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How One Organization Engages Over 3 Million on Global Stage


Editor’s note: When we find something of such significant value to our audience from another source, we want to share it. This article appeared in Chief Content Officer magazine, which excerpted it from the Audiense blog.

It’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has racked up nearly 3 million Twitter followers. Over its 45-year history, WEF has convened business, political, and social leaders to solve the world’s most complex challenges — from sustainable development and international trade, to food security and access to health care.

What does an agenda-setting organization like WEF do to foster dialogue with its audience and keep them engaged? And how does an organization accustomed to engaging world leaders and influencers reach out to the public to share its message? I spoke to Henry Taylor, social media producer at the World Economic Forum, to find out how his team integrates social strategy into their world-famous meetings (such as the annual gathering of global leaders at Davos, Switzerland), and how they engage and activate a diverse mix of Twitter users across the globe.

CCO: What’s the primary objective for the World Economic Forum on social media?

Taylor: The biggest reason for us to use social is to offer a window into what we do, which is bringing people together to discuss some of the biggest problems the globe faces. Our basic mission statement is that we’re committed to improving the state of the world. The way we do that is by mixing public and private cooperation between organizations.

Our main activity on social media is promoting content from our blog; the articles are written by stakeholders with knowledge or influence in one of 10 global issues we want to raise awareness of and do something about. We also have several big meetings throughout the year such as our main event in Davos, where we bring stakeholders, academics, business leaders, and leading figures from politics to discuss those topics. A lot of content we publish on social media is related to those meetings, for example encouraging members of the public to watch live and get involved.

CCO: How do you measure the success of your social activity?

Taylor: We look at many of the same KPIs and metrics that a publisher would monitor: unique views, time on page, number of sessions, and a lot of other things using Google Analytics. To help understand what’s working, we’ll look at cumulative shares across social networks, retweets, comments, and other metrics that signify engagement with our content.

The trouble with some of these metrics is they don’t always give you a lot of detail on first glance. If someone like Paulo Coelho (Brazilian novelist) retweets us, that’s great because he has over 10 million followers and is a particularly important influencer; but who are we then reaching? What sort of people engage with our content based on that influencer? This is where social marketing platforms can be very useful. A good social marketing platform gives a clearer picture of our audience, and shows us which influencers are amplifying specific tweets.

How to Measure Engagement the Right Way

CCO: How do you support conversations online?

Taylor: We do a lot of direct-mail campaigns related to major reports, such as the Global Gender Gap Report. Every year it gets picked up by major publishers and this year the BBC spent a whole month looking at the gender gap around the world, kicked off by a collaboration with us. We use our social-marketing platform (i.e., Audiense) to reach out to journalists and people in the media, and build interest in the report in the weeks leading up to its release. It gives them time to work with us, dive into the raw data, or get embargoed copies of the reports so they can prepare content related to it.

We’ve found journalists respond to Twitter DMs quicker than emails. Journalists from organizations like Bloomberg, BBC, and CNN message us back requesting copies of the report, which they use in their coverage. We definitely see a direct feedback loop between DMs and the journalists using our report.

We’ve found journalists respond to #Twitter DMs quicker than emails says @HenryCTaylor Share on X

CCO: What’s the difference between event strategy (such as in the case of Davos) and what you do during the rest of the year?

Taylor: Davos and our other meetings involve webcasting, which we don’t do throughout the year. Most of the talks and discussions at events are available via webcast because we want the world to contribute to the conversation. During events we are focused on (a) highlighting the availability of these talks, (b) underlining the importance of the issues covered in them, and (c) engaging the audience in the sessions themselves by calling out for questions and putting them to the panel.

We also host direct Q&A sessions on Twitter and Facebook; this offers as much interaction between the participants at our meeting and the global engaged public as possible. Finally, we ramp up blog content to coincide with meetings as a way of covering the big issues raised by hugely influential people within their field.

CCO: When you have influential speakers or writers involved in your events or content, how do you leverage their followers?

Taylor: When people like Leonardo DiCaprio are on board, it would be crazy not to engage his followers. DiCaprio has devoted a lot of his time to tackling climate issues and he’s built up a strong audience in that area, so we analyze people who follow him to inform our strategy. In the case of writer John Green, his team was really keen to get on board before, during, and after Davos to promote content. Green got some really good insights from our meetings, which in turn informed content for his YouTube channel as well as his dedicated WEF blog.

CCO: How do you leverage social channels and social analytics during these global meetings?

Taylor: Monitoring what’s trending helps inform the articles we’ll be sharing that day. It won’t be the sole decision-maker for our content-sharing strategy, but it would be silly to ignore an issue people are talking about it, particularly when we have insightful, relevant articles written by experts on that issue.

During Davos and other big meetings, hashtag monitoring is super useful for optimizing what we are doing day by day. I also do a good amount of hashtag analysis after big events. We export the raw data from our social-marketing platform to Excel, then dive in and analyze results in a way that a static PDF report can’t deliver.

CCO: What else do you do to leverage influencers, particularly those who may not be on the speakers’ list?

Taylor: Leading up to Davos, we upload a list of all attendees with active Twitter accounts to our social-marketing platform. We make the list public and point journalists to it; it helps them source content from the event to include in their coverage. Plus, it always gains us a significant number of subscriptions from key journalists.

Discovering who is engaging with us during an event and the scale of their followers (plus tracking down their Twitter accounts) is another important task. Our social-monitoring platform allows us to do this efficiently. Plus it offers us qualitative information about our community, as well as account comparison and benchmarking against similar organizations.

One of the things we do afterward is to take the influencer Twitter lists we create on our social platform, such as those in our Forum of Young Global Leaders or people involved in the climate community, and plug them into our influencer marketing tool called Nuzzel. That lets us see what content particular groups are sharing. This is vital in taking a pulse on what certain important groups are talking about, ensuring that we’re covering the issues that matter to them and giving us fuel for discussions that people care about. Our social-tech tools allow us to easily manage, segment, and upload those lists — otherwise the task would be a lot more scattered and arduous.

CCO: When implementing a new marketing tool, what process do you go through?

Taylor: I keep an eye out to see what tools are offering new solutions; even if we don’t need them immediately it’s good to keep tabs on the market. Often when trying out a tool I realize it can do what our team needs but not on a free plan. So I’ll usually look to arrange a free trial to try out what it can do and test if it will have a long-term benefit. If I’m satisfied, I’ll pitch it to my boss. When we adopt a new technology tool, we actively monitor how much we’re using and whether it’s worthwhile. As a non-profit we can’t waste money on tools that we’re not using.

CCO: What do you think is the future of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on social media?

Taylor: Consumption trends among audiences are changing, so there’s a constant need to be agile in your approach. It’s vital to experiment with platforms, with content delivery strategies, and ways to reach the audience. I don’t think the NGO sector has as strong a handle on it compared to publishers — where there’s pressure to sustain revenue. To ensure that we’re telling the best stories — and even more, raising awareness of the problems we want to influence — the sector needs to step up to make a bigger difference.

This article originally appeared in the August issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly, print magazine.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute