Newsday’s “A Day in the Life of Long Island” project engages our audience in an authentic, unique, and meaningful way that involves them in our journalism. The initiative invites members of the community to share moments from their day across all social media platforms.

We took our first stab at this campaign on a small scale in 2016 and saw enough engagement that we decided to do it again in 2017 and 2018 — and we chose the longest day of the year, June 21. 

On June 21, 2017, A Day in the Life project took off with great responses from across Long Island and in our newsroom, and the results were measurable. Our goals were:

  • Engage with our social media audience in a meaningful way.
  • Create high-quality, local unique content for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and repurpose that content on the Web site.
  • Use a major planned event to train the entire newsroom ahead of time in social media, then have them apply those skills.
  • Build relationships with local social media influencers and incorporate them more into our ongoing work. 

We shared these goals and had lots of planning and brainstorming meetings. We also had the help of Instagram and Facebook, with representatives running on-site training sessions for our staff.

Members of the community were invited to share vibrant photos of their lives throughout the longest day of the year.
Members of the community were invited to share vibrant photos of their lives throughout the longest day of the year.

In 2017, the night before A Day in the Life launched, we hosted an event introducing our project to 40 local Instagram Influencers. The event featured visual storytelling advice from three professional photographers. The influencers were encouraged to contribute to the project by using the hashtag #DayInTheLifeLI and share moments from their own lives.

On the big day, more than 70 Newsday journalists posted from 100 locations, starting from 1 a.m. and going past midnight. We wound up doing 11 native posts on Instagram, with more than 20 Instagram Stories from our newsroom at times. We also did seven Facebook Live posts, two native videos on Facebook, and several photo and link posts. On Twitter, we mostly retweeted reporters and the public, which made for a colourful and visually engaging feed.

The results of the 2017 campaign were well worth the amount of time and resources that went into the project:

  • The hashtag #DayInTheLifeLI was used more than 1,500 times on Instagram. People are still using the hashtag today.
  • On Instagram, we had a total of 118,061 impressions, 1,866 engagements and 33,178 video views.
  • Week-over-week, we increased our Instagram impressions by 65,000, reach by 30,000, and added followers.
  • At the time, our main Instagram Story was our best with 1,257 views at peak.
  • Our digital interactive repurposing the content got 20,080 unique visitors, spending on average 3 minutes and 44 seconds, with 89% of uniques returning to see updates.
  • On Facebook, we reached 478,788 people, had 12,902 engagements, and 84,543 video views.
  • #DayInTheLifeLI was a national trend on Twitter.
  • Some of the influencers that were involved are now regular contributors. 

Along with the social and digital teams, reporters and editors posted to Instagram, live tweeted, posted to Facebook, contributed to our Facebook Lives, and were active on Snapchat.

We also learned that a project like this is great for camaraderie and morale. Many reporters and editors said this was their favourite project in 2017. When you get people excited about a project and give them a little bit of training and creative liberty, they’ll create great things.

Our audience enjoyed seeing ordinary people featured, not just the hot spots on Long Island. Planning and trying to anticipate what may happen pays off. For most people we covered, the day was ordinary. For others, we were able to catch significant life moments. For example, we planned in advance and were able to cover a birth and a funeral, so our coverage really ran the gamut of life on Long Island.

Mini-stories were more interesting than the one-offs. We had reporters who did a series of photos/videos at one place or followed someone over the course of the day. These were great for storytelling and provided more context.

Several other things made the project a success:

  • High-quality and artsy photos are important to make the project visually appealing. Not all photos will look professional, but it’s good to have a mix. Our newsroom training touched on how to take a good photo.
  • To do the project right, you need to devote a team — or in our case an entire newsroom — to it if you want the hashtag to take off.
  • Your metric for success for a project like this may not be what it usually is. Pay attention to engagement, brand awareness, people using the hashtag, and what people are saying about the project, whether people continue to use the hashtag even after the project is over (they did), time spent, people returning, etc.

A Day in the Life of Long Island was such a success, we plan to do it again, and apply some key improvements — for instance, spacing out content better. We were heavy with posts in the morning and early afternoon, which made it difficult to feature everything. We didn’t have enough at night. This applied across platforms.

We also ran into a few cases where it wasn’t clear if certain posts were from the day of the project, so next time we will be more specific and clear with the audience that we want photos taken that day.

Although the speakers at the event were excellent, we realised the event could have benefitted by having a more specific objective in mind. We also need to leave more time for the attendees to network.

When we were reaching out to influencers, we realised that people don’t really check their Instagram messages. That’s when we had to start tracking down phone numbers and e-mails.

Next time, we also might automate our live blog, since it was a heavy lift for one person.