Recently, Oktopost had the great pleasure of sitting down with Matt Navarra, Community Director for the tech blog TheNextWeb. Matt walked us through what he does on a daily basis, as well as offering us best practices on how to maximize your social media presence.

If you are a social media marketer, or just a social media citizen in general, this interview will really give you great insight into leveraging all aspects of social in order to build a following and bring traffic to your site.

You can listen to the full interview here and read it below.

Oktopost: How did you end up becoming the community director for The Next Web?

Matt Navarra: Actually did my degree in a quite unrelated field. I did a Business Degree in Bristol, England; and then I graduated and got a job working for a bank, of all places, in London – it was rather boring, dry and dull; and quite quickly within that job I decided that I didn’t like a lot of the things that I was there to be doing, so I kind of pushed myself towards doing marketing.

Oktopost: What are your primary duties at TheNextWeb?

Matt Navarra: Primary duties to The Next Web are to really generate awareness and engagement with The Next Web blog and the brand of The Next Web. My role is not only doing things like publishing or socializing the contents that The Next Web blog produces every minute of every day, but also it is also to generate awareness and promote and get more people to come to the conferences.

It is about engaging, obviously, social media with our audience to find out what they are up to, what they are interested in and asking their opinion of things. It is also about optimizing the website, so we are looking how we can use a different new social media tools to increase the amounts of engagement we are getting – to develop a social media presence for The Next Web as whole, thinking up different promotions and strategies to generate more interest. It is also working with different partners and organizations to see how we can work together to grow the business.

So, it is quite a wide range-but I would say that a large part of my day is trying to find what content we ‘ve got that we can share which people really love and want to share and want to engage with us on, which in turn then people love and enjoy which is what we want to do.

I look after the all the social channels; right now there are over three million followers across all the social networks – so it is pretty busy.

Oktopost: how have you managed to build such a large social community?

Matt Navarra: Well, I can’t take the whole credit for that – I wish I could, because when I joined The Next Web, The Next Web was very established and very popular already and so a lot of it – its numbers, its following – it was already there.

It (growing a social community) is really kind of same as any kind of social media manager – it’s picking the right content at the right time for the right platforms and thinking up the most creative and interesting ways for the content to be presented on those channels. And it is also making sure that you are engaging with the right people – the people that want to know more or likely to kind of share more content. You want to spend more time focusing on those people, because those are the people who can help you reach others that haven’t heard of The Next Web blog and The Next Web in general and it is using variety of tools.

It is hard to single out to one specific action or strategy – it is the combination of factors and combining that together with the great content that guides to The Next Web right. And the brand itself-it is fun and edgy brand and it makes my job a little bit easier, but it can take time to grow a following, but you do have spurts when you have a big hit.

Oktopost: What percentage of your work is on content distribution compared to engaging with influencers and things like that?

Matt Navarra: The majority of is what I tend to call socializing the content, promoting the content on a different channels that we have because, ultimately, that is what generates awareness of the story and more reads of the story and more clicks through to The Next Web. So, it is important part of the overall strategy.

It is very easy to get into the habit of just worrying about posting and posting and posting and using different tools and analyzing different dates and stuff and forgetting the point that the social media needs to be social and to engage.

And also, we do a lot of things like running polls and then asking people opinions on things and collating kind of those responses. So yes, it is a large part it, distribution of the content but we do have a variety of ways, means and tools to do some of that automatically, but I am not a fan of automation of content, because it feels very unnatural and that is not what this is about

Oktopost: I would love to get your insight on your best practices for each of those platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

Matt Navarra: Well, Facebook, for me, is the hardest social network in many ways to be great on and the reason why I say that is that the algorithm that Facebook has is so much more sophisticated than other social networks – it is a bit of an enigma. It is a bit of a mystery as to what factors you can play with will make sure that a piece of content will do well

On Facebook, it is really important to make sure that you are posting the content that you know your readers on your fan page will like. Because if you post things that don’t resonate with people, that people don’t engage in (engage – I mean comment, like, share and obviously click through it as well); then you are only making it harder because you are only reducing what is known as a edgerank of the page.

