Covering the Alaska earthquake, best practices

Days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit south-central Alaska, hundreds of aftershocks continued to roll through the state. As officials worked to restore infrastructure in the community, Gray Television station KTUU worked...

Days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit south-central Alaska, hundreds of aftershocks continued to roll through the state. As officials worked to restore infrastructure in the community, Gray Television station KTUU worked to spread life-saving information by whatever means necessary. And as is the case in so many natural disasters, social media has emerged as one of the best ways to do it.

Most Engaging Stories

KTUU uses SND Dashboard to publish and monitor social media. By using the SND metrics tool Post Manager, we can easily see what stories have been most successful over the past few days by order of any core metric. In this case we’re looking at overall Engagement.

We notice right away that the top stories in this list include several Facebook Live events, which is a tool the station has had to lean on heavily this week as the area repairs extensive damage. Without it they wouldn’t have been able to broadcast at all after the quake knocked out the newsroom’s ability to broadcast on Friday.

Now notice the other non-video posts. The first Link style post is written in a way that is conversational and approachable. You only have the first few words to pull a reader in, and if you ask them a question as you might as a question of the person next to you, “Did you feel that!?”, you can capture your users’ attention.

Take a look at the Share stats for that post below; it’s the post in the darker column in the middle:

Right there in the middle…

The “Did you feel that!?” tsunami warning post got more Share engagements by far than the live video post that covered the initial earthquake. Yes, a tsunami warning is something one shares with others quite easily, but being conversational about the post style is the spirit of the medium. Be conversational, be genuine, be accessible.

Notice the second Link post that starts with an amazing stat, and the final post that starts with a pull-quote. These techniques are also common ways to approach a Facebook post in a way that will capture your audience. The stats quote is very appropriate for a story that includes a map; this technique is also handy for graphs or any other story that is “number heavy.” Find the most impressive number, put it in the post, and get people talking. And the pull-quote is an excellent way to pique curiosity about a profile story.

The Competition

Using the SND Dashboard Top Ten tool we can see that the top two stories in the market at the time of this writing are essentially the same. They’re both about aftershocks, and they both tease a map showing aftershock locations.

But look at that post style… Isn’t the KTUU post so much more conversational? Approachable? And it’s just plain interesting, presenting the facts in a way you can understand and in context. The headlines are essentially the same (considering that they were posted two hours apart so the numbers are updated), but the KTUU post text is way more approachable.

Here’s another fine example of pulling readers into a personal story from the Anchorage Daily News:


Overall, much credit is owed to KTUU‘s great work. Notice how the entire market’s Actions Per Post stats jumped in the wake of the quake. KTUU‘s engagement came out on top even though they don’t have the most page likes. This shot of the SND Score widget shows that having the most likes doesn’t help much if you can’t engage with your users.

Our hearts and all of our well wishes are with the journalists documenting this event and helping their communities in the aftermath. Please be safe out there, and if you have any questions about what Social News Desk can do for you, shoot us a message at, or find us on your favorite social media platform.

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