How Sony PlayStation manages its 20-blog network

Voce Communications, which helps Sony manage its online presences, tries to bring everything back to the blog, because everything else is just rented space.


Sony’s PlayStation brand has a huge network of social presences, goals, and people—but it hasn’t always been that way, says Josh Hallett, director of Voce Communications. Working with Voce, Sony has built a well-oiled social media machine.

“Their entire program started five-and-a-half, six years ago, with one-quarter of one person’s job description being social media,” Hallett told an audience at Ragan Communications’ Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World Resort. “By having a plan and structure in place, executing that plan, and showing performance, they were able to scale that program over time.”

The engine of Sony’s social media machine is a network of about 20 blogs that update in dozens of languages and which have content directed to audiences worldwide. Each blog generates hundreds of pieces of content every week.

How does the PlayStation brand manage it all? With six P’s: planning, production, publishing, promotion, participation, and performance.

Planning

PlayStation maintains one huge editorial calendar for all its blogs, which editors and contributors can drill into for details on what’s coming in the next days or weeks. Editors have to find the sweet spot between what the company wants to promote and what customers are looking for, Hallett said.

“We have a very passionate fan base,” he said. “They want to hear the stories behind how these games are being developed.”

The blog’s editors and contributors mete out “episodic content” about upcoming games and new technologies, Hallett said. The team can have as many as 16 story arcs going at one time.

The plan can’t consist solely of blog posts, either. The team also has to work ahead to develop “content packs”—which include Facebook updates, tweets, photos, videos, and more—to post alongside blog updates. A color-coding system within the calendar lets editors know when every piece of a story is ready to post.

“It’s so easy to open an Excel spreadsheet and fill it with stuff, but the ability for people to deliver on that content is the real challenge,” Hallett said.

Production

Getting the content ready for consumption is the “unsexy part of the process, but it has to be done,” Hallett said. Coding, posting, tagging, and ensuring every asset is in the right place is essential, he said.

Creating the content has to be done in a specific way, too. When you have as many authors as PlayStation’s blog does—the bloggers include game developers as well as dedicated writers—it’s imperative you ensure that every post has a consistent voice. So Sony has developed meticulous style guides to make sure things stay consistent.

Publishing

PlayStation’s editorial team uses Yammer to make sure that when something cross-posts across its various blogs in regions all over the world, they all go up at the same time. If something goes up on one of the blogs before that same news appears on another blog, some segment of the audience will get mad. Yammer’s a way to keep everyone on the same page.

“We keep as much communication as we can out of email,” Hallett said.

He also noted that PlayStation’s blogs don’t follow a traditional blog format. The post a reader sees at the top of the page may not be the newest. It’s about priority. It’s a kind of magazine approach to a blog, Hallett said.

“We’re constantly resurfacing content,” he said.

Promotion

PlayStation has a built-in audience—millions of gamers view the blog every week—but that doesn’t mean the team can’t drum up additional attention.

Part of the equation is identifying what the most important stories are and promoting those. PlayStation does that through Facebook and Twitter, but it always directs people back to its blog. Social media content decays faster than blog posts, which are indexed, Hallett said.

“Ultimately, you’re renting the land you have on Facebook; you’re renting the land you have on Twitter,” he said.

While you’re renting, Hallett said, keep tweeting throughout the day. Don’t just stick to one time you heard is the best one to send messages.

Hallett advised creating content that’s “platform agnostic.” That way, you can slide photos, posts and videos you already have into new social media platforms as they gain popularity.

He also pointed to PlayStation’s syndicated content—dynamic links to blog posts that reside within boxes in informational pages on the PlayStation website. Not only do those links let people know about current news, they also help what would be static website pages become pages that search engines will pick up over and over.

Participation

PlayStation’s team doesn’t reply too often to tweets or Facebook posts, but the blog’s authors reply regularly to comments on their blog posts. To ensure those author replies don’t get lost in a long thread of comments, Sony developed a WordPress plugin to make author comments stand out from the rest.

“As soon as comment thread starts going negative, all we have to do is step in, correct the record or provide the fact we’re just listening, and that conversation turns around pretty quickly,” he said.

The comment sections are so robust that entire news articles have stemmed from comments, Hallett noted.

Performance

Simply looking at page views or unique visitors isn’t even close to measuring all the aspects of running a blog network like PlayStation’s, Hallett says. You have to look at all of these metrics:

  • Volume: the share of voice you’re getting
  • Tonality: how people talk about your brand when they mention it
  • Reach: how many people your content touches
  • Authority: whether readers take your content seriously
  • Frequency: how often content is published
  • Engagement: the amount of response from the audience
  • Participation: the amount of response from authors
  • Reflection: whether you’re representing the community in what you say
  • Responsiveness: how often your team replies to questions
  • Velocity: how quickly those responses come

Through that “micro-measurement,” as Hallett calls it, you can measure the big things: awareness, total engagement, conversions, and advocacy. You can even predict what’s coming.

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