If you are posting several pieces of content to your Facebook page and it is not doing well; it is not getting much engagement – then you are kind of slowing down the growth rate of the page. So, it is picking the right content; there is somewhat a bit of an art to that; and it is based partly on intuition, partly on what has done well in the past and also looking what other pages that are similar to yours – what has been success on that page – it may happen that fans on your page will like that as well.

Some of the obvious things that I try to tell to team here is to keep the status updates they write to go with our posts quite short, and if you are doing a link post for example and previews of link – the title is already showing, you don’t need to restate the title again because you are just duplicating what is already there.

Our status updates don’t tend to post particularly long; anything that is more than half sentence to two sentences is too much – keep it quite tight. We also like things like using quotes as the line that goes with post tends to be quite successful. We also try to make variation of the post between the photos and link posts. There used to be a time when you could post just status updates with no images and no videos and they used to get a huge amount of reach on Facebook, but since that change that has been made earlier this year or a last year, that doesn’t happen so much now. The biggest great gain that you can make on Facebook is to upload a video content into Facebook rather than link it onto YouTube – the video content in the Facebook eco-system tends to get huge amount more reach more than it used to.

One thing I noticed recently which is a bit random and rather topical, was the use of the #worldcup hashtag on the Facebook. It drove a crazy amount of reach and engagement. This is odd because Facebook, in my opinion, hasn’t done particularly well at implementing hashtags, and normally, they do not generate a significant amount of extra reach or engagement for us.

LinkedIn is something that The Next Web uses with the kind of the light touch because we haven’t had huge amounts of traffic from it, and actually we have seen a decline in the amount of the traffic that we had from LinkedIn over the last 6-12 months and there could be a number of reasons why that is.

We did have a group, but again it can take a lot of the time to develop groups on LinkedIn and they do require a lot of dedication to keep them going because it is quite a long, ongoing conversation. So yes, LinkedIn is tricky but I wouldn’t say we spend a great deal of the time because of that lack of traffic that we get from it. We have to focus our energies on the areas where we know we get more bang for our buck, if you like.

Twitter – there are so many things in the last 6-12 months that you can do with Twitter. Particularly, things like in fact now you can upload the gifs to your tweets and the fact that images are becoming ever more popular and useful on Twitter with the fact that they now show in line with tweets. So adding an image to your tweet, where it’s relevant and adds value to your tweet – it is really good practice.

If you add the image of the good landscape that relates to the story, or the person, or the product that you are talking about- or if it’s a good graphic that doesn’t have a loads of the data and writing, but just pure big numbers, big sentences, a nice graphic on there – that kind of adds to the piece.

Try to make sure that your tweets are nice and tight and so try to say everything that you have to say in that little number of words, fewest words as possible. Those are just some general points with Twitter.

Google Plus is an interesting one, because we have 1.7 million people who have us in their circles, compared to our Facebook page where we have 360k page-likes. Yet, on our Facebook page we get probably 10 times as much as traffic back from Facebook with that smaller number of page likes, versus where we have that huge number of people who follow us on Google Plus.

Google Plus has a different kind of the relevance because it has that link to the Google clearly, in terms of SEO and the fact that a lot of the tools and all the other elements that have to do with the Google authorship – they are all tied into that kind of Google Plus platform.

There are some things on Google Plus you can do a lot better on Google Plus than you can do on Facebook; and one of those is the fact that the image editing and the fact that you can have gifs that ran and give you display that is really well in the Google Plus leads itself that they are doing more with the images, with the video content and being a bit of more artistic and creative in that respect. And also, now people on Google Plus, in my experience, have been a little bit more of a technical audience – they are much savvier than other followers are so we have longer and detailed posts without the link preview.

Oktopost: Is there any sort of automation in terms of what is posted that you do or is it everything manually?

Matt Navarra: Don’t get me wrong – automation has its place in it and there is a lot of value in it particularly for small businesses or individuals, start-ups, and also larger organization such as The Next Web.

When we publish a new story, our CMS, which is based on WordPress platform, will automatically tweet the story with the social title that we will put in, which is something different than main title of the page post – it will automatically tweet that social title with the URL and the author the second they hit ‘publish.’ So that is the pure automation.

