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Jun 10, 2009
Case Study

Expand Social Features to Boost Engagement: 6 Steps to 33% Lift in Time Spent

SUMMARY: If your audience has responded favorably to social media elements on your website, it makes sense to offer additional ways to interact. Determining which features to launch, and when to add them, is another matter.

Find out how the marketing team for a Latin music and entertainment website tested and expanded the site’s social media features to increase visitor engagement. Time spent is up 33% on some portions of the site -- and registrations and impressions are up, too.

Batanga, a bilingual Latin music and entertainment website, had a primary audience of US Hispanics ages 15 to 44. The website’s revenue was mostly advertising based and included affiliate revenue from ring tone and music sales.

Shana Fitch, VP Marketing, wanted to pull more value from Batanga’s current audience. Increasing engagement and time spent on the site, she thought, would make the audience more valuable to advertisers. And she would not have to invest in acquiring costly website traffic.

To get Batanga’s audience to spend more time on the site, Fitch’s team considered giving its visitors more of the social media features in which they had already shown interest.

"We wanted to provide our consumers with various social media tools to have online conversations, knowing those conversations could take on several different forms -- such as commenting, CD reviews, picture uploads, song ratings, etc -- around the content on our site," says Fitch.

But Fitch’s team did not know if the audience would respond well to the expanded features, or be overwhelmed by changes. That meant testing the idea first.


The team had already created social elements that included:
o Hot or Not -- a user-generated photo gallery where the audience voted on the attractiveness of the picture’s subject
o Fanning -- users could express that they were a fan of content with a click
o Ratings -- users could also use a five-star system to rate content
o Chat: users could hold group discussions in real-time

The team decided to test new features and expanded capabilities gradually. They began by adding commenting capabilities on content pages. The results of that test would inform how they expanded Batanga’s social media features further in hopes of increasing time spent and the number of pages viewed on the site.

Here are six steps they took to test new social media features:

Step #1. Test commenting

Previously, Batanga did not have commenting capabilities on its content pages. The team added this feature to content, such as:
o Artist pages
o Videos
o Articles

The team let the feature run for about four months and monitored the results. By the amount of commenting they saw, and its growth over the test period, Fitch and her team decided that the community appeared receptive to additional social media features.

Step #2. Select new features

The team chose the following features to add to Batanga. Because of their bi-lingual audience, the team had to ensure that any new social media capability operated in both Spanish and English.

- Enhanced commenting, rating, reviewing

The team expanded comments or review capabilities to almost all the content on its site. User comments were added to:
o Member profiles
o Celebrity and user photos
o Articles
o Artist spotlight pages
o Albums
o Videos

- Enhanced photos

Batanga’s Hot or Not photo service was "exceptionally popular," Fitch says, so they kept it on the site and added the ability to comment on the photos.

The team also added the ability for users to upload galleries of their own photos to share with the community outside of the Hot or Not format.

- Personal profile page

The team created a user-profile feature to serve as the central location for all of a member’s content.

Users were allowed to add other community members as friends and message each other from these profiles. The pages also updated each user’s activity. These updates were shown on the following tabs:
o Home -- shows recently written comments, messages and reviews
o Music -- shows a user’s favorite radio stations, albums reviewed, song rated, and artists, videos
and radio stations they’re fans of
o Messages -- shows messages from friends (can only be viewed if you’re a user’s friend)
o Comments -- a tab specifically devoted to the comments a user has written
o Photos -- galleries of photos the user has uploaded

- Community widgets

The team also added widgets throughout the site that featured the most popular or commented on pieces of content. These widgets updated in real-time, based on the community’s aggregate actions.

Widgets included:
o Most commented on articles by section
o Most recommended articles
o Recently updated user profiles
o Recently uploaded photos
o Top radio stations

Note: Emphasizing the community’s value

Discovering, discussing and listening to Latin music is a big reason that many of Batanga’s visitors come to the site, Fitch says. Her team wanted the user profile’s "music" tab to give the audience a place to display their musical interests, and learn about the musical interests of others.

Step #3. Tweak old features

While making the changes, the team decided to update or remove some of Batanga’s older features. Here are the two most significant changes they made:

- Remove chat

The team stopped offering Batanga’s real-time community chat feature when the new social media features went live. The feature was difficult to monitor, Fitch says, and some members of the community were exploiting that vulnerability to share inappropriate content.

- Simplify rating system

Rating for the Hot or Not gallery went from a scale of 1 to 10 to a simple vote of ‘hot’ or ‘not.’

Step #4. Migrate data

The team had to migrate all existing user-generated content into the new platform. This would ensure that Batanga would not lose this valuable content, and that Batanga’s users would not be dismayed at the loss of content they had created.

Carrying over existing content was the biggest challenge of the campaign, Fitch says.

"It was a migration effort that went in stages and in batches. We definitely had a few hiccups there where we would have to rerun different phases where data was being migrated incorrectly."

Once the new features were launched, they had to be blended with the site’s older user-generated content and features to provide a seamless experience.

Step #5. Time official launch

The team was planning to launch a new homepage around the time they completed the new social features. They decided to separate the two launches to more easily monitor the results of each effort and to avoid confusing the data.

"We wanted to be able to quantify first the immediate impact of the community before launching the homepage," Fitch says.

Step #6. Launch and manage features

Since the team previously hosted social media features at Batanga, they already had a community manager to monitor the content coming in from users. When the team scaled up it social features, the community manager had more work to do.

Thankfully, the team had the right person for the job, Fitch says.

"I really think that the community manager has to understand, first and foremost, who the audience is. So in our case, our community manger is fully bilingual, he has a true sense for Latin music. He actually plays in a band himself."

The manager uses both automated and manual processes to ensure all user-generated content is in line with Batanga’s terms of service and code of conduct. He does not have a staff, and can quickly gauge the community’s response to changes to Batanga by monitoring the site’s comments.


"We launched on March 3rd. In our first week, when we launched our press release, we saw double digit growth in registrations," Fitch says.

After that initial spike, registration growth has normalized at about a 2% increase each month.

- From February to March the site saw the following increases in engagement metrics:
o 11% increase in US impressions served
o 33% increase in time spent on the community homepage
o 2% increase in page views per unique visitor

- More information on the audience

Aside from the positive impact on registrations and engagement, the new Batanga community gave Fitch’s team more insight into its audience. Users fill out their profiles with information on their location, hobbies, interests and lifestyle.

"It really gives us an opportunity to leverage this information for ourselves, and also for our advertisers so we can help them effectively segment and target their messages on our site."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative Samples from Batanga’s social media expansion campaign

How to Reach Millions of Hispanic Business Owners, Professionals

Pluck: Platform used to add Batanga’s new social features


See Also:

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