There’s no denying there’s been a shift in the way that audiences consume news and the ways in which news is distributed. There’s also no way to get around social media’s large role in the new news consuming and distributing processes.
But social media is simply reflective of the new ways in which people want to connect with each other and share information. Social media is not a new “defining” feature of people today. Using social media doesn’t automatically get you into this new way of thinking.
People are drawn to social media because it reflects their own thought processes.
There are hundreds of articles on the Internet that talk about how journalists can effectively use Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and they give examples of successful ways that journalists have connected with their audiences through social media.
But the journalists weren’t simply successful because they opened up a Facebook account. They were successful because they realized social media is about networking and having conversations; it’s about connecting and sharing. By beginning an open pathway between the journalist and his or her readers, the journalist has used social media the way it works best.
Some media organizations have latched onto the idea of social media, but they have no idea how to use the concepts behind it. Sharing stories and updates is part of the conversation, but that shouldn’t be where it ends. Or really even where it begins.
Building a reputation as a journalist or news organization that can be trusted to listen to the audience and provide a good platform for the audience to both contribute to and receive news is perhaps the key to utilizing social media.
Also, breaking news through whatever medium works, whatever comes natural and will create the best conversation, is also important. There has to be an acceptance that there will be a varying degree of control lost by the organization and editors. They can no longer dictate the way news will spread, or even the stories that will spread.
News is going to spread no matter what, so trying to maintain an identity as the news-telling source is useless.
People using social media are talking about what’s important to them. I’m sure news organizations pick up on general trends when they follow Twitter and the like, but if they aren’t actually listening to what’s being said, and they aren’t following the conversation, then they ultimately lose out on what was driving the conversation.
They miss the small key element that could have spun the news into something fresh and interesting. Yes the facts are interesting, but what’s more interesting to people today are the features. And those are what can be dug up with conversations on social media sites.
Building that connection is what should keep media organizations in the loop. With a strong connection between reader and writer, perhaps when those readers film great pieces of footage on their phones, they’ll post the video not only to their Facebook and YouTube pages, but they’ll also automatically send the video to their local newspaper.
In addition to using social media to spot arrising trends, Google has created tools for searching and spotting searched trends. These tools also help spark conversation.
Rather than simply using the tool to see a trend and then contact experts regarding it, a conversation can be opened on Facebook or Twitter and people with stories — ordinary community members who can serve as experts or people having a personal tie to the trend — can come forward and share what they have to say.