Social media for journalists

In the past ten years social media has completely transformed the way journalists and media work.

Everybody from police to celebrities to corporations use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to get their news out.

It is routine now for news to break first on twitter, not just by journalists, but by officials and the public.

As a result journalist and media outlets have developed a wide range of ways to use social media. It has become one of the most important tools journalists and news organizations have.

Currently the main uses of social media by journalists can be broken down into three broad catagories:

  • To discover and track breaking news, make contacts, get photos and story ideas through other social media sites.
  • To share breaking news and update developing stories, particular on twitter.
  • To promote themselves, their websites and their stories
  • To engage readers on their websites with commenting, submitting photos, etc.

Social networking online is still rapidly developing and journalists are still constantly figuring out new ways to use social media in the newsroom.

Sometimes the use is casual and haphazard and sometime it is as part of a social media strategy.

Discovering news

Twitter is the best place to find breaking news. It is a also a great source for photos and even video. Here is one example. But Facebook, YouTube and Reddit are also great places to find stories about people.

Other social media tools for finding news include the Twitter trends map, which tracks trends geographically. Spike is another great tool for tracking all social media and Tweetdeck and Hootsuite let you track a large number of specific accounts easily.

Your own Facebook account is another way to track what is going on. ‘Like’ top media organizations, key personalities, local organizations, community leaders, and keep an eye on what they are posting and liking.

It is important to verify that social media posts and accounts are real before you trust the information you find there. There have been many journalists fooled by fakes.

Twitter and Facebook both put verified marker on accounts they have verified as authentic, but there are other ways to confirm this yourself.

  • Google the account and see if it’s associated elsewhere with the person or org
  • Check the number of followers, friends and recent tweets. Do they match your expectations?

Last week we looked at tracking readers of your blog. There are also plenty of ways to track your performance directly on social media as well.

  • In Facebook click on analytics.
  • In Twitter click on your image, then your profile/analytics.
  • Mytoptweets.com also tracks your twitter performance.

Promoting your work on social media

Encourage readers to engage with your post by switching on comments in wordpress. Adjust your comments settings under settings/discussion.

Turn on your sharing buttons to make it easy for people to tweet or Facebook your posts. Do this under Sharing/Sharing buttons. I like the “icon only” style.

Be careful about the Publicize options. They will automatically share your info on social media.

Next add the Twitter Timeline widget to your blog.

  • You need to get a id number from your twitter account to make it run.
  • Get more details on the wordpress.com support page
  • Put it along one side near the top of your page, not along the bottom.

Setting up twitter

For this journalism program, you are going to need a public twitter account. This can be one you already have or a new one you set up for yourself as a journalist.

Your twitter feed is going to be embedded in your blog, so if you personal account is not suitable for that, create a second one.

Make sure your account is set up so that people can find you and recognize you if you want to develop a following.

It must have:

  • Your full name
  • A picture of you.
  • A link to your blog

Consider adding an email address so people can contact you directly.

It is good if you blog and your twitter account have some similarities, but they don’t have to be twin images.

Next add the Twitter Timeline widget to you blog. Put it along one side, not along the bottom. You need to get a piece of code from your twitter account to make it run.

Crafting a great tweet

Next you are going to have to tweet out your story published this week on your blog.

I’m going to be looking for you tweets every week  from now on.

To build a good tweet you need four things.

  • A snappy line that grabs attention
  • The right #tags and @tags or enough followers to be heard
  • An engaging image.
  • A link back to your webpage.

Next add the Twitter Timeline widget to your blog.

  • You need to get a id number from your twitter account to make it run.
  • Get more details on the wordpress.com support page
  • Put it along one side near the top of your page, not along the bottom.

Put it out on Facebook

Next, craft some Facebook posts for both of your recent stories.

Start with a link post, by pasting a link to your post directly in a Facebook post. Delete the link once the story appears and rewrite it with something catchier

  • Try making a photo post or even a video post and scheduling it for a later date.
  • Avoid posting the same story twice in one day
  • Aim to encourage sharing, comments, likes, and clicks back to read your story.
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About Mike Laanela

Mike Laanela is journalist, photographer and instructor based in Vancouver, B.C.
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