Journalists riding today's raging river of social media information must be good navigators--or risk becoming waterlogged.
Reuters journalists Anthony De Rosa and Lauren Young gave their own set of best practices for navigating the stream in a recent webinar. They shared tips for using social media as reporting tools, conversation starters, audience builders and more.
IJNet tuned in and found these takeaways:
Tailor your message to the platform. De Rosa, social media editor, and Young, wealth editor, both think Facebook is a more appropriate forum than Twitter for having a conversation with readers. De Rosa likens Facebook to a "town square," enabling journalists to ask readers for feedback, find sources or just discuss a recent article. He in turn refers to Twitter as more of a "news feed."
"Twitter is not a great place for conversation," Young said. "It’s a great place to get information out." She said tweets including data points and quick stats are most likely to go viral. De Rosa said Google+ can also provide a platform for dialogue due to its layout, if it manages to evolve in popularity.
Prevent information overload. When using Twitter as a reporting tool, De Rosa suggests organizing your followers into lists of beats, sources and even competitors to keep the news noise down to a manageable level. To keep things streamlined and possibly spot trends, he also suggested GeoTweeter, a search tool that maps tweets.
Find a quick story idea on Muckrack, a daily overview showing the latest topics journalists are talking about on social media. For a quick dose of trending stories, Young prefers the Twitter feed @nytmostemailed. Described by Young as a "virtual water cooler," the feed features the New York Times' most-emailed stories of the day.
Young only takes using social media as a reporting tool so far. She'd rather focus on using social platforms as community-building tools and stick to "good old-fashioned reporting" to find a story. "The really important and life-altering journalism we do at Reuters comes from being on the frontlines and not via a screen," she said.
What's next? De Rosa said journalism could benefit from news-choice customization for readers, similar to how Facebook uses its social graph to direct advertisements to its users. He suggests a strict balance between passive customization and editorial judgment to direct what news is most relevant.
To truly bridge the digital divide, stop referring to Facebook and Twitter as "new media," as these are traditional sources of news now, De Rosa said. Social media have caused lasting changes among journalism and there's no going back. These platforms changed the pace, tenor and veracity of journalism, Young said.
More on social media for journalists from IJNet:
_Image CC-licensed on Flickr via s_falkow._