Tips for journalists: how to use social media

Whether you are an ambitious journalism student or a practising journalist it is vital that you have a strong grasp of social media platforms and understand how to use them effectively, appropriately and efficiently. Here are some basic tips on how to use Twitter and Facebook to build your audiences and improve your journalism.

 

1. Social media platforms have three main journalistic functions:

Newsgathering and contact building

Broadcasting platform

Interactive service to build relationships with audiences

 

2. If you have a public profile on a social media platform keep yourself in check. Avoid swearing, detailing embarrassing moments, bitching, ranting or attacking other people or organisations. You never know who you might be working for in the future. You can include personal information but always ask yourself first who will be reading it and is it appropriate?

 

3. Including some personal information in your posts can attract audiences particularly if you are building a brand around your personality or you work for a large homogenous organisation. Seeming more personable and ‘human’ can encourage audiences to interact with you and share common interests which can ultimately lead to better contacts and stories.

 
4. Always think carefully about how you can verify information. Who is the source? Can you speak to them? Can they describe the scene? Can you verify their location using GPS or apps like Facebook Places? Do you have more than one source? Does the information match up? What is the information from official sources?

 
5. Never retweet/share something if you cannot verify the information yourself. You want to be known for sharing reliable information not spreading unsubstantiated rumours.

 
6. Learn how to use external applications like Tweetdeck, Twitterfall or Hootsuite. These will help you to manage multiple accounts, multiple lists and multiple hashtags or key words without being overwhelmed.

 

7. Industry practice is moving towards tweet first, broadcast/publish second, so you should be replicating this. However make sure you have something to broadcast or publish within a short time scale after your tweet otherwise audiences will look elsewhere for information.

 
8. Ignore your audience at your peril. The best journalists engage with their audiences by responding to posts, messages and @usernames and ask their audiences for feedback, tips and advice.
 

9. Think of innovative ways to be interactive. Use apps, photos, videos to evoke a response from audiences, or use Twitter to liveblog and use a hashtag so others can join in the conversation.


10. Always think of ways to join in current trends or ask big players to share/retweet your posts. Hook your post to a current story and try to build on its momentum.
 

11. Self-publicise. Audiences will only know about you, if you promote yourself. Post on every relevant Facebook wall available, @username as many relevant people as possible, leave links on blogs, forums and news websites.
 

12. Use key words, the names of people and places or trending words/phrases for  the ultimate search engine optimization.
 

13. Finally – remember you are building a brand so keep your profile consistent across all social media platforms and make sure they all link smoothly to one another.

 

For more advice take a look at these links:

http://www.journalism.co.uk/news-features/seven-ways-the-new-york-times-is-using-social-media-for-deeper-engagement/s5/a547827/

http://mashable.com/2012/02/17/social-media-bloggers-tips/
http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/10/get-optimized-start-engaging-tips-for-taking-your-business-to-the-next-level/
http://technorati.com/technology/it/article/five-tips-for-utilizing-social-media/

Do you have any more top tips? Let me know and comment below.

 

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