I taught my first class at the University of Florida this weekend. It was a one-credit class in audience engagement, taught in a bootcamp style over one weekend.
Our last four hours together on Sunday were supposed to be about how journalists measure success — dotcom metrics, social metrics and impact measurement. But then an opportunity to do social journalism arose, and it’s just not in my nature to pass up the chance to get students into the field.
Tim Kaine held a rally directly outside the UF journalism school on Sunday afternoon, and I scrapped the last chunk of my class agenda and instead deployed the 17 students to do social coverage.
Nine students went to the rally to do social-first coverage. They told a variety of stories from the field, publishing to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Eight students stayed in our newsroom/classroom, aggregating and curating posts from the rest of the team, searching for other community posts and fact-checking.
Lauren Rowland took the lead on a live blog on Storify. Her file was live as soon as our coverage started, and she updated continually for about two hours. Producing a live blog takes constant attention to searching and filtering. Jessica Small, Catie Flatley and Zoë Sessums spent their time finding, transcribing and funneling content into the various curations.
Carolina Lafuente took a different approach to social curation. Her Storify published after the event was over. While Lauren’s provided minute-by-minute updates, Carolina’s walked readers through just the highlights of the afternoon chronologically. Emanuel Griffin also collected highlights of the day’s social coverage, but he did it on Medium. Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATED 10/5/16: Scroll down for a sample social media plan from Colorado Public Radio.
In a Poynter class I’m teaching, we’ve been talking about the need to be strategic about how we produce our social channels.
It’s not enough to react to today’s news. We need to think about the mix of content. We need to share what we know people are talking about today, not just what our newsrooms feel like producing today. We need to share certain stories at certain times.
We need to think about what we published yesterday, last week or six months ago that might have new relevance today, and come up with a system to plan ahead for those posts.
Some of us also have lots of people jumping in and out of social posting in our newsrooms. It can be tough to know who’s in charge of which stories, which hours and which days.
To manage all that, we need a document that looks further ahead than today’s news budget. I came up with a document that worked well in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian, and I cleaned it up for public sharing.
And if you have one you’d be willing to share, will you send it to me? I love peeking in on other peoples’ work systems. It gives me the same excitement as new school supplies, or pictures of home offices. Ahh, productivity.
I’m doing some work with Colorado Public Radio, and I was so impressed with the social media planning docs created by their social media manager, Leslie Smail.
Here’s what Leslie wrote about how CPR uses the template. (I’ve seen it in play for a specific project, with multiple staff members using it to share ideas, plan and edit behind each other.)
- The overview tab is a basic gantt chart that we use to map out the different stories we’re putting out and some high level steps and deadlines along the way. The calendar to the right of those tasks is just a visual high level view of what’s happening over the month and in what order.
- The other tabs are for each social media channel we’re on and maps out exactly how many posts we want for the month, and the dates and times, which we’ve determined based on when we get the highest engagement rates for particular days of the week and times of day, so adjust this for your particular audience. For subsequent months, just add more rows. This planning doc shows how we planned out a particular reporting project, in which we aimed to tweet 3x a day about our coverage, post on Facebook 2-3x/week and on Instagram 2x/week. This will obviously vary for your particular project and I would encourage you to use this as a master planning doc to plan out ALL social media posts, not just for a particular project.
- Here’s a breakdown of the different columns and how they’re used:
- Owner: If multiple people are working with this planning doc, assign who is responsible for each post
- Date: Pretty self explanatory. This column is formatted so that if you just type in “10/5” for example, it will auto format to say “Wed-10/5” or you can double click in the cell and a calendar will pop up if you want to change a date that way.
- Time: We say AM, Noon, and PM as shorthand for morning, afternoon and evening, trying to give pretty equal coverage to all times of the day, or you can adjust this if you see much more engagement for a particular time of day
- Type of content: This is a helpful way to make sure you are tracking how often you talk about different stories or are testing different strategies. Types of content could include video, questions, quotes, photo galleries, etc. This way you can sort by a particular content type and make sure you are varying the type of content you put out on social media.
- Message: This is where you draft the actual posts. Column J tracks the character count and is also color coded from green to yellow to red to tell you the optimal post length, which you can adjust by right clicking and clicking “conditional formatting”
- URL: Put the link to include in the post
- Notes: We use this to remind people of particular hashtags or handles to include.
- Image: If you want to use media that isn’t included in a link, we link to a file path on our internal server, so that we have a record of where media (videos/images) are and aren’t emailing them back and forth
Thanks for sharing the doc, Leslie! Anyone else have one to share? I’d be thrilled to keep updating this post. Reach me here.
This was first published on the blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
How do news consumers decide what information to trust, and how can journalists teach users to be smarter consumers and sharers?
As our fellow community members — voters, neighbors, family members, co-workers — face more options for what to include in their information diet, I’d sure like to know what I might do as a journalist to encourage healthy choices. How can I influence what my followers pick to snack on?
Increasingly, those choices are made on social media platforms. Rather than seeking out a specific brand, consumers are watching a stream of information go by and reaching out to grab specific bits.
How do they decide which ones to click? How do they know what’s good for them? How can they tell what’s unusual, special and worth sharing? How do they choose which ones are, as marketing icon Seth Godin says, remarkable, or worth remarking on?
A team of college students and I have been interviewing journalists and nonjournalists to get a sense of what creates trust and credibility between communicator and receiver. We’re working with the Trust Project and factoring in their extensive user research about indicators of trust.
In our talks with people in and out of the news industry about social media and credibility, three themes emerged: Journalists need to tell their own stories, engage authentically and deploy their fans. We’ll take a look at those three themes in three posts:
Our next step is to work with journalists to test how these strategies can be put to work for them. If you’re interested in participating, please get in touch with me.
If you want to be more sophisticated in your social media use, it can help to practice analyzing what other people do.
An assignment I use in one of my classes is to pick a news brand and analyze its social media activity. I’m always impressed with my students’ observations, and I thought I’d share the assignment here in case it’s useful for others. I’d love to see how other folks teach this. Drop me a line if you have an assignment you’d be willing to share.
SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYSIS
Evaluate the social media use of a news organization of your choice. It can be a small community newsroom or an international staff, niche topic or general. Please choose an organization:
- that is present and at least a little active on social media
- that has room for improvement, so you can make suggestions
- for which you can find at least two staff members connected to the organization who at least sometimes post about their work
- that will allow you to answer all the questions posed in this assignment
You will be assessed based on how well you apply the breadth of our social media discussions in class to your analysis and on the thoughtfulness of that analysis. Consider social media guidelines, strategies and styles of writing. Also address the measurement of success.
PART ONE (10 points): Identify the primary audience for and mission of that news organization (either in their words or your own estimations). Find that news organization on as many social platforms as you can and link to all their accounts. Consider AT A MINIMUM: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Can you find any social media strategy or policy documents or related interviews? If so, link to them or attach them.
PART TWO (20 points): Answer these questions about at least two of those accounts, on two separate platforms (for example, the org’s main presence on Pinterestand Instagram, or the org’s main sports presence on Twitter and food presence on Facebook — you pick).
- How frequently does the account post?
- Analyze the posts. Approximately what is the ratio of posts that link to or push newsroom content compared to posts that are replies, retweets or other contributions to conversations?
- What do you know and what can you surmise about the strategy for each of those two accounts? Discuss what you can tell about the goals, and link to at least three posts on each platform that back up what you’re saying.
PART THREE (20 points): Find at least two staff members who post about the work they do connected to the organization you’re evaluating.
- Link to their accounts/platforms that discuss their work.
- How much of what they post is directly related to their work?
- What is the nature of their work-related posts? Describe how it relates to content, whether they demonstrate personality, whether/how they reply to followers, whether they show what’s going on behind the scenes of their jobs and whether anything they post could be considered controversial.
PART FOUR (20 points): Think about the strategies we talked about in class for writing social posts. We wrote posts designed to get as many click thrus as possible, as much engagement as possible and as much worthwhile discussion as possible. (Related post: What “works” on social media? That’s a bad question.) Please pick one existing post that includes a link back to your org’s website. Link to the original post, and rewrite it three ways. You don’t have to think all three are the right way to promote that link. But show you understand the diversity of possible strategies by writing examples. Then indicate which you think would be most effective.
