CNN en Español led one of the most successful social media news coverages to date during the Venezuelan protests between February and April 2014. Our goal was to keep our audience informed on the critical situation in Venezuela, where the government had a tight grip of media and even threatened to expel CNN from the country. Using Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and our citizen journalism platform iReport, and in close collaboration with our TV show Conclusiones, we engaged our Venezuelan and global audience scoring 32 global trending topics and 35 trending topics in Venezuela during the airing of the 30-minute show, Monday thru Friday, week after week. We also vetted hundreds (488) of user generated content pieces and grew all our social accounts to reach the global number 1 in every single social network for news accounts in Spanish language.
Venezuelan students took to the streets in February 2014 with several demands: better security, an end to common goods and medical shortages and protected freedom of speech, among others. On February 12, the demonstrations attracted global attention when three people were killed, in the largest protests that President Nicolas Maduro had faced in his 11 months in power. CNN en Español was among the first international organizations to report on the ensuing crisis, and ended up owning the story in great measure due to the power of social media.
CNN en Español daily coverage of the crisis in our show Conclusiones echoed in social media like no other news event before. Between February and April 2014 our coverage scored an unparalleled 32 worldwide trending topics and 35 Venezuela trending topics in Twitter during the airing of the show (Monday thru Friday, 10pm ET), some of which stayed as TTs for several hours. All our hashtags for this coverage were branded with "#Conclu" as prefix, followed by a keyword related to the specific topic we tackled on the show (i.e. #ConcluDDHH, #ConcluMilitar...). Venezuelan Twitter users created dozens of shareable graphics using quotes from our TV show and hashtags. This hashtag branding became so successful and widespread in Venezuela that entered the popular culture and people started using it for other purposes, such as announcing weddings (#ConcluBoda) and creating neologisms.
Another example of the level of impact of our coverage in Venezuela was the meme-creation. Many users created memes based on our hashtags, interviews and the images we shared both on the TV show and social networks.
Due to the government restrictions to press coverage and the widespread social unrest, which would have made impossible to have our own personnel in every hotspot in the country, CNN en Español relied heavily on citizen journalism to obtain material. We used social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and our citizen journalism platform iReport to reach out to dozens of witnesses who shared hundreds of exclusive photos and videos that we meticulously verified and used on our shows and on the web.
We also used instant messaging apps such as iMessage, Google Talk, and WhatsApp to obtain real-time reporting, photos, and videos in areas where no news outlets had any access. For example, we were able to confirm that military fighters were patrolling the skies in the city of San Cristóbal in the state of Tachira with actual real time photos that our iReporters shared with us via instant messaging. We shared those photos with our global audience in Twitter and Facebook. We vetted 488 iReports (photos and videos) during this crisis which enhanced our coverage both on air, on the web, and in social. The quality of some of this material was so high that actual photo news services hired some of our reporters as freelance photographers after seeing their material posted on our social accounts.
Our reporting on the Venezuelan crisis on social became so powerful and compelling that the government threatened to take CNN off the air several times (threat that finally was not exerted.) We even achieved the release of a young student who had been beaten by cops after we reported on his case on our social accounts and the show. The police officers involved in this case were detained.
After all the social buzz our coverage generated, our anchor Fernando del Rincon finally traveled to Venezuela to report on the ground. He was welcomed as a national hero and one of the most symbolic pictures of his trip, in which he hugged a devastated Venezuelan man, received more than 42,000 likes in Instagram (http://instagram.com/p/lljlVNp71O/?modal=true )
The success of this coverage translated into a whopping growth in all the social media accounts involved. Our anchor Twitter account (@soyfdelrincon) grew 264% (382,000 at the end of January to 1,390,000 followers at the end of March); the show Facebook page (Facebook.com/conclusionescnn) grew 213% (from 139,297 likes at the end of January to 436,104 at the end of March); our Instagram account @CNNEE, where we did most of our citizen journalism outreach, grew from 30,868 in January to 172,180 in April (458%); our @CNNEE main Twitter account grew from 6.3 million in January to 7,5 in April, a 19% growth, whereas our main Facebook account (Facebook.com/cnnee) grew 62% from 3 million to almost 5 million in the same period of time.
We have no doubt that if we win this award, the hashtag #ConcluSHORTY will become a Worldwide trending topic.