I’m just back from a week of social media training at The Ohio State University.
Among the top of many impressions: the near infinite reach of the Internet and social media, and how reluctant we journalists often are to use tools that can make our work much more visible and far-reaching.
“Overwhelmed” was a common word among the 25 of us who were selected out of 400 applicants to attend the Kiplinger Fellowship in Columbus from April 15 to 20.
The Kiplinger Foundation sponsored our participation.
The workshop’s mission statement aptly describes its purpose:
“As more people get information from Twitter, Facebook and other non-traditional sources, newsrooms need journalists who understand how to tell compelling public affairs stories in cutting-edge ways.
“That’s why the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism is dedicated to helping journalists unite rigorous reporting with digital storytelling — so they can learn how to engage in social media and develop innovative online coverage that engages wide audiences”.
The fellows were an extraordinary group of journalists with different backgrounds and experiences, and, perhaps most important, with different perspectives about social media.
Here are the week’s most useful tips by topic:
Social media has evolved to the point that “Whatever that happens in Vegas, stays … in Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google + and so on”.
You have to be careful. Take time before you tweet.
The advice we heard is to take between 3 and 6 minutes to craft your tweet. Remember that whatever you tweet goes to the Library of Congress.
An expert told us, “Your next tweet can make you lose your job or… your marriage”.
Or, as my Hoy colleague Gisela Orozco put it, “Think twice, tweet once.”
Twitter is so big there are always new voices to follow.
In fact, for those of us in the news industry, “following should be more important than followers,” according to Sree Sreenivasan, social media expert and a journalism professor at Columbia University.
Why? You could find your next piece in Twitter or Facebook, courtesy of one of your followers.
Sreenivasan has a short guide of tips on how to use Twitter. Since it is a “listening tool”, he suggests “interacting” and “responding.” Doing so will make those people following you think about your work and the brands you endorse.
Another tip: always ask your sources if they are in social media. This will help extend your reach as you follow sources and ask them to follow you.
Sreenivasan also suggests striking a balance between variety and consistency. On the one hand, he notes that simply replicating your Twitter account in Facebook is not a path to success. At the same time, you need to be “consistent on your branding across social media outlets”.
Twitter has multiple benefits for journalists, Sreenivasan says. We can find new ideas and sources, connect with readers in a deeper way, bring more eyes to our work and build a stronger brand.
Another key piece of advice: never tweet on behalf of your employer from your personal account. If you are going to tweet something related to your workplace, do it in a professional fashion.
Measure your reach
There are different ways to measure your reach in social media.
It is also important to be part of Google +.
Why? Google provides the most important reader in Internet: Google itself. Being there helps to improve your web presence.
Engaging is key
The workshop went beyond social media tools to talk about community engagement. Again, Twitter and Facebook are not the only way to work on this.
There are many resources will help you to improve in this area.
Storify is just one of the many tools available online. It allows you to create social stories and to mine various social media outlets to find out who is discussing what.
Orozco of Hoy attended a follow up program on social media at Ohio State and tweeted the following tips about community engagement:
I. Respond to replies, comments and questions.
II. Be transparent in all you do.
III. Be thankful.
IV. Make corrections.
V. Address criticism without spats.
VI. Be consistent.
VII. Don’t just push your content out.
She also shared a video that describes, in a funny way, how important social media is.
The week-long workshop was not only about social media, it offered a lot more information on some other topics like Google Fusion Tables and Video Apps and Shareware. And this link will take you to some other useful tools from KipCamp.