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Social Influencer Series | WGBH Director of Social Media, Tory Starr

Social Influencer Series | WGBH Director of Social Media, Tory Starr

I first met Tory Starr at an event Sprinklr hosted in Boston for our local clients. It was a great event with a panel of digital marketers, sharing best practices around leveraging social media across their organizations. What struck me about Tory, the amount of really smart questions she had for the panelists.

I caught up with her again recently at an event we hosted with Snapchat and Socialyse - and there she was again with her hand up, inquisitive as ever. Maybe it is her background as a journalist and filmmaker, but what I realized is that it is what shapes her expertise and approach as the Director of Social Media at WGBH.

Why she got into Social Media in the first place was captured perfectly in an article about Tory as a "rising star" that ran in the News Media Alliance:

"Tory realized that “social media platforms are storytelling mechanisms,” and that this was what she wanted to do".

Storytelling is an essential ingredient in the world of modern marketing. The ability to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time. That is today's marketing mantra and a challenge for most brands and organization. For WGBH their mission statement is - “WGBH enriches people’s lives through programs and services that educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives.”

Tory has done an incredible job at leveraging the power of social media to help WGBH deliver on that mission. We sat down recently to talk about the state of social and her insights on what she has learned on her incredible journey. 

Here is a snapshot of what Tory had to say:

How does an aspiring filmmaker become the Director of Social Media for WGBH? 

For me, the through-line in my career has been about storytelling. I realized pretty early on in my career that there were these new exciting formats that had the potential to revolutionize the way we told stories with video – and in ways that were more directly personal and engaging than linear documentary storytelling. I can now watch a reporter’s investigation unfold in real time on Facebook Live, or through Stories get a sense of the lives behind the incredible photographs in National Geographic’s Instagram feed.

A few years into my career, I went back to school to get my Master’s in journalism because I wanted to bring an editorial perspective to social media. Marketers figured out the potential of social media early on – journalists and documentarians were a little later to the game. After a few years in newsrooms, including The Takeaway and PRI’s The World, I landed this role thinking more strategically about social media’s place in WGBH’s new and legacy brands – both local and national TV and radio productions.

Let's talk about the transformation you've seen - from the ah-hah moment you had with Twitter to now. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen?

 I’ve seen a ballooning in the size of social media’s reach, and a quick course correction. The ballooning happened from 2012 to 2015, when platforms like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter started reaching people in numbers rivaling TV or radio reach. The era of “distributed content” was exciting, mostly because you had more flexibility and nimbleness in what kind of storytelling you could do on social platforms. The joy of innovation on social media was all about figuring out what worked with specific audiences, and using those insights to better inform your core product – your radio or TV show, website, email newsletter, etc.

 However since 2015, we’ve been seeing the next generation of media consumers quickly change the way they’re communicating and consuming media. Anyone under the age of 25 has quickly become hip to the idea that they can be targeted and advertised to, and are must more selective around the channels they engage on publicly. There has been a big shift away from “performative” platforms and towards closed, safer networks. In real world terms: Three years ago it was all about how many “likes” your Instagram posts got; now it is all about the small, core group that knows about your Finstagram handle. (Here’s a primer on Finstagram; sorry marketers.)

 As a media organization, we need to be understanding this trend so we are creating the right content that makes the next generation want to share it and engage with it, within their closed networks. The idea of using social for mass scale reach isn’t over – Twitter is still 100% public, and Facebook is spinning out their Watch product to be about big numbers - but there is now a role for deeper, more authentic engagement.

 I will say that is probably the most exciting development of the past year or 18 months – that social media can lead to true impact and deep engagement (in smaller numbers, sure). And social platforms are creating the products and tools for us, as media creators, to do this easily. The idea that one of our journalists, or actor from the latest Masterpiece hit, can go live on Facebook or Instagram and give fans immediate access to what they love – that is an innovation that I’m 100% on board with.

How are you leveraging social across WGBH? 

 WGBH has such a wide variety of productions, departments and units that there’s no easy answer for that. Most of our national productions use social for brand awareness, and as a service for their loyal fans by providing unique content around the latest episode or special. Some national TV productions are truly innovating on social storytelling, such as FRONTLINE’s VR docs or their Facebook series “Growing up Trans” and NOVA’s live broadcast of the total solar eclipse. Our local @WGBH team is using social as a key distribution platform, reaching local fans who might not be aware of our station, with content that matters to them personally. There are so many other teams that are using social in completely different, but relevant ways for their own goals and priorities.

 Because we are such a diverse organization, Sprinklr has played such a key role in getting us aligned in key areas like account management, content sharing and analytics. Gone are the days when we had to chase down old interns for Twitter passwords; everything is securely managed using our single sign on and our core social KPIs are distributed in a custom dashboard that all teams are encouraged to clone and customize. With 100 users and over 250 social accounts to manage, having one social platform in common has helped all of us to simplify the administration of social in a way that allows us to focus on the content.

How does the work you do in social tie back to the broader mission of WGBH - "enriching people's lives through programs and services that education, inspire and entertain..."? 

 It’s all right there in the description. Social media has given us such an immediate pathway to complete our mission. Social isn’t only for promoting a television broadcast, for driving people to become members of our station, or for getting people to explore a website. We can be educating, inspiring and entertaining the public right in people’s feeds – that’s the insane opportunity of it.

What are the biggest trends to watch for social in 2018? 

 As I mentioned before, I’m very interested in this split between social TV (or social video) with an emphasis on scale and broadcast; and the “pivot to engagement,” with an emphasis on smaller, niche communities with higher impact. It will be very interesting to see if platforms like Facebook can be home to both at the same time.

 And as a citizen, I’m pretty worried about how quickly platforms like Facebook and Snapchat have democratized the ability to realistically manipulate photo and video content. The idea of AR, lenses and filters is incredibly exciting from a storytelling point of view (here’s my favorite example, from the Hindustan Times), but when you get to the point where you can’t tell what’s fabricated and what’s truth, that gets scary fast. I just took an excellent course on social verification techniques from First Draft News – it should be required training for every journalist in the world from now on.

 Speed Round:

Celebratory Cocktail Gin + anything

Proudest accomplishment Bungee jumping in New Zealand

Go to social channel for GBH? Nice try! (Ha!)

Go to social channel for you? @ProPublica is doing great work on Twitter 

Inspirational #hashtag you can share? #pubmedia, obviously!

Tory Starr is Director of Social Media, WGBH. She works across WGBH implementing social media strategy, best practices, platform partnerships, and project development. She works with over 40 national and local TV and radio production units to use both established and emerging social media platforms to build loyalty and community, boost brand awareness, and generate meaningful impact among new audiences. Starr has played a key role in transforming WGBH into an organization where social media is integrated into established production workflows, launching a company-wide initiative to unify social publishing, content management, social listening and core analytics. Starr also facilitates distributed platform leadership through ongoing employee education programs and training to bolster social production and social journalism skills across WGBH. 

Mark Keaney is the Director of Sales for the Northeast @Sprinklr - the world's most complete customer experience management platform for the enterprise. Sprinklr helps the world's largest brands do marketing, advertising, customer care, sales, research and commerce on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and twenty-one other social channels globally, all on one integrated platform.

e: mark.keaney@sprinklr.com or m: (617) 513-2668 or t: @markkeaney2pt0

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