What was the last news story you shared over social media with your personal network? There is a good chance the story was about a topic local to you and your hometown. NPR has become one of the first news organizations to embrace the power of local content in their digital strategy by using the Geo-targeting tool in Facebook. Geo-targeting is a simple tool that allows organizations to denote content that will only appear to fans in a chosen city or state.

In the fall of 2011, the National Public Radio (NPR) Digital Services team hypothesized that readers would be more likely to engage with locally relevant content, and to test this theory they began targeting stories generated by Seattle NPR-affiliate station KPLU-FM to the Seattle area.

Over the next few months their hypothesis was confirmed as Geo-targeted posts were six times more successful than posts the page shared with its global audience, and KPLU-FM enjoyed record traffic to its website. Success was measured by determining how many of the unique people who saw each post then liked, shared or commented on the post. The experiment has since been expanded to include a total of five markets with continued success, and the NPR team has identified the nine characteristics of local stories that are most likely to be shared.

While digital communication tools have helped global audiences connect, the average news consumer is still very interested in what’s taking place in their own backyard. For many brands and their communications teams who are challenged to evolve social media strategies, this case study offers valuable insights into what will grab the attention of an audience and convert “likes” to action.