Case Study – emel Magazine

Robi’s social media journey at emel Magazine


emel Magazine had begun its social media journey sometime around June 2007 when they launched the first group on Facebook.

The group was run by a number of members of staff at emel (namely some of the editorial team, whenever they had the time) and during then, there had been no full-time Web Editor within the company.

It was when I had arrived in December 2008 as an editorial intern that I discovered the overall web presence had been severely lacking for an international magazine brand. When I enquired over why this was the case, I was informed that they had a full content website which was ready to go but they had no drivers to run the project.

At the time, one of the overarching ethos of the brand had been that the print magazine came first; the online presence would be used solely just to market the magazine and refer people to subscribe to the published edition.

I began to carry out various forms of research to highlight the importance of investing some time and money into social media. By the beginning of 2008, Facebook had already started booming and there was a mad rush to join Twitter at that point too.

The research I was carrying out involved studying how other magazine brands were using online spaces, and how the mainstream public was using social media. Some were using it within a professional capacity and it was a highly useful event management tool, others were using it as a communication tool.

I realised that our international brand (Despite having a global audience spanning over 60 different countries worldwide at the time) knew hardly anything about our readers.

It was at this point when the realisation dawned on me that I had been sitting on the golden eggs all along.

I began to create a number of contingency plans and strategies that would see emel use Facebook as a means of beginning a conversation. We would use our new Facebook page (that I created around June 2008) to build a large following. We would then expose our brand through a variety of mediums to this large group of people we had on the page.

The initial stage was exporting our existing base of around 1000 followers from our group to the page.  After that, we began to push our online content onto Facebook on a daily basis (which would encourage sharing stories and develop the viral traction of the brand). Whilst all this was happening, Facebook had changed the tools and page settings a number of times.

I created a series of milestones where we said that when we reached 5000 followers, we would do a giveaway. This proved to be very popular.

The next stage was to begin our blogging journey. Around August 2008, I established the emel blog. We created a number of accounts for our various editorial team staff members, and had begun to blog about events that were taking place within the office, such as fashion and food photo-shoots.

The idea of the blog was that it was a creative space where the emel team could highlight how the magazine was created from the inception of ideas, to team meeetings, as well as how the designers came out with visual concepts. It was an intimate behind the scenes look into the magazine.  This again proved to be very popular with our readers and we were reaching high levels of interaction with our readers when we began to ask them for advice and feedback on other stories.

The number of followers had grown exponentially. The next stage of the plan was to invest some money into targeted Facebook advertising. I spent over four weeks studying that and speaking to a number of social media marketers who all had different perspectives and success stories. In the end, we set out a small budget and began to publish our adverts encouraging people to join our Facebook page.

The budgets to begin with were very small. We had a huge market and we could afford to spend a small amount in order to get a set amount of new followers per day. In the beginning, after publishing one advert, we achieved to get 100 followers in one day. We understood that the way the Facebook platform had been built, when a user joins a page, it’s displayed in their newsfeed and other friends can see. This viral element helped us out a lot as we would get 50 extra followers from every 100 newcomers.

With the success of our Facebook campaigns, our publisher increased our marketing budget for social media. Eventually we began to get over 1000 people join our page every day from various parts of the world. As part of a new social media strategy, we began to post more frequently and at different times so that each post would hit different time zones.

From an advertising perspective, we began to get calls from other brands that wanted to offer us giveaways in exchange for a mention of their page or site on one of our Facebook posts.

Late last year, we hosted our first house party at our headquarters. We advertised the party on our page and I then streamed the event live onto our Facebook page where our large following of over 60,000 people watched. It was a huge experiment for me, to try and assess how tricky it would be to do such a thing.

We found that one of the most frequently asked questions on our page had been where people could get hold of the magazine. Because we had created this global page of followers, our brand was no longer spanning 60 countries. The number had grown. Our international subscription rates were quite expensive for some, and we felt that users had begun to turn away.

The decision was then made (after much research) that we should start publishing the magazine digitally so people will be able to purchase a copy from anywhere around the world.

The first digital issue of emel was launched in July 2008 and there are now over 124,000 followers on the Facebook page and growing.

The mistake a lot of brands make is that they spread themselves thinly over a large number of social media platforms and then fail to engage the reach substantially. With the number of people arriving on our page every day, we had no choice by to interact with them every day and offer them a platform for conversation (which was our primary objective anyway).

I liken the social media experience to a medieval village square. It’s where you had to go to in order to hear about births, deaths and weddings.

The global courtyard has much to offer those who are prepared to listen and engage.