PART FIVE (30 points): Write suggestions for the news organization based on what you learned. Write it as if you’re sending it to the organization’s leadership, and address both brand accounts and individual journalists’ accounts. Acknowledge what is working and make suggestions for improvement and growth. Be sure to address why further investment in improvement and growth would be worthwhile and how the newsroom could measure success (what could be measured and what the newsroom would learn from those measurement efforts). Be prepared for it to be shared, either publicly or specifically with that staff.
WORTH 100 POINTS.
My definition of social journalism is broad. It incorporates just about anything that makes the process or product of journalism more interactive, conversational or responsive.
Twitter is a social tool, but so is the copy machine, when deployed creatively. So is the telephone, when used for actual listening. And so is wine, now that we’re on the subject.
I’m giving a quick talk at Journalism Interactive today (without wine, sadly) about what I think social journalism means and why it’s not just the job of a social media team. (Unless you don’t want to be social. In which case, maybe you should be the Wizard of Oz.)
Journalism’s expanded, social life cycle is something I’ve written and talked a lot about. It’s basically at the heart of all the work I do.
Here are seven questions I’d love us all to talk about as we consider whether our newsrooms, our students, our journalism routines and our actual products are truly social.
- What does being social actually look like?
- Where do our ideas come from?
- When does a story begin and end?
- Who can help tell the story?
- Who is the journalism for?
- How should the journalism reach those people (you know, the ones it’s for)?
- How will we know if the journalism “worked”?
Basically: Focus on the audience at every stage of your process. Listen, talk and adjust, from beginning to end.
That’s being social.
Here’s where you can find out more about what I mean.
- Who’s your audience? (And other questions for reporters)
- News should be social (and here’s how to teach that) (MediaShift)
- An example of a social life cycle for a story about a high school’s mascot
- 5 ways journalists can bring diverse voices into their stories (Poynter)
- White boards and fliers: Reaching an audience by going low-tech (RJI)
- Tools for social listening
UPDATE: Here’s the talk I gave.
** Where you see asterisks, I’ve elaborated since the original publication.
I’ve had meetings with several students lately who want to work professionally in or do in-depth research on social media, and I was reminded of dozens of chats I’ve had with professional journalists.
The journalists (student or professional) had this in common: They have a firm grasp of tools and enjoy using them, but they haven’t thought through deeply enough some key questions.
Please, let’s build a social strategy around these questions:
1. Why am I doing this?
What’s the purpose behind the post, prompt, invitation or link? To drive visits to your website? To invite connection between journalists and users? To find sources? To promote brand awareness? To get a window into users’ values or opinions? The answer of course differs between brands or newsrooms. And it should most certainly differ between posts. What do you hope to achieve with each post, and are you mixing it up?
We need to stop pretending that the answer to the Internet culture is having two personas — journalist as separate from real person. It doesn’t fool anyone, and it serves only to make us believe we’re still able to work under the boundaries we’ve traditionally set for ourselves.
If we value community, and our role in it as journalists, we’ve got to approach conversation with authenticity.
I’ve written before about what I’ve learned from small-town news. One key lesson is that, when you truly know a community and they truly know you, you don’t put on different hats in different situations. Your readers are your neighbors, and you don’t have the luxury of sharing different slices of yourself with different groups of people.
You can choose to be relatively private or in-your-face public about your views and your life. But the way you behave in person is how you should behave online. And the way you behave as an individual is how you should behave as a journalist.
We’re so scared to be human. A student actually asked me last week if she should respond to a negative comment on a story she wrote. My response was to ask how she’d respond if the person had come up to her in the grocery store with the same criticism. Unless the person is abusive or ridiculously rude, you wouldn’t just walk away.
That doesn’t just work in small towns. Check out the guidelines The Guardian gives its journalists. Please. Seriously.
Clarification added July 5: I don’t mean that journalists should never have more than one account. If you have distinct audiences and want to cultivate them separately, go for it. But let’s not pretend we can be real people, with real opinions, in one public social media space, and detached, “unbiased” professionals (or academics) on another. (And as an aside, can we stop pretending that any of us don’t have biases?)