The people are at Facebook & Twitter; where are you?


“The new study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that clear majorities of Twitter (63%) and Facebook users (63%) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.”

Ah, yes, it reminds me of the time several years ago when my boss expressed amazement that a neighbor told him she stopped the newspaper because she got the news she wanted from Facebook. It was in a different conversation when he told me to stop spending time on Twitter, which he called “a fad.”

News organizations have been on Facebook and Twitter for years and have had plenty of time to learn what works and how to behave. It’s surprising — although some will say it isn’t — that so many news organizations are terrible at it.

Many wait to tweet news until they have a link to their own website. Consequently, they are rarely first in delivering the news. Some write teases that tell you just enough that you have to follow the link. (You’re a news organization — serve your followers rather than tease them.)

Some news organizations either don’t monitor their Facebook feeds or hold such a loose rein that racist and offensive comments abound. Have you tried to engage with a news organization on Twitter or Facebook? Often you’re ignored. (Full disclosure: I have had excellent results in this respect with the News & Record, which is my former employer.)

PJ_2015.07.14_Twitter-and-News_13I’ve cut back on the traditional news organizations I follow because they are doing it wrong. I don’t know who they’re serving but it isn’t me. OK, that’s enough complaining. I’m an optimist and think there’s still time to act on this information. If you want to skate where the puck is going to be, you have to act fast. Your future audience is already there.

So, here are a few suggestions. They aren’t new or innovative; but neither are they executed with consistency by many news organizations.

* Many newspapers say they are digital first, but that’s often more of a trendy slogan rather than a strategy. What does digital first mean? How is it executed? What is the goal and how are you measuring the results?

* Put people who are active on social media personally in charge of your social media accounts. If they aren’t active in their leisure time, you don’t want them to learn on the job. If they are already on your staff and tweet and post to Facebook and YouTube, fine. But don’t transfer unqualified staffers. You wouldn’t hire a reporter without experience or qualifications. Why do it for the digital staff?

* Make sure the social media jobs have enough people. It’s easy to assign a few other responsibilities that take a person away from the networks. All of a sudden, nothing has been posted for hours. I know that staffing at news organizations is tight; where you put your staff shows where your priorities are.

* And while we’re talking about strategy and staffing, Mario Garcia today writes about the rise of the mobile editor. Build that position in now — mobile usership is growing. You have an opportunity to be where the audience is first.

* Give social media folks the latitude to have a voice and share information with attitude. The best people on social networks have interesting takes. I don’t mean being silly or snide; I simply mean writing with personality. The job description should include this: “Don’t be boring.” You might note that the Pew research shows that people use Twitter and Facebook differently. I know that I do. I rarely post the same links and thoughts to both places. This is an important concept for your social media presence.

* Make sure the social media folks have a voice and power within the organization. Too often they don’t. More and more news bubbles up from Twitter and Facebook. Stories and sources are there. Use them. That means editors must pay attention to what is being discussed on social media.

* Related, editors should be active on social media. That means doing more than posting links to your own stories. If you’re truly the leader of your news organization, you must be there. Followers will appreciate your authority, knowledge and interpretation of events.

* Twitter is actually making it easier for you with Twitter cards. As the Nieman Lab notes:  “What that means for media companies, or really anyone slinging links on Twitter, is that stories will get some extra room, complete with lead art and the first few words of a story.”

* While I understand the need for traffic to your website, do not make that the No. 1 priority for your social media presence. The constant search for clicks affects the team’s news judgment. Publishing clickbait affects your credibility. Follow the curation advice from Steve Buttry.

* You want to be known for being quick with the news? Well, be quick with it. Don’t wait for someone to provide a link. If you know it’s true, post it. You can provide the link as soon as the writer writes it.

Be engaging with followers, expansive with posts and interesting with your comments.

Large news organizations seem to be in better shape than smaller ones. That said, some smaller orgs do social very well. (Before you write, I know my sample is narrow and personal. I will easily acknowledge your organization has an excellent social media presence, if you say so.)

I’m no expert and this isn’t everything. Dig into this Pew report. There are findings and trends that you can exploit.


Meanwhile, Emily Bell gave some wise and much needed advice in London today.

“Today’s newsroom workflow can be increasingly broken into three parts, Bell told delegates. The breaking news feed now equals mobile alerts, an outlet’s social media presence is now day-to-day publishing, and websites are ‘effectively becoming the archive.’

“Key to the process of how news organisations should harness tech in the service of journalism is integrating as closely as possible with the social web, Bell added.

“If news organisations don’t move to work with these apps, she said, they’ll miss out on huge audience numbers as Facebook now has 1.3bn users and WhatsApp’s 800m.”

This won’t fix digital. There are still loading issues, video issues, mobile issues and content issues. But it’s a start.


One thought on “The people are at Facebook & Twitter; where are you?

  1. I think there are two real challenges.

    First, as a small (as in just me), digital-only operation, I know better, but even I fall into the trap of just slinging links. It is just too easy when you get busy to say, “I’ll engage later,” but of course you don’t.

    The second point is you get busy combined with what measurements many news organizations priorities – pageviews, uniques, etc. on the site – and you loose focus.

    To me, that’s the key thing – you have to be focused, really focused – on what you are doing in terms of social. I don’t think social is incredibly difficult, but it requires thought, planning, and real focus to work properly.

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