A church in Colorado caught fire when it was struck by lightning, Flickr user Sea Turtle writes of this photo. News crews were on the scene.
I’m creating training materials on social media for reporters at the ABC7 station where I work, and I’m looking for your input. (Update: See tips below)
I start with basic tips on setting up a Twitter profile, downloading an app to your phone, searching the service and replying to users. I advise reporters to look for the hashtags used in conversations about certain topics, such as #WMATA for a meeting with D.C. metro employees, and include those in their updates. I’m still working on the Facebook section, but I’m planning to focus on engaging in conversations and posting at times when people are checking the site.
The main idea I want to convey is:
Treat social media like an extension of your beat.
That instantly communicates some basic advice: be on topic (most of the time, anyway), be professional, interact with sources and your audience. Be a resource on your area of coverage.
While Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and tomorrow’s new service are different tools, what you do with them is essentially similar to what you do when you pick up the phone, show up at a location, ask people questions for your story — it’s journalism. Approaching social media as your beat on another medium helps show that. I think it provides a good guideline for future questions.
So far, so good. It might be more difficult to make the case for engaging Twitter followers or Facebook friends more. In TV news, much still revolves around exclusive updates, getting there first (I could go off into a passionate plea for social and digital media, but I’ll save that for another post). Should you re-tweet a competitor’s post? Is it ok to post a story idea, even if someone might scoop you?
In many cases, I think it can be helpful for the reporter to let users know what they’re working on, ask questions, and use social media tools to find sources. At the same time, I recognize reporters are already doing multiple things at once – talking to sources, moving to locations, sending updates to producers and online editors like myself (thus the picture with this post).
I want to show some simple ways to benefit as a reporter from using social media, like finding pictures or eyewitnesses.
What are you telling reporters about using social media? I’d also love to hear tips on integrating social media into reporter’s busy days, making it easy for them to post and update. What apps or workflows do you use?
P.S.: Facebook profiles vs. pages
I’m struggling with whether to recommend reporters make Facebook pages or profiles for themselves. The station has set up fan pages for a number of reporters that are bundled in one admin account. However, these aren’t updated that often because the editors focus on the main station pages. Some reporters have professional-looking profiles, and some have told me maintaining both a page and a profile has been too time-consuming and they’d rather not have a page than one that’s rarely updated.
From my perspective, the main advantage of a page is that people can easily “like” you with one click, and that it comes with some analytics to help you track your progress. A profile, on the other hand, is more familiar and can more easily be used to contact people. As far as I know, you can’t message people as your page. What do you think?
Update, 6/23: Thanks for the feedback
I received some great tips through Twitter and the Facebook group on social journalism. Among the advice:
- Many recommended one-on-one sessions instead of group trainings
- Set goals, but keep them simple, such as posting regularly (from Emma Carew)
- Create a – short – best practice document people can keep on hand (from Niketa Patel)
- Highlight positive examples from inside and outside the newsroom (from Emma and Niketa)
- Create a ripple effect with a buddy system (from Kate Gardiner)
Thanks to Jessica Stahl and Andrew Vazzano, too, who shared their tips through Twitter. Thanks for all the valuable advice, I really appreciate it! I’ll keep you posted on my progress.