Boost Community Engagement with Brilliant Visuals: The Columbia Missourian’s Story


Boost Community Engagement with Brilliant Visuals: The Columbia Missourian's Story

Scopio’s team is proud to have partnered with the Missouri School of Journalism to produce community-centered content in the Spring 2017 semester. Here’s why (and how) user-generated visuals can help news outlets ramp up community engagement and spark long-lasting partnerships.

Listening to your community is step one when you’re reporting at a local paper. How else could dedicated journalists write city government stories, delve into investigative topics or even learn about the latest local music outfits?

But listening is also crucial when you’re trying to gain readers’ trust — a must in today’s media landscape. Last September, Gallup found that a mere 32% of Americans “have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media” — the lowest recorded level in Gallup’s polling history.

Despite this number, journalism will always be a pillar of democracy, and good reporting, openness and cooperation between community members and reporters ensures the success of many stories.

 

 

The Columbia Missourian Boosts Community Engagement with Brilliant Photos
Community comes first at the Missourian. And as part of a learning lab, the team is encouraged to experiment and find new ways to ramp up community engagement.

The message is clear: To boost trust in the internet age, it’s up to media outlets to find authentic, inventive ways to reach readers and viewers. That’s exactly why The Columbia Missourian partnered with Scopio.

With a circulation of over 5,600, the Missourian serves the journalistic needs not just of its hometown of Columbia, Missouri, but the mid-Missouri region as a whole. And as a student-and-educator-led newspaper run out of one of North America’s top journalism schools, it isn’t one to shy away from journalistic innovation and experimentation.

I think the idea of having this real-time, on-the-scene content is just going to make journalism stronger and more helpful than it’s ever been,” says Randy Picht, the Executive Director at Reynolds Journalism Institute. He considers UGC to be an indispensable part of journalism.

So when leaders at Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute chanced upon Scopio, they saw an exciting capstone opportunity for senior journalism students to gain real-world experience — what the Missouri method is all about.

Using Scopio’s search engine and licensing platform, four convergence journalism students discovered, licensed and published user-generated photos and videos from the community to supplement the Missourian’s community outreach articles. Here’s the effect that created and how it played a part in community engagement over the course of a semester.

 

Readers Shared Experiences

 

 

The Columbia Missourian Boosts Community Engagement with Brilliant Photos
By featuring photos from mid-Missourians in certain articles, the Columbia Missourian was able to boost community engagement and begin conversations.

For their first published project, the capstone class decided to celebrate an important local event: the 50th anniversary of Columbia’s Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, a popular weekend spot for college kids, hikers and nature lovers alike. It’s also very photogenic, evidenced by the mountains of photos and videos taken there and posted to social media.

Using Scopio’s image-licensing platform, the Missourian used hashtags and keywords to create a custom Rock Bridge State Park campaign. And in just a few hours, it filled with photos folks had posted that featured the beloved state park.

Next, the Missourian sent custom licensing agreements to the photographers that they wanted to feature. And since every message came from their own social media account, the Missourian was able to establish relationships with members of the community.

Beautiful photos of Rock Bridge from Twitter and Instagram were licensed to the Missourian over the next few hours and days. The end result? An article celebrating the beauty of Rock Bridge and the everyday photographers that are moved to capture it.

The effect didn’t end there — it was far reaching. After the article’s publication, another member of the community shared their photos of Rock Bridge and added a heartfelt message.

 

“As a recent graduate of the University of Missouri, memories of my treks through Rock Bridge Memorial State Park remain among the most sentimental of my Columbia experience. As such, I’m happy to share a few of my photographs with the Columbia Missourian, with hopes that these evoke similar sentiments within your readers.”

—@3rdP3rson/Instagram

The effect was the same with the Missourian’s article covering Columbia’s annual True/False Film Fest from readers’ lenses, as a stage manager from True/False film festival sent a few of her snapshots to the Missourian.

“What I was really proud of over the course of the semester was how positively readers reacted to our UGC photo galleries,” says Kaveh Kardan, a member of the capstone team. “As a group, we found that people enjoyed seeing things from the community’s point of view.”

The effect is clear: When you feature photos from your audience, you generate a lot of excitement around your brand or cause — and more cooperation and recognition in the future.

“They take photos that tell their own stories,” Kaveh says.

 

Audiences Weren’t Just Static — They Stayed Engaged over Time

As compared to staff photo galleries of True/False Film Fest, the Missourian’s UGC article on the event kicked up average pageview time by 26%. And on the Rock Bridge gallery, views stayed steady over time. Whether it was weeks or months after the Missourian published it, readers spent 492 minutes viewing the collection of nature photos and reminiscing.

This is to be expected — people naturally gravitate toward peers and photos they can relate to. “These are the points of views that staff photographers at the Missourian couldn’t get, no matter how talented they were,” Kaveh says.

 

 

The Columbia Missourian Boosts Community Engagement with Brilliant Photos
Scopio’s all-in-one platform made it easier for the capstone team to find great user-generated photos and videos from the fest.

This supports prior research focusing specifically on UGC in business — that it’s more trustworthy, highly relatable and more engaging. According to the advertising gurus at Nielsen, “92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising — an increase of 18 percent since 2007.” And though that earned media encompasses UGC as a whole, it still extends to the brilliant photos and videos folks are posting to the internet every day, even when you throw local news into the loop.

And this evidence pulled through for the capstone team. “We can tell from the initial statistics that people probably will spend more time on and get more engaged with UGC galleries,” they noted in their semester-end presentation to journalism faculty.

 

UGC’s Part in Community Engagement

 

 

Boost Community Engagement with Brilliant Visuals: The Columbia Missourian's Story
Because the Missourian synced up their social media accounts with the Scopio dashboard, conversion rates were higher — photographers recognized the local name

There’s a reason why visuals from readers are cornerstone to savvy media outlets. User-generated photos and videos can be used in just about any journalistic project you set your mind to, from photo galleries from a community park to a weather-related event. And as far as reaching an audience and starting conversations goes, UGC is an indelible part of a great community engagement strategy. People are willing to share their stories: “There was more enthusiasm than I thought,” Randy adds.

All of this doesn’t mean that talented photojournalists should be booted from their important jobs. Instead, it suggests that experienced photojournalists, citizen journalists and community members should all play some kind of role at local news outlets. And as far as the last two go, this can be as simple as embedding galleries like this one or asking for photo submissions after an event. Balance will always be key.

Scopio is the industry’s premier search and licensing platform for images and videos on social media. We help brands, nonprofits, companies and media outlets find and use the photos and videos that matter to their audience, from capturing content to evaluating the analytics on campaigns. Wondering how you can leverage UGC to increase engagement? Request a demo with the button below or email info@scop.io. Featured photo courtesy of @eyeonit/Instagram. 

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