Customer Support | 6 min read

Storyful stays relevant, timely, and authentic with Intercom

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When your business delivers time sensitive content to the busiest newsrooms on the planet, efficient communications and support are essential.

Storyful has been able to meet and exceed customer expectations by using Intercom to segment its customer base, deliver relevant messages and provide delightful support.

What follows is a guest post from Chief Product Officer with Storyful, Adam Thomas. Storyful is a social news agency with offices in Dublin, New York and Hong Kong. It finds and verifies breaking news content on the social web and acquires it for use by its clients – which include some of the busiest newsrooms on the planet as well as the world’s biggest brands.


Storyful journalists are experts in verifying social media, forensically checking thousands of pieces of content using a combination of digital techniques and traditional journalistic skills. Our editors select the best of the content and add a layer of verification to determine the original uploader, time and location. This ensures our customers receive a feed of engaging content that is relevant, safe and delivered in real-time.

When Storyful launched Newswire this year, we wanted to take the principles that govern our newsroom and distill them into a product that could act as a social-newsroom-in-a-box for organizations like Vice, Mashable, People, The Wall Street Journal, BBC and Al-Jazeera. We needed to create a product that delivered relevant, timely and authentic social content.

Very quickly we also realised that we also needed to make sure our user communication followed the same principles. We deliver rapidly sourced, expertly-verified and ethically-acquired content to thousands of journalists and editors in newsrooms around the world, in real-time. User generated content is often the first, and most compelling, video to emerge from an event, but news outlets need to have confidence in it before using it. All this is happening under the time pressure of a 24 hour rolling news cycle.

Ensuring our editorial team have quick and direct communication with our users is vital. Algorithms and metadata get you good content, but great storytelling is driven by effective communication.

Communication is a two-way street. We knew that we needed to talk to our users a lot, but we knew that we needed to listen even more. For us metrics around how addictive our product is, how active our users are, and how much we’re growing inside a company are essential. Just as importantly, our users want to talk to lots of different people on our team – journalists for information, product owners for feature feedback or support agents to solve issues and help onboard colleagues. Here at Storyful we love data, but we also love conversations and Intercom lets us have lots of both.

Newswire’s active user base has grown 50% in two months, and core per-user engagement metrics (we look at engagement with stories, successful searches and content actions like download or embed) have doubled across the board.

Be relevant: know your audience

Segmentation is the basis for relevant user interactions. Our communications are high volume, but they need to be laser-focused. In Intercom we create segments, groups of users identified by patterns of behavior like numbers of sessions within a given period, or not having logged in for a certain amount of time. Building personas using this data, we can identify power-users for beta tests or interviews, or we can try to prompt logins from users who are becoming less engaged with news about new features or new content in the Newswire.

We’re also rolling out extensive use of tagging in Intercom to segment different interest groups (based around the type of content they need) or stages in the onboarding and trial process. We love separating out beta or trial users and offering them different, personalised onboarding mails. Next up we’re planning to make use of Intercom’s APIs to pass information between Intercom and some of our other tools like RelateIQ (which we use as a CRM) and Heap Analytics (which we use to gather metrics around interaction with product features).

Be timely: communicate early, communicate often

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We’ve been using Intercom for all manner of editorial communication: breaking news alerts, daily content wraps, timezone-specific news summaries and more. The ability to send email, or take advantage of the high conversion rates of in-app messaging, ensures we find our partners where they are. We’re seeing email open rates between 30% and 50% generally, with rates sometimes peaking at over 70%. The ability to target more accurately with Intercom drives those much improved open rates and ensures busy journalists don’t get frustrated with irrelevant mails.

Auto-messaging means that no-one slips away for too long, and we’re continually impressed by how much a simple auto-message catches great feedback or an issue like a new user having missed an introduction mail in their daily deluge. The value of this to Storyful, by freeing up our support team to do what they do best, cannot be underestimated.

Be authentic: this is not just software

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At all times, we want our clients to know there is a 24/7 global newsroom at their fingertips. We’ve created a custom “Contact Newsroom” button that also displays which of our journalists are online. Clicking it opens the In-App Messenger and we use Intercom’s inbox to triage and push the request to the right member of the team whether it’s editorial, sales, product or support.

With Intercom it’s clear to our customers they’re speaking to a real person. The profile pictures mirror our in-app journalist photos and conversation histories are there should they need to go back (particularly useful if your users share seats). Internally we share notes, close conversations and ensure that we have full accountability, both to the clients and to ourselves.

What’s next?

Beyond the integrations mentioned above, we’ll be looking to make sure as many as our team have access to Intercom as possible, from copy editors to designers. As new features come online in 2015, I’d love to see us use Intercom to help educate our users using videos. We’ll be taking advantage of the new feedback options within in-app messages too – they offer a nice alternative to the Net Promoter Score fatigue that I’m sure users of many web products must be feeling.

Our ambitions are simple but lofty. The next time I sketch a new product canvas, I want “customer service” to be the first thing I write into our “unfair advantage” column. We’ve become known for setting the gold standard in social discovery and verification on the web. We don’t see a reason why our customer communication and understanding should be any different.


Main image: with permission from clinch.io
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