that of TOI – the per post engagement is also low (see the image below).
In comparison to TOI, HT’s social media effort does not look as spirited. The engagement rate on its posts is much lower. One reason could be the nature of news items it shares (see the image below), and the second reason could be the way it structure its updates. I am also leaning towards wondering if it has to do with the reader base.
HT is not considered to be a daily newspaper of the “hip crowd,” and its audience may not be on the web, or at least, not as active as TOI’s. Whatever might be the reason, HT’s social media activity is not in the same league as the social media activities of TOI.
Times of India elsewhere
Times of India is also present on Google+, and like the two platforms studied above, TOI has a big fan base here as well. It has more than 3.17 lakh fans, which is a decent number for the platform.
Although the engagement is not as high as on Facebook, it is pretty decent on a platform that does not have Facebook’s fan following. The nature of updates here is similar to the ones on Facebook, as you can see in the image below, and as it is dealing in news items, there is little scope of difference in the content.
Social media is a natural extension of a publishing company like Times of India. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc are just a separate set of outlets for the newspaper to reach out to its audience with the news items.
TOI has done a commendable job on this front, and its huge list of fans speaks of its engagement. But as a leader in the category, the brand should have gone beyond that and used the platform for occasional direct brand building exercises as well.
It is sad that the Indian news papers including Times of India use Social Media as another broadcast medium. They do not interact with their audience at all. There so much that they can do in the online space.
There is no denial that by sharing the kind of news it covers, TOI has given the taste of its brand to its potential customers (along with the ones it already has), but occasional self promotion would not have done any harm. Overall, TOI has done a decent job on social media.
News in India is intrinsically discussion worthy and TOI seems to have leveraged this fact very well on social media. I’ve noticed that influencers on Twitter tend to question TOI’s credibility when it comes to political news, but then the credibility of media has been questioned since the time immemorial.
On the whole, TOI has done a good job of cementing its social presence, but it still has to take it to a collaborative level. New platforms have the opportunity to bring an aspect of citizen journalism to its social platforms and thereby leverage community power in a bigger and better way.
TOI on social media, works more like a news sharing engine rather than community evangelists who are advocating and motivating users to be participative. There are very few newspapers with the kind of reach TOI has in the print space and if it cross leveraged its print and social reach to create a pool of citizen journalists, and pockets of activist groups, and empowered them with a voice and a platform like TOI, then it could do a great deal for the respect people will have for the TOI brand.
Expert View by Rajiv Dingra Founder & CEO of WATConsult – An Award Winning Social Media Agency.
Analytics support courtesy: Simplify360