As the host of Seven Sharp, a columnist on the Herald, a talkback presenter on Newstalk ZB and a generous giver of opinions, Mike Hosking has reached saturation levels across Kiwi media channels. And the frazzle-haired media machine has in the last week extended his brand's reach across social media, with his likes on the official Mike Hosking page increasing by 90,000 in the space of a few days.
The gravity of this social media explosion became quite apparent when two of my Facebook friends, each located in different countries, shared a post from the Mike Hosking Breakfast page, despite not even knowing who Hosking was. As it turns out, this wasn't the only duo to be sharing the post.
According to NZME data, it went viral, bouncing around Facebook, reaching 158 million people, being shared 1.1 million times and generating 35 million post clicks—which, while including a significant number of international clicks, is still pretty impressive, even when compared to major international brands.
So what exactly drove all this engagement?
NZME digital audience engagement general manager Lauren Hopwood says the massive spike was triggered after Hosking posted a series of cow images underlined by satirical explanations of various economic systems.
Interestingly, the copy used in the post isn't original; it has been floating around the net for some time.*
It is, of course, also worth noting that social media metrics can at times be dubious. And this was illustrated this week when ad agency Solve released a blank four-minute video (no sound, no pictures, nothing), which apparently clocked in over 100,000 views after being served 227,819 times.
Solve played down these high engagement figures by pointing out that most of the views were inadvertent and probably tallied because users had the video open in the background or because they thought it was loading.
Adweek did, however, go on to say that this experiment illustrates that views, in isolation, should not be used to gauge the effectiveness of a campaign. And this is something that NZME's Hopwood agrees with, saying that shares and likes are a far better indication of the levels of engagement of a post or video.
This appears to be consistent with the 'Blank Video Project' in that the clip did not result in a single like or share throughout the entire period of the experiment.
Hopwood says that NZME used no paid media in order to generate the likes that the video achieved.
"They’re 100 percent organic," she says. "And for me this is a really important point because you hear so much said and written about how Facebook organic reach is dead and you can only deliver results on the platform through paid promotion but it just requires a shift in focus from thinking 'How can we pay more people to like our content' to be more around 'How can we create truly contagious content that audiences can’t wait to view and share'."
While still optimistic about the potential of Facebook to deliver organic reach, Hopwood does admit that it's become more difficult.
"It’s a tougher marketing environment on Facebook than before for two reasons: 1) there’s more content posted than ever before so breaking through that is the first challenge and 2) organic reach has declined so you’re only reaching between two to six percent of the people who like your page. So ... if your content offers a lean back and consume type of experience but doesn’t tap into people’s motivations to share and connect with each other then you’ve missed the potential that social graph and interest based networks offer which is the power to spread your content further and faster than you can through any other medium and in a more cost-effective way—if you get it right."
Hopwood says the life of the post was also extended further turning user comments on the post into a second round of satirical cow pictures.
"We spent hours reading through hilarious comments to find these," she says.
This post reached 600,000 people, resulted in 60,000 post clicks, 4,200 likes and 2,647 shares. And according to Hopwood, these aren't the only Hosking posts that have performed well thus far.
"The first piece of content we had that went viral happened a few months ago," she says. "It was around the news that New Zealand had become the first country to ban the sale of cosmetics that had been tested on animals. This post reached five million people – more than the entire population of New Zealand – with zero media spend. Since then the hits keep coming and the number of people who are engaging with Newstalk ZB content every month is growing exponentially."
Hopwood says the appeal of the Hosking Facebook page lies in its ability to catch the attention of viewers, even when it isn't the first channel to release a post or comment on something.
"In news you are competing in a sea of sameness – if news breaks, it breaks everywhere so we are constantly challenging ourselves to think what is the unique way we can tell this story and the value we can add that means we’re not just another source that’s clogging up audiences’ newsfeeds but really contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way. We’ve really worked on the visual identity and visual storytelling aspect of content. We know how much the aesthetics matter so spend time on getting that right. We’re not wedded to one particular style of content delivery, we think about what’s the best way to tell and deliver the story so you’ll see all forms of multi-media content on the page from memes, to quote cards, to videos to articles to photos to graphics and infographics."
And given that Hosking has a seemingly endless reserve of opinions, we will no doubt continue to hear more from him across pretty much every available media channel.
*Correction: this article previously said that the Facebook post was not original; only the copy had been used elsewhere.