Tag Archives: twitter

Reflections on a Blogging Journey

23 May

Most of this blog has been in correlation with a course on social media and journalism. Many prior attempts had been made at creating a blog in the past but not until the peer pressure of a class was upon me was I able to stick with it and really give the blog all I had to give. These past months have provided me with a great amount of blog insight that no amount of reading or advising of others had given me before. I consider this blog to still be in its early stages and the longevity of it may still be uncertain but the lessons taken from the experience will apply themselves both to the future of this blog and to other ventures.

You Can Never Do Too Much Prep

Obviously some platforms call for more prep than others (there is only so much thinking you can do on a 160 character message) but regardless of your target its important to take time to think, draft and revise what you’re going to write/say. In the case of a blog or a news article this can be days and days worth of work collecting resources and growing the content into something new and exciting.

Engagement Is Queen

The common wisdom is that content is king. If this is true than engagement definitely plays the part of the queen. The game might be over if you kill the content but you’ll be sorely hurt and recovery is hard if you lose your queen. Developing a social media persona isn’t about just writing lots of content, publishing links to it and waiting for people to read. The real objective is to create a platform in which the topics you write about can be discussed, where the ideas that you share gain traction and grow. The only way to have this happen is by engaging with other people in meaningful ways.

Its Important To Be Appropriate

Appropriateness on the internet is a little different than in person. The content of your media doesn’t need to be rated G by any means and in fact the internet is a very good medium for discussion topics that might not be accessible in print or regular television. The importance of appropriateness on the internet has to do with how you use the mediums. Standards are in place which make technology platforms work well for everyone, use hash-tags when you create a tweet, tag people in facebook posts if you mention their name, when writing an article please use meta-data. These small things are there so that everyone can access content in a level playing field without having to search for pages and pages.

Goals Matter

While the internet is full of people that are otherwise board and haven’t yet realized they can go outside, chances are most of them you’re interested in communicating with feel their time is valuable. It can be fun to be a chatty Cathy and share each and every tidbit that comes to mind but when doing this keep in mind why you’re publishing social media. If your goal is to having meaningful relationships with followers that result in an engaged community then it might be better to keep some thoughts private. There are lots of things worth sharing but not all of them help you in your goals.

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Top 10 Social Media Secrets

7 Apr

Social media can be a very useful tool for businesses, non-profits and individuals trying to spread news about any number of topics. Some people are born naturals with social media and seem to draw a crowd without even trying. For the rest of us here are some quick tips for making the most of social media.

Everything Is An Opportunity

Try to remember social media in your normal daily activities. View your life as a collection of learning experiences and share these with others. You’ll have a huge amount of content that you weren’t tapping into before. Your successes, failures and thoughts thorughout the day are all relevant (aren’t they to you?).

You Can’t be Everything to Everyone

If you try to cater to the broadest audience you won’t actually be an attractive content source for anyone. Figure out your specialty and stick with it. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep your content to only one topic all the time but make sure there is an obvious direction to your blog/tweets/etc…

Nothing Beats Good Search Skills

This may seem a little off topic but making your content easy to find is an important part of writing for the web. Search engines are becoming more and more intuitive and better at finding content based on native language use; however, you can help this process by understanding the basics of why keywords are important and using them appropriately. Do you remember how to use a card-catalog? If not take a library sciences class or at least read a little bit about it online. A solid understanding of old-school search techniques can do wonders for the proper use of keywords and search-ability of your content.

Make It Easy

If using social media is difficult then you’ll never do it. You can make things much much easier by simply being yourself. Finding your voice online can be as simple as finding your own voice. It takes a lot of energy to pretend to be an alter ego or fun and different persona – this might seem like a good idea but ultimately is just difficult.

Listen More Than You Talk

Ask questions of the community and they’ll tell  you what they want. Overall the best way to measure how you’re doing and what you should be doing differently is to listen to the community. You can do this by checking analytics but you can also be more personal about it. When you get praise – do more of what you were doing. When you get criticism – take it seriously and be introspective about what has been said.

This Is Real Life

Social media and the internet are no longer separate from “real life,” so don’t treat your social media connections like they are. Develop real relationships with people online, just like you would in real life and maintain these relationships accordingly.

Be Nice

Sure, you might get a big boost of hits and a giant following if you’re controversial, snarky and mean but that just isn’t a lasting method of relationship building. You don’t have to be syrupy sweet but be genuine and caring with your online content. Answer questions the way you would if you were talking to someone in person. People like to follow people that are kind.

There Is No Replacement For Creativity

One giant mistake that people make in social media is copying what others have done and expecting the same result. Its great to listen and observe the trends of the web but ultimately you have to be innovative to maintain true relevancy online.

Remember To Speak Up

Listening is important but don’t forget to publish your own thoughts and comments regularly. If you only retweet then no one will really know who you are. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, even when it goes against general wisdom, and speak up frequently. The internet is big and there will always be someone out there that what you say will ring true for.

There Is No Real Secret

All of the above items are great tips but the true secret is that when it comes to social media there is no replacement for hard work and consistency.

Susan Mernit on Social Media

25 Mar

Recently I had the chance to talk with Susan Mernit about the role of social media in journalism. Susan is a long time blogger and reporter who started the site OaklandLocal. In her words OaklandLocal is:

[A news site] centered on issues including environmental justice, food distribution,transportation, development & housing, and gender & identity, OaklandLocal aggregates information and news  from local non-profits and community organizations working on these topics within a range of Oakland neighborhoods. We are committed to diverse voices, reader engagement, deep issue coverage and local commentary.

