Putting Social Media to Work

Session: Making Social Media Matter

My first session today was led by the Editor-in-Chief of Michigan State University and discussed the ways to incorporate social media into the newsroom, including the use of Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Many of the traits that Kate Jacobson talked about were techniques and tools that we are already incorporating into our online content, including using photo galleries for extra content and posting a poll on Facebook to gather opinions. However, while I feel The Pendulum already does exceptionally well with these specific procedures, we can always improve on our more broad approach to social media.

According to Jacobson, publications should not only understand how to use social media, but also how their readers are using social media. It’s not enough to post a story link to Twitter every half hour – when are users most likely to see the tweet? It’s not enough to post a few photos from the latest campus events – what events are students attending that they can tweet images of? Perhaps my favorite suggestion from Jacobson was to use Twitter and Facebook to cultivate story ideas. On a regular basis, she puts out a tweet simply saying, “What’s going on?” asking students/faculty/staff/alums what stories the paper needs to know about. From that simple tweet, Jacobson said The State News learned about an issue of a student spray-painting racially derogatory words and phrases on the doors of minority students – a story that they wouldn’t have otherwise none about. After all, our campus newspaper is intended to be for the students, a reflection of the issues that matter to them and impact them. Social media is revolutionizing the way news is presented and we need to take full advantage of the opportunity to put it to good use.

A few more tips from Jacobson:

  • Use Facebook to find sources (but only when all other options have been used).
  • Include school emails in bylines, giving the audience a new way to connect with the reporter.
  • Allow users to comment, but always reserve the right to moderate their responses.

-Caitlin O’Donnell


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