When you hear about the digitization of magazines, the first thing that comes to mind is a digital version of a print issue–reading hard-copy content online, on a smartphone or a tablet. But, as we’ve explained in two earlier posts on the subject, magazines’ digital efforts go well beyond this traditional, literal translation. In our recently-released Digital IQ Index: Magazines report, researchers discovered that digital brand-building was perhaps most effective through social media channels. It was magazines’ presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms that really separated the savvy from the struggling.

 

Among the best-performing integrated social media strategies is Rolling Stone’s (ranked 18th and “Gifted” in this year’s Digital IQ Index), which garnered big success with its #RSFest hashtag, launched last December in conjunction with its eponymous music festival. If you look at the chart below, the hashtag (and all its associated contests) drove daily Twitter growth by as much as 500 percent. Even more impressive, though, was the account’s ability to maintain the increased number of followers after the festival had ended. People came for the free tickets, but they ended up staying permanently–a testament to Rolling Stone‘s engaging Twitter content.

 

 

Instead of resting on its #RSFest laurels, Rolling Stone did something shortly after that would ensure not just a bigger Twitter following but a bigger following on Facebook and Instagram as well. In April, just prior to the Coachella music festival, the magazine introduced what it called a “social networking hub” that would serve as an engagement tool between fans of the magazine and its official social network accounts. By tagging posts, photos and Tweets with #RSFans, Rolling Stone could aggregate fan-generated content relating to every festival, concert, album release, awards show and any other music event, year-round, on the magazine’s official RSFans site. In essence, Rolling Stone had created a streamlined and permanent conversation between its staff and fans across three social networks. Of the 80 magazines included in the Index, Rolling Stone has the second biggest Instagram following (behind Teen Vogue), a direct result of the #RSFans initiative.

 

 

As a magazine with a long history of engaging directly with its readers (they were the first publication to allow fans to select a cover), that Rolling Stone has built much of its web presence and success through fans is no surprise. That they do it so well, also no surprise.

 

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