Loïc Bommersbach is the Social Media Manager for CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. With over 2.5 million followers on Twitter, nearly 700,000 fans on Facebook and more than 450,000 followers on Instagram, Loïc works to reach a large audience all while staying true to CERN’s ideals and values. As social media stands today, content can be hard to get in front of your audience, so Loïc uses his creativity to publish content that is stronger than social media’s algorithms.
We had the opportunity to ask Loïc a few questions about his career and the session he’s presenting on Feb. 5 at the Social Media Strategies Summit, “Beyond KPIs: Measuring Success on Social Media, Learning from Your Analytics and Reaching Your Social Media Goals.” He will discuss the most relevant KPIs on social media in 2020, how to classify “engagement” on social media, and how to best use your budget on social media campaigns.
What is your definition of successful social media engagement?
On social media, there are many ways to measure success. But in my opinion it’s when you’re able to reach previously unreachable audiences, and your social media posts live outside your community. At CERN, we have had success with influencer marketing, working with influencers related to science so that, for example, a video related to CERN by a science YouTuber goes on to reach millions of viewers. We can also reach outside our community with “newsjacking”; for example, posting content linked to the cinema release of “geeky” movies. On a daily basis, I keep an eye on the engagement rate and the reach of our publications. We know the average of each of our KPIs, so we can see if a publication is successful or not and adapt future content accordingly.
Building community is an incredibly important but often difficult task given to social media marketers. How do you build community engagement and encourage discussion on CERN’s platforms?
At CERN, our particle physics research can sometimes be challenging to translate into social media posts. We try to mix “direct-from-the-lab” scientific content with posts of a lighter tone that play with words. We are also able to do a few live video productions each year. For example, in late October, we did our first ever 360° Facebook live, from the underground cavern of one of CERN’s major experiments. Our online community loves this sort of immersive experience. In addition, we had a partnership with a major science-related Facebook page who cross-posted our live event. This gave us ten times more viewers than our regular Facebook live productions.
Social-media lives are unique opportunities to engage directly with our online community. During these events, viewers post dozen of questions and we either have experts answering them on-screen during the live broadcast or in the written comments afterwards. Instagram has been another good way for us to engage and keep a strong link with our community, particularly using Instagram stories. These give us the opportunity to speak less formally and to be closer to our community. Our editorial line is to show “behind-the-scenes” of CERN, e.g., a picture or a video of an experiment, an engineer at work, a magnet moving, etc. Our audience really likes this kind of content and we get great levels of engagement. We have also tried to use user-generated content (UGC) created by some of the 150,000 visitors that come to CERN each year. Some UGC can be jewels to share on CERN’s Instagram stories and it gives our visitors a kind of reward: “You post about your trip to CERN and we care about it.”
How have you stayed in front of social media trends and changing algorithms during your career in the industry? Are there any constants that have held true?
I would say that the key is to have content that is great and impactful, and targeted to a specific audience. Quality instead of quantity is another mantra that we try to apply in our social media strategy.
To stay up-to-date, I spend a lot of time reading blogs as well as Twitter and Facebook groups, looking for new trends on social media. At CERN, if you come up with an innovative idea you are often able to pursue it; remember that the World Wide Web was created at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I also have the chance to be a lecturer for a Social Media course at a university in Paris. To be legitimate, I need to be as up-to-date as my students and be able to create content on Tik Tok, for example. Curiosity is the most important skill a social media manager should have!
Can you walk us through a day in the life in your role at CERN? Are there any must-have tools that you use regularly?
I start my day with an editorial meeting with my colleagues from web content, press office and other publications. The idea of this meeting is to scan all the content that we will publish over the day. Every Monday, we have a bigger meeting with all the people at CERN involved in one way or another with communications, we discuss the topics that will be published over the week or the month. At CERN, I spend a lot of time discussing with colleagues wanting to create a campaign on Twitter, open a CERN-related Instagram account…so I’d say one of the best skills that I recommend is the ability to drink a lot of coffee! Apart of this, we have a strategy to schedule as much content as we can, and monitor the content’s effectiveness using dedicated tools.
How have measurement and KPIs changed during the course of your career in the industry? What KPIs are important to focus on today?
A few years ago, when I started as a community manager, I remember my managers telling me that we have to increase the number of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook, whatever it takes (but I’d like to reassure you, we didn’t buy followers!). I’ve been an advocate for quality instead of quantity for years. Even if the changes of the algorithms or the API access to social media platforms by analytics tools is complicated to deal with, I’d say that the engagement rate of a particular post is more important to look at than the global numbers.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Having enough time to deal with the amazing content that we have here at CERN and working out how to promote the lab without spamming our audiences.
Do you think it’s more important to dedicate budget to paid advertising on social media or to invest in creative assets?
As the rules for the reach of paid advertising change so quickly, I recommend that you work with a creative digital native who can propose up-to-date Instagram stories, in line with your editorial line of the platform.
What’s something you wish you knew when you started in this industry?
The time needed to monitor, like and share on social media platforms! It is important to find ways to be close to your communities on each platform and this takes time. The temptation is to be online all the time, monitoring and liking influencer posts that mention CERN. Luckily, my three young children keep me busy offline!