lauren katz

"Colder than a witch's fisteras."

Everyone is talking about the Polar Vortex. See what NPR has to say about one of the coldest days of the year: 

(Today also happens to be my first day as an intern on the social media desk. I’m excited to be here, but I’m also happy to be indoors generally with these frigid temperatures. Follow me on Twitter to find out if I turn into an icicle on my way home.)

Social Media Platforms: A Guide

Hi, I’m Laurenthe Social Media Desk’s intern. I’ve learned quite a bit in my brief stay here. So Wright and Mel encouraged me to share some of my experiences with you.

Much of my time is devoted to curating posts for the main NPR Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. (I have an overwhelming number of tabs open at any given time.) I also work with shows and desks around the building to socialize special projects and answer questions about their personal accounts.

Over the last three months, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of NPR’s main social media platforms through experimentation. (Note: the NPR’s Visuals Team curates the NPR Instagram account.) Here’s some of what I’ve learned about the different kinds of engagement and user behaviors we see on each platform.


Facebook users tend to be the most vocal. Posts can have thousands of comments, running from crass to heartfelt to humorous. For every negative comment, there is an equally witty or thoughtful person to balance out the space. The more controversial the story, the higher the user engagement will be

Self-policing is common practice. When someone makes a negative comment, another person swoops in to defend the other side. Users are comfortable defending each other and standing up for their ideas.  

While sharing is the order of the day on Facebook, a great image or quote helps a link go further.

Here’s an example of a quote from Tim Gunn’s interview on Fresh Air that we posted to Facebook. The post got over 8,000 likes and was shared more than 1,000 times. It’s a fun quote, and it’s easier for people to parse instead of a generic text teaser.


The Tumblr set up does not provide the same space for comments. Individual voices are expressed through reblogging the post rather than a written comment. A successful post with 250 notes could have as few as one or two comments with full sentences. Photos work the best, and links are the least popular. 

I wrote an original, short Tumblr post about black bears in Vermont. I thought it was a note-worthy story, but the source didn’t provide an image. In an effort to make the post go as far as possible, I searched in Tumblr for a photo of a black bear. I reblogged the photo from another Tumblr into the NPR account, added my text and voila – the post instantly became more appealing, and we’ve reached a wider audience. 


It is easy for something to get buried in a flurry of tweets. This constant stream makes Twitter the least attractive platform for promotion, and best for engagement. When there’s something we’d like to push, we create a hashtag and schedule multiple tweets to reach the widest possible audience.

Our visuals team worked with NPR reporter Nathan Rott and NPR photographer David Gilkey to create an app with their reporting on the controversy surrounding wolves in Montana. We selected facts about wolves and tweeted them throughout the day with a picture, a link to the app and the hashtag WOLFFACT. Doing so increased the audience, and the hashtag allows people to find the story again easily.


With 70 million users, Pinterest holds an incredible amount of potential. Pinterest particularly lends itself to content like food, travel and headlines (in the form of images from NPR’s quote tool.) NPR’s account also provides a space where GIFs and Tiny Desk Concerts can live and be easily accessed. 

The bottom line is that each platform reaches a different audience. It is important to understand the typical users of each platform, as well as NPR consumers in general.

As far as comments go, haters gonna hate.

Varying points of view are welcomed and encouraged to create interesting discussions, of course, but some people are just mean. I learned quickly that a thick skin is key when you work in a digital space. Stay positive, engage the right audience and know your platforms.

Tweet, Tweet And Tweet Some More

The @nprnews Twitter feed is an automated RSS feed. I recently created Twitter lists covering a number of our desks, and we’ve actively been retweeting people across the newsroom in an effort to hear the news from a human voice.

Is this effective? Yes. Should we be doing it more frequently? Probably. 

Last night, I looked at Twitter and Facebook analytics to see which stories from NPR news had done the best during the day. Based on that information, I scheduled tweets throughout the night that talked about the piece in a new way. This could be a fact, a quote, or a different headline. The engagement was almost always higher when the tweet came from a human voice. 

Here’s an example with a Sandwich Monday post from the Salt. The first screenshot is the automated tweet, with 8 retweets and 12 favorites. In the second tweet, I pulled a quote from the piece, selected the photo and tagged the Salt’s Twitter handle. This tweet received 59 retweets and 86 favorites. 

Here’s another example, this time with a story about the melting Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

So what can we learn from this? Writing multiple Tweets is a great way to share content more than once. The people on Twitter at 9:00 am might be different than the people at 1:00 am. Creating tweets also allows us to include the names of reporters and blogs, which will help to increase audiences beyond the main NPR news account. 

If you spend just 10 minutes scheduling three or four tweets throughout the day about the one story, you will instantly multiply the potential audience. 


Tweets By The People, For The People

Good afternoon! For one week starting today, we’re turning off the automated Twitter feed for @NPRnews on Monday through Friday during business hours. The experiment is an effort to determine what makes our audience engage with and share our content. Based on earlier analysis, we wanted to try this for a longer period of time. We’ll write up our findings at the end of the week. 

Here are some of the responses we’ve received so far: 

Lauren Katz

NPR Is On Pinterest. Here’s Why. 

NPR doesn’t just live on the radio. We have a lot of visual content and that material needs a place to live. Enter NPRpins, NPR’s Pinterest account.

Pinterest is an online community that allows users to collect their favorite material as well as discover new interests. Active “pinners” curate their findings on personalized, categorized boards.

Here are a few of the ways that NPR is using Pinterest:

Quotables: Our quote tool allows us to effectively share important stories that might not have a strong visual element.  

GIFs: The NPR VIZ team has been creating more GIFs for stories lately. The music team also creates GIFs from their Tiny Desk Concert series. Our GIFs can now be found both on and our new page, as well as Pinterest. 

Charts and InfographicsSimilar to quotables, the high-quality charts and graphics made by our VIZ team communicate the heart of some stories in a way that’s highly shareable. 

As I’ve said before, people want to share images. Pinterest not only allows all of our content to exist in one space in a shareable, accessible form, but provides the opportunity to reach a different group of people and potentially expand our digital audience. 

Update: It can be tough for our small team to find the time to keep all of our boards up-to-date. To combat this, we look to the newsroom to take control of their content-specific boards. This not only helps us focus on other platforms and projects but allows shows, desks and individual reporters to take ownership of an online space.

People enjoy hearing the news from another human. We encourage people across the newsroom to build up their individual online presences, find out the social spaces where people are discussing their content and then enter that space. 

The idea is that the reporter could have the highest engagement by focusing their energy in one place, so it’s important to be aware of where a particular audience tends to be online. 


[Social Sandbox] 'Follow button' And A Plug For Pinterest

Good afternoon! 

There’s been some confusion across our newsroom about how to handle Facebook friend requests from strangers. If you’re posting personal information online, it’s best to keep your network private. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with these requests. 

One option is to create a new, professional Facebook account. A less time-consuming alternative is to turn on the “follow” button. This allows anyone on Facebook to see certain posts without being your friend. Every time you post something, you can choose who can see the post. 

To turn on this feature, go to Click on the green “follow” button and adjust the settings. (See below.) 

Outside the building…New York Magazine wrote an article about the growing value of Pinterest.

“There are now more than 30 billion (with a B) pins on Pinterest, half of which have been added in the last six months, according to the company.”

We’ve seen a steady growth in followers and traffic since our new and improved Pinterest account, NPRpins. (ICYMI: Here’s why we’re on Pinterest.)

Lauren Katz