Among my top priorities as manager of this site for the past few years has been to revitalize our FanPost/FanShot sections (henceforth, "the fan sections" or "fan content"), which were actually the most popular areas of this site at one point in time before a major site re-design. After extended conversations with the community and staff last offseason, we’ve made among the biggest leaps in fan section activity in the SBN-NBA network and it affirmed my belief that we can in fact do things to overcome the effect of the re-design. Nevertheless, I want more.
Since we’ve had yet another re-design that has changed the way I’ve been using fan content on the, I thought I’d provide another update to be transparent about how we're promoting things in fan sections so we can continue to increase the readership of those areas.
Who really cares about fan content?
If you're wondering what the purpose of these fan sections are, it's to provide community members with the opportunity to share their voices alongside the voices of the staff — it gives community members ownership over the conversation at the site and, in doing so, allows readers more control over the culture/tone of the site which in turn makes for a more authentic "community". Although those posts initially show up in the sidebar when they're created, the staff can also move them to the front page to make them more visible with a few clicks of a mouse (more on that in a moment).
If you've never created a FanPost before, Chris Faulkner of Grizzly Bear Blues (who also helps us out with social media) wrote such a great step-by-step guide on how to do it that I'm not going to bother to reinvent the wheel. However, if you want some examples of what the Golden State of Mind community likes, you can definitely check out our post about the best FanPosts and FanShots of 2016. If you have more questions after reading those, just let me know in the comments below and I'll gladly help out.
What we are doing to increase fan section use
I’ve thrown out a bunch of ideas for how to improve the fan section experience, but in the end only a few rather basic things get done regularly. Here's an overview of some of the things we’ve done consistently to enable that fan section revitalization (which some of the staff might appreciate because I rarely state what I’m doing):
- We add a picture and place new FanPosts (that didn't require significant editing — if I see something with multiple typos, I typically do not promote it at all) in our Twitter queue.
- We tweet/Facebook FanShots with images/videos/quotes that were easily accessible after landing on the site.We place any FanShot with an image, video, or quote in our "#SplashZone" section, which is displayed just beneath the "cover" on the front page (along with all the other short form/social content that we produce). There is a logic to determining which things go in there: the SplashZone was set up as a space for us to hold social media content so we've tried to limit it to fan content that that fits those parameters.
- We promote any fan content with breaking news to the front page if it was posted before one of our staff could write about it. Those things are labeled "Latest News".
- Just recently, we moved the “Latest news” section to the top of the site right next to the SplashZone so that fan content with news items will appear more prominently on the site and act as a more active news feed.
- In other words, post newsy things and you’ll get a better chance of finding your words on the front page to discuss with the rest of the community.
- We promote any fan content that made it into the top 50 of SBN-NBA's most viewed pages OR the top five of GSoM's most viewed pages to the front page as a "Trending FanPost/Shot"...because if everyone else out there thinks it's hot, it probably is. (This section is not placed on the front page because we've just run out of room)
- We promote any FanPost that received four "recs” and any FanShot that earned three “recs” to the front page. So use that rec button liberally! (We are also aware the rec button is not visible on all mobile devices. If you can’t see the rec button for fan content, I’ll accept putting “Rec” in the subject line of a comment as an alternative unless someone has a better idea.)
- We also place any FanPost with five recs and any FanShot with three recs into our "GSoM's Hottest FanPosts/Shots" section, which is displayed a few scrolls down on the front page.
Tips for optimizing your fan content for promotion
So now that you're aware of the big picture, here are a few tips to make sure that your fan content gets promoted:
- This is sort of counter-intuitive but if you want to post a tweet as a FanShot, you only need to copy/paste the URL for the tweet and NOT the Twitter-generated embed code. The SBN platform automatically displays the full tweet just from the desktop-version URL (that also means that the mobile URL doesn't work, but all you have to do is edit the URL to be "http://twitter.com..." to make that part work).
- To post videos from YouTube that display on the SBN platform, you not only have to use the embed code but you also need to make a "video" FanShot instead of a "link" FanShot. As an iPhone user, I know this makes it really difficult to post videos on the fly, but I'll help you out: if you're using a mobile device that doesn't allow you to grab embed code, just post the URL to the video in the "HTML embed" field of the "video" FanShot and I can grab the embed code at some other time.
- Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, but it's a soul-crushing experience on social media when you click a link from Twitter only to see an ambiguous title, a link, vague text like "This is cool!" So if you want us to promote the brilliant link you've found on Twitter/Facebook, I strongly recommend pulling a short excerpt (something less than 75 words or one full quote preferably) that captures the essence of the article and allows our social media users to feel like they haven't wasted a click. There is in fact a "quote" option available for making a FanShot, but you'd have to then add a link to the text below the quote for proper attribution which (to me) is more involved than the normal process for making a link.
- You might understand why I've simply run out of time to make serious edits to fan content and sometimes leave things unpromoted if there are just too many typos/grammatical errors/formatting problems (to those of you who don't like writing in paragraphs: the "return" key is your friend so please PLEASE feel free to make use of it).
- If you just want to cross-post an article from your personal site, please make it a FanShot — we'd like to save the FanPost section for original work rather than referring people out.
- I have absolutely no problem with you creating fan content and posting it in the comments of another post — we're trying to overcome a visibility problem, so there's no reason to prevent you from making it more visible.
Whew...I think this is all I'd like to say (and you'd like to read?) about FanPosts and FanShots for the next year.
If you have thoughts and questions, feel free to comment below and we can continue to refine all this stuff.