As a person who worked in a Washington newsroom during an election year—Obama vs. Romney—I can tell you that I encountered many journalists who did not utilize social media to its potential at the time. And, to be fair, it was a hectic period. Elections can take over a newsroom, so it’s to be expected that some storytelling elements may be overlooked compared to the traditional photo series or article.
However, times are changing. With 68 percent of U.S. adults getting their news from social media, a six percent increase from 2016, it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. Though a reporter’s time may be limited, throwing up a link to an article on social media and hoping for the best is not acceptable either. Users want an experience with their news—especially on Facebook, where 43 percent of U.S. adults get their news and the average user spends 41 minutes per day. This experience determines if the user returns, a key metric in measuring the success of any social media strategy, news-related or not.
So, how has social media changed journalism over the last decade, and what does this mean for journalists hoping to get their news out there?
Breaking news can break at quicker speeds now that social media is at play. Sure, this leads to the occasional sharing-of-news-before-checking-to-see-if-it’s-accurate sort of thing, but it also means that people expect news faster, and news organizations must adhere to that expectation. If breaking news occurs around you, you can tweet the news as you go. There’s no need to wait!
The ultimate benefit for journalists using social media is that it makes it easier to build a reputation. Users are more likely to consider your news credible if you have an active Facebook or Twitter profile to match your byline. If you’re accessible to your audience as well as your organization, users are more likely to trust you as a source.
Digital journalism is all about driving clicks through advertising, and social media is a great place to do that. By revolutionizing the news cycle, social media has become one of the top referral sources for news in the world.
Facebook, for example, prioritizes posts that feature video, particularly live streams. According to a statement released by Facebook in early 2018, live video on average generates six times more interactions than regular video. There have also been 3.5 billion live broadcasts since 2016, watched by nearly two billion people.
National Geographic, for example, has done a great job of incorporating this tactic into their social strategy, posting up to 70 live videos per month and reaching one million users in the process. These videos range from interviews with reporters and photographers in the field to live safari videos.
Both Facebook and Twitter have also made a push to prioritize local content in their algorithms. Posts from local friends and businesses tend to resonate more with users, it’s believed, as they have more of an intimate feel and can often add color to national news stories. (While this may seem like a slight to larger brands, the challenge to create more impactful, engaging content can only result in a higher-quality end product for the user).
In a move to compete with YouTube ads, Facebook has also offered to share advertising revenue with creators through its suggested videos feed. Whenever someone clicks on a video in their news feed, it appears in a feed of other suggested videos. Spliced between those videos are autoplay advertisements with various objectives including brand awareness, app installs and engagement. Facebook then takes a 45 percent cut of the ad revenue generated and the remaining 55 percent is split between the creators of the videos that were watched in the feed. While this last tactic isn’t leading to clicks to outside sites, it does generate revenue where there once was none, which is something for news organizations to consider.
Being able to connect with users on social media is a great way to instill trust in your audience. Ten years ago, reporters seemed untouchable, somehow removed from the audiences they serve—but now with social media, you can interact with users as stories unfold and take them along the ride, no matter where they are.
In building these profiles and updating them frequently, the goal is for users to put a name to a face and to get to know the reporters better. By doing so, audiences will hopefully become a fan of your work and follow you wherever your career takes you, even if you eventually decide to leave your current job.
Loyal fans who stick by you no matter what—what’s not to love? You’ve heard of brand ambassadors, but why not “reporter ambassadors”? It could catch on.