This post on journalism and social media I originally published on PR Breakfast Club.
Most localized media outlets are baffled by the function of social media in their newsroom. There is a giant “huh?!” cloud hanging over the head of many newsrooms on how to start using social media (SM) in news workflows, use it correctly, and why it benefits a news brand.
“You mean I have to keep talking to my viewers even after my story airs?!”
The audacity, right?
I’ve spent three months in the newsroom of a top 20 market station expanding social media, I’ve narrowed down three tips for getting a media outlet’s SM platform off the ground.
These are not the only options, but have met with success, seeing an increase in followings and brand interaction in the thousands of percent. That interactivity cultivates relationships that translates directly into traffic which drives ad revenue.
Identify a Niche:
Most news outlets fit unique audience niches. There are the storytelling stations, “more news” stations, middle of the road stations, and politically leaning stations just to name a few.
As in broadcast, a news station needs to carve out its own niche in the SM universe, part of which will be an extension of the broadcast niche, the rest will need to go further.
Brainstorm with staff about what is unique at your station, and how it can roll out online.
If social media is Pinnochio, and this blog post is Jiminy Cricket, the defined niche would be a conscience.
See where this poorly structured metaphor is headed?
Let your conscience be your guide.
‘The Robot’ is a Dance, Not a Strategy:
There are a plethora of options available to automate your social media updates. The fast paced, hectic atmosphere of a newsroom make this option appealing. But it is not a strategy, it’s a tactic.
Simply “upchucking” the days headlines out to SM does little more than tell your followers “hey, we’re news,” if you have an ounce of brand identity, they should know this by now.
Unless your tweep has been living under a rock, he/she should be able to tell by your username that you’re a news outlet. The user name needs to be your news brand, and consistent across platforms…if it isn’t, I recommend doing some reading up on building a brand, or firing your web guy. @CALL LETTERS or @MY CITY HERALD should do the trick.
Consider this, the 5,6 and 10 o’clock newscasts don’t merely spit out headlines. They are carefully coordinated 30 minute plans of video, sound, scripts and story placement.
Use the same care in your SM plan. Social media is not just an accessory of a news station anymore. It should be similar to the newscast, accent it, but it should provide unique experiences for the inter-web friendly social media enthusiast.
For some, your twitter feed may be the only contact with your news brand in their day-to-day life. Building the recognition that you are relevant in their feed means that when the big story brews, or you get that big scoop they come back to you and take your content viral. Trust me, this happens frequently.
News Can, and Must, Talk Back
In order to grow and maintain your social media following, you must engage them. Constantly. First on that list, welcome new followers. It may seem tedious but a simple “@handle thanks for the add!” goes a long way in building loyalty. Do you like not being greeted when you walk into a new store or restaurant? Same thought.
Further, there are a multitude of options to… are you ready? Here comes a buzzphrase…
*** monitor your brand ***
on social media.
News, in its nature, is polarizing. In broadcast you look for golden sound-bites, the perfect 10 second sound clip that tells your story. In social media we look for golden follows, adds, likes, comments, and wall posts.
Start enticing these chances by actively engaging your following.
A great kick off to this is to identify a few “talkers” from the day’s news. What stories get people riled up? Post the link with a question on social media and watch you following grow, and your brand interactivity explode.
*note it is also beneficial to find ways to tie tags into the newscast. Send users back online for more on the story with a simple “ for more on head to yoursite.com “ or “join the conversation about ____ on Facebook and Twitter, head to yoursite.com and enter keyword connect”
Photos, videos and audio are great comment inducers as well.
Use social media to tease an exclusive in an upcoming newscast.
Use social media to drive breaking news.
These are just a few ideas, there are many. Brainstorm with staff for more. I find that brainstorming with staff on all three of these tips help them also comprehend how it benefits.
When these steps are engaged, your newsroom will be in a position for successful social media news-gathering. As you monitor your station brand, you’ll be monitoring your followers and those you follow. You never know what tweep (peep) might give your station the next twip (tip) that leads to the next big story.
Just as product brands are actively engaging in two-way conversation, so too must the newsroom of the future. Social media is a dynamic and seismic shift in the mass communications world, you can adapt and thrive with it, or be left in the dark and out socialized by the competition.