The response was immediate and emotional. The September 2016 ranking by TheSocReports of the best meteorologists using social media generated a flood of feedback about the weather influencers who made (and did not make) the top 100. After a month, the conversation has died down, but a phone call last week from David Tolleris of WxRisk.com reminded me that it remains a touchy subject. He specializes in forecasting the weather for grain traders.
Tolleris told me the list was “bothersome and offensive” because we “missed the whole point of social media in that you don’t have to be on TV to use it well.” The Wxrisk.com Facebook Page, which Tolleris manages, has an enormous following (172K+ Page Likes) so I don’t blame his skepticism about being overlooked. But he misunderstood the criteria in suggesting that we singled out TV meteorologists and overlooked others “in order to get on TV.” Sorry, David, no.
The truth is in the data
There are many notable, respected meteorologists who work behind the scenes protecting the public. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t considered. They just didn’t make the cut.
This was not a beauty contest; it was project based on data analysis. The list is intended to showcase the top 100 in meteorology who have best leveraged social media. It’s not an endorsement of their forecast accuracy or education. That’s beyond our expertise. But we do know a lot about social media and how to gain quality followers and engagement. Without question, the best 100 know what they’re doing when it comes to using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our duty is to make sure everyone in the profession is measured with the same yardstick.
What happened when we included more non-TV meteorologists in our sample
Meteorology is a relatively small, tight-knit profession. Yet it’s possible TheSocReports had missed someone with a lower profile. So we asked for names. Some were volunteered on Twitter. Dr. Marshall Shepherd, director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia and past president of the American Meteorological Society, formed his own focus group of 16 weather experts who offered more names worthy of consideration. Through this discovery, 51 meteorologists came to our attention. All but 15 met the minimum qualifications on engagement. That meant 36 non-TV meteorologists had the chance to break into the top 100.
After updating the analysis, none did. A prolific tweeter more than 17,000 Twitter followers, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution and contributor to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, Ian Livingston, ranked highest of the group at #133. It’s worth noting that the Washington Post website refers to Livingston as a “forecaster” who is “self-educated” in meteorology. Take a stroll through Ian’s Twitter feed, and his passion for and knowledge of weather are unmistakable. We chose not to split hairs over his credentials. His peers offered him up and that’s validation enough. Other honorable mentions from the world outside TV news: Joe Bastardi (#196), Marshall Shepherd (#203), Levi Cowan (#225), (the aforementioned) David Tolleris (#240) and Stu Ostro (#303).
How the top meteorologists earned it
We can learn much from this elite group:
1. Embrace Instagram
One of the reasons that television meteorologists fared so well in the ranking is that our methodology intentionally favors those who are well-rounded users of social media, meaning they just don’t focus on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. They use all three in a robust way. Most companies don’t view Instagram as a key part of their social media strategy because it’s of little use in generating referral web traffic because links aren’t allowed (except in a person’s profile). Yet those savvy in social media know that Instagram, and also Snapchat, is an absolute necessity in reaching millennials. While we didn’t include Snapchat in the ranking, it’s obvious many of the top mets are there already.
The top ten most active meteorologists on Instagram
2. Commit to posting all the time. Literally.
Social media never sleeps. It doesn’t mean you can’t, but with any one of the many social media scheduling tools out there, you can maximize your reach. TheSocReports finds that for most users, evenings are the most productive time to connect with your audience. Twitter is like a parade. You turn away, you likely miss the post. These pros understand that — and do their best to perform to a packed house. The best take full advantage of social media at all hours — not just during the workday. Weekends too.
The top ten most active meteorologists on Twitter
3. Treat your audience like a friend
Too many people using social media think it’s a giant megaphone. They’re so busy promoting themselves or their companies that they don’t take time to listen. Big mistake. Social media is a conversation – and the best regard the social space as one big party. Every day is an opportunity to make a friend.
The top ten meteorologists at Twitter conversation
4. Share links to deeper content (whether yours or someone else’s)
Freely share what you discover to be outstanding. The best use social media to enlighten the audience, give voice to someone who’s not been heard, look at life in a different way. A feed full of strong visual content separates the best from the rest. Sharing links to deeper content signals a real thinker — and thus, someone who’s interesting to be around. Autopost links from Facebook or Instagram don’t count. Overall, too many meteorologists simply upload the same maps we see on TV. Boring.
The top ten meteorologists at creating and sharing web content
The ones who made the top 100 list do a little bit of everything very well. So, again, our hats off to you. And thanks again to everyone who provided feedback. We’re better prepared for taking on this social media data challenge in 2017.
TheSocReports believes social media isn’t an art. It’s science. Like a meteorologist tracks the weather, we monitor trends and data in social media. TheSocReports analyzes performance and metrics, compares users to their defined competitors, provides tips, education and suggestions based on activity and inspiration. TheSocReports empowers customers through a blend of personal training and data science to help them succeed in social media by seeing what they’re doing and avoid the risk of a marginal online presence.
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