News Leadership 3.0

July 27, 2009

Social media: Baby steps for news organizations

Here are three lessons in social media for news executives and entrepreneurs: Understand how it works, understand how people (not journalists) use it, and use it strategically

I’ve been going to school on social media for a while now and I’ve concluded it represents a revolution in communication that no journalist or news organization can afford to ignore.

Specific platforms of social media may come and go, but it’s hard to imagine the public will turn away from the underlying practices—and benefits—of being able to share widely and freely online. I want journalism and journalists to be a big part of that communication ecosystem.

So here are my three suggestions for journalists and news organizations that want to get started:

1. Try it. Start with the easy one: Facebook. Set up an account, search out some friends and family members and link up with them. Search groups that reflect your interests. Start posting once a day. Share links to interesting articles. Ask friends to comment. Comment on posts by your friends and group members. Devote 10 minutes a day to this for several weeks. Start up a Twitter account and repeat these steps. Above all, resist the urge to create a litany of reasons you don’t like Facebook, or Twitter or any other network you join. You are not the point. Understanding how social media works is Job 1. Just talking about it or dissing it won’t get you there.

2. Watch how other people use social networks.
What are people sharing and how do they share it? Links, observations, questions, photos? Don’t look at social media through the eyes of the journalist (“What can it do for me?”) Focus on how people communicate with each other. Check out people who have a large number of followers on Twitter - How do they write and what do they offer that appeals to you? Learn as much as you can about how people in your community use social media: Use search and check out sites such as PlaceBlogger to identify social media leaders and connect with them. As people around you (neighbors, students, young people in your newsroom) how they use social media. Start thinking about how the news you produce might improve their experience (which is different from trying to get them to read your news).
3. Be strategic. There’s no point in being on all the networks all the time. Figure out a strategy, try it out and stick with it long enough to figure out whether it works and learn from your mistakes if it doesn’t. Hint: If you want to drive traffic for a certain subject on your site, Twitter will be a better tool than Facebook.
A final note: Don’t expect to get revenue from social media, at least not right away. Social media is about community and conversation. It provides valuable tools for news organizations and news entreprenuers who want to increase their connections to community. It is those connections that may eventually yield revenue, from advertisers who want to speak to those communities, from services the news organization discovers those communities want, and from loyalty that will help keep the users coming back.
I organizaed a class on social media strategy for Knight Digital Media Center this spring and summer. I shared class resources in this blog under the category “09 Class: Using Social Media to Build Audience.”
Good luck.
Are you using social media in your news organization? What’s working? What lessons have you learned? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

Good piece!

fyi, it’s placeblogger.com, not .org


Ask friends to comment. Comment on posts by your friends and group members
Diskon Gila Disdus.com


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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