I am bit of control freak. I like to have that ability to tweak it; present in the form that I want and there are the tools that can do a lot of that for you and still kind of automate some of it for you. There is a place for it and we may do more of it, but the only put place where we do heavy automation at this time is our LinkedIn page.

Obviously, when we do scheduled things we want to re-promote the content. There is still a lot of manual elements with choosing, maybe, variations of the story or different ways of presenting the story with the titles which is, quite again, the common practice to see the same story phrased in the number of different ways by a lots of different news organizations.

Oktopost: Do you exclusively post The Next Web content or you are curating the content from across the web that you find to be relevant to your community as well?

Matt Navarra: Most of the time, but there are two parts of answer to this question really…On The Next Web blog we do syndicate content, so you will find on The Next Web that there are…It is small percentage of the title content – but there are some posts which in previously published originally by other blogs; we syndicate some of the stuff that Buffer App blog posts, because they have some amazing content and our audience very much likes that kind of the stuff.

So we do things like that, and sometimes we find interesting infographic or the video that doesn’t have to be funny – it can be serious thing as well. We might upload that to our pages and credit back to the original source. But a lot of stuff on our channel tends to be content from The Next Web blog, because ultimately, we are trying to generate traffic, which in turns generates revenue for us as a business.

Oktopost: Last question – Where do you see social media going in the next five years?

Matt Navarra: Well, we have seen in the last couple of years, more than ever, convergence of the social networks where each of the social networks has its own identity and it is kind of unique property that makes it what it is. Twitter, with its 140 characters, and Facebook because it kind of rebuilds friendships and keeps those relationships, that you have with a close friends and family going and all those sorts of things.

But they also have a lot of the things where they copy each other really, like in the cover image is a classic example. When you look at most of the profile pages within the social networks, they all look very similar because they count on the fact that that works in the terms of the style formatting, and the cover images. I think that there will be a lot of more convergence.

We have seen this year the fact that the Google and its purchase, its acquiring of Nest and the development of these kind of different hardware pieces, where you can control your home and your car and other things by using your Smart Phone. I am just curious how the social networks are going to build on top of that and into that. Can we imagine in 2-3-4 years time where maybe you schedule a party on the Facebook and you book the party and you kind of create the events and invite your friends to it and then they say yes they are coming, and then that feeds the information into your fridge so that your fridge knows how much food and drink you are going to need. Therefore, it sends you notification saying “Hey you got a party!” you scheduled it on Facebook and 74 people said that they are coming and you got four beers, so you guys need to buy more beers.

I am fascinated to see if there is anything that happens with that. I think Google Plus is going to make some dramatic shifts in this year or the next year. As it stands, it is just kind a bit of a vague entity that kind of attracts a techie type of people as a social network, in my opinion, or people are real Google fans. You get a lot of Google kind of evangelists on the platform. So I can see that Google Plus will have to evolve quite dramatically if it wants to stay kind of direct to comparative rival to Facebook, but I am not totally convinced that it is trying to be, or wants to be, Facebook.

There are only 20-30% of people in the certain age groups that use it to get their news and information from, and we can see that Twitter and Facebook are really pushing hard, more than ever, to become the destination of choice to get news, to share news, to find news – rather than you going directly to a newspaper website or going to some resource where there is news getting from those platforms. I can see the changes in their platforms to make that more of a hub for entertainment, for news – so you go there for all of that and not just techie social gigs like me or the young crowd, or the people that we think that only want to use it but more mainstream.

Oktopost: Matt, thank you so much for joining us today! Why don’t you tell our audience how they can find you guys on a web and on social channels?

Matt Navarra: Sure. Well, The Next Web is and Facebook – it is pretty straightforward stuff with us – and Twitter is the same –, and if you go to our website you will find all of the social connections that are at the top of the page. If anyone wants to ask me any specific questions or engaging chats to me or get any idea or tips, I am more than happy, by all means than find me on Twitter and my Twitter handle is @MattNavarraUK. I am sure that you‘ll find how to spell that if you search – it is pretty much everywhere.