JournalismSocial Media

Are Journalists Really On-Board With Social Media?

It would seem that journalists have embraced social media wholeheartedly. There is no shortage of journalists on Twitter. Most journalists produce content for blogs and share links to their posts across social bookmarking sites, right? That’s what I thought too.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations with marketing professionals that work with traditional print journalists (some of the biggest outlets you can think of). I was surprised to hear how many journalists on their staff have yet to take the plunge.

On a related topic, I recently researched a media list, looking for the Twitter handles of a few dozen journalists I wanted to start following. I was surprised to find that only 1 in 10 of them had an active Twitter account. Granted, these weren’t mainstream journalists, but rather trade reporters and editors – but really, 1 in 10?

It would seem from this casual observation that there are still a lot of journalists that either doesn’t see the value in social media yet or don’t have the time to really get to know the ins and outs of all the various tools out there.

I figured this would be a good time to revisit the benefits of social media for journalists, in the event we can convert one more traditional journalist over to the dark side of social media. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments, but here are the most obvious benefits as I see them:

  • Reach – a journalist that shares links to their most recent content via an RSS feed, tweets or social bookmarking will get a lot more traffic to their posts than somebody that doesn’t use these tools. If you’re a journalist, and you’re not using Twitter to share links to your content, you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage new readers and ultimately strengthen the value you bring to your organization.
  • Feedback – whether voluntary through blog comments, thumbs up/thumbs down feedback, or solicited feedback from users, social media gives journalists more insight into how their community is interacting with the content they produce. It’s a two-way communication model that is relatively new to the world of traditional media. If I were a professional journalist today, I would love to have this type of feedback on the content I’m working so hard to produce every day.
  • Sources – there are literally millions of people using social media today. If I need a source for a story, they’re only a tweet away. You can’t beat this feature of social media. Journalists can dramatically expand the range of sources they can pull from for any story, while significantly reducing the effort required to find a qualified source quickly.
  • Measurement – some organizations share Web analytics data with their journalists, some don’t. If you use a blog with Google Analytics or an RSS feed like Feedburner, you have instant access to detailed statistics on your content. You can learn how readers are discovering your content, how they are sharing your content, and which articles or posts your readers love or hate the most.
  • Branding – social media enables journalists to develop their own personal brands. Journalists need to find new and innovative ways to separate themselves from the other journalists in their organization. Everyone is competing in the news environment, and those that leverage social media have a competitive advantage to build their personal brands in association with the outlets they produce content for.
  • Job Security – in times of trouble, it’s the journalists with the largest and most loyal readership that should be kept on staff. This isn’t always the case, but it can’t hurt to have a huge social media following on top of reader survey data that says your content is the best. Journalists that drive the most traffic and readers enable the media outlet to realize more revenue opportunities. For this reason, social media goes a long way towards promoting job security for journalists – if leveraged to its potential.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. If you’re one of those journalists who have yet to explore the possibilities for social media around the work that you do, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your more social media-savvy team members to learn more. Attend a local social media conference to learn how other professionals are leveraging social media tools for journalism. Better yet, get yourself a Twitter account or start a new blog and learn by doing. I have yet to hear of a downside to using social media for journalism – beyond the time and effort it takes.

What other ways can journalists use social media? Are you a journalist that’s NOT using social media today? Why? Are you a journalist that’s using social media, but has yet to see the value?

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