As part of IJNet's ongoing series of tips for using social media, we took part in a seminar for journalists from social networking colossus LinkedIn. Here are our top five tips for freelancers.
1. Get connections. Sounds obvious, but Krista Canfield, the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at LinkedIn says 50 is the "magic" number for connections. Fewer and you don't have enough potential sources or editor contacts to take advantage of the site. In general, the more contacts the better, though Canfield advises connecting elsewhere with fans, unless they are potential sources.
2. Expand your profile. For freelancers, this can be crucial. If you have more than one job or title (freelancer and translator), Canfield says most potential sources don't mind, but make sure the titles are accurate and up-to-date. Specify the stories you cover and make sure job descriptions explain what the roles mean.
3. Go Stealth. Hide your connections so other journalists can't see your sources by changing your profile settings.
When using the Answers feature for sources or quotes, you can make the question private to your connections. If you're on deadline or need to cast a wider net, Canfield, a former reporter, advises avoiding asking direct questions in public that might give the story away. Instead of asking business owners in a certain area what they think of a new piece of legislation, ask about the challenges of running a business. See who answers, then take it private for an interview.
4. Track your beat and publications. There are two million company pages on LinkedIn, you can follow them with options to be notified when employees are hired, leave or are promoted; for job opportunities and company profile updates. Canfield says The New York Times recently broke a story about an acquisition by noticing on LinkedIn that all the members of one small company left for a larger one. Other potential story ideas may come from job ads -- are they suddenly hiring 50 people in Switzerland when headquartered in the U.S.?
For freelancers, following media organizations will help keep you updated on the revolving door. That new editor may be looking for some fresh pitches.
5. Find sources. If you need to find sources fast, search by skills. Skill search brings up key people within that community, plus the top locations, related companies, relevant jobs and groups.
Join groups -- as mentioned in our social media tip sheet, you can sign up for up to 50. In addition to joining the obvious ones, like industry associations, Canfield says joining groups with more varied interests (parents, tech obsessed, poker enthusiasts) can be a great resource.