Any reader that spends time on OaklandLocal will get a good taste of the diversity in stories that make up Oakland. The site does a great job of covering news from various neighborhoods and across a number of topics. When asked about the role that social media has had in finding stories, Susan explained that social networking like twitter and facebook have made it much easier to locate the stories that don’t get covered in the mainstream and national media. This approach to story finding means that OaklandLocal  provides a truly fresh and new perspective to the news, rather than just repeating the same stories as other news sources.

Another aspect discussed in detail with Susan was the separation of the personal and public aspects of social media. An avid user of twitter, facebook and scribe, Susan shared that she only uses a single account for both professional and personal interactions on each service. Susan mentioned that there are downsides to this approach and that frequently she has to be overly aware of her wording when reading an interesting article or posting about it because its easy for a simple post to appear as an endorsement from her and subsequently an endorsement from the site – when in actuality it was just an interesting article. The extra hassle isn’t a deterrent however; Susan, continues to post as herself and be honest about her opinions on a frequent basis via social media.

When asked about how much of an asset social media is to the reporting process, especially for a web based news site, I was surprised by her answer. Susan explained that she had been writing online since the early days of blogging and in the beginning there wasn’t the convenience of social media to find stories or develop community around them. She explained that in those early days her goals were still the same, find often over-looked stories and share them with the community, but she did so by talking to people and networking in real life. I followed up on this idea by asking if the types of input she received had changed since moving to more social media and online networking. Susan’s impression was that while there are more people available at any given point with social media, the total number of opinions and viewpoints seemed to be pretty similar as to when all of her information gathering happened outside the internet.

Honesty was really the backbone of the message Susan had to share. The principles and idea that journalists are people first and as people they can’t help but have opinions. She shared that in her own writing she doesn’t strive to be without any personal stance on an issue but rather to just present all possible sides to every story – allowing news to be more about openness, transparency and dialog rather than simply marketing itself as unbiased. This approach is what makes OaklandLocal a unique asset to the hyperlocal news community. The ability to come to seek out stories, share them with the community and then allow for open discussion to commence from there.

News Relevancy of Social Media

25 Feb

I do not own a television. In fact its been years since I’ve owned a television. I can’t say it was a deliberate choice really, it happened during a move when we decided to change our internet service to a local company (unwired ltd) and it was just too much of a bother to order cable from a separate provider. After a few months there was really very little about it that we missed. Movies came from netflix, and even with a billion different channels there was nothing ever on tv. This was the general sentiment in the house until we realized the one thing we were missing from out old television set… news. Most of our tv viewing centered around the news (CNN, CSPAN, CSPAN2) and we really missed those things. Three months in we felt out of touch with the outside world. We almost caved and ordered cable service once again but every time we started looking into it all the aspects of television we disliked came right back to the forefront of our minds.

newspaperFor a while we started reading newpapers. Yes, while most people were abandoning them – I was just starting to use them for the first time. My only real objection to the paper was from an environmental standpoint.

Then that precious day came when it dawned on me that google reader could be used for more then just work. I love my reader and find it an essential part of staying up-to-date on software releases and other related geeky things. And once the NPR feed was added it became my new best friend.

This morning check-in to my reader became the status-quo for a couple of years, it was such a large part of my life that I even blogged about it. It wasn’t until recently that I was enlightened to the use of twitter as a viable news outlet. While I’m still not sure of the validity of taking in large amounts of data in very short segments (160 characters or less), it does make for a nice length to include a title and article link.

So once again the progress of open technology with accessible APIs has won out over a cable subscription that now offers little more than dramatized versions of what news should be.

Social Media as a Tool for Collaboration

25 Feb

With the rise in social media technologies over recent years there has been a constant question in place, “how will social media change the world.” While many people propose that the change has to do with mass distribution of information I argue that while increased access to and distribution of information world wide is an amazing and earth-altering advance in technology it may not be the biggest thing that social media has to offer us.

In the midst of the great discussions over the role of social media outlets, like twitter, during the then eminent revolution of Egypt a thought occurred to me… it then became a tweet.

RT @breannadrew : Does the use of #twitter in north african revolutions show promise of twitter as a tool for political collaboration

The idea that twitter and other social media tools could do more than just inform people but could truly connect people around topics provides long-term promise for the platform and differentiates it from all previous methods of information dissemination.

What was initially most off-putting to me about twitter was the idea that all day long large groups of people go about their day and periodically publish to the world short bits and pieces of their lives. This behavior seemed, in short, useless. Aside from my mother, very few people are deeply interested in my daily musings and activities. The functionality of twitter increases slightly as a tool to publish information about broader topics, but in this manner is used mostly for posting links – not purely tweets. But the holy grail of twitter use comes as a tool for social collaboration.

Yes, oftentimes input comes in forms that are greater than 160 characters but more often it doesn’t. After a month of waiting, observing and stewing over the possibilities that twitter may hold for collaborative tool it all became clear. Low and behold @KQEDnews confirmed my suspicions that the next big thing in social media will be collaboration.

@KQEDnews KQED News

#BaySnOMG is phenomenal! Who says you need a bunch of meetings to produce a collaborative media project??? @TheBayCitizen @CCTimes
Three news agencies all working together to develop a common goal, and doing it in segments of less than 160 characters. Now I’ll admit that developing a hash tag for a possible weather event might not be the most significant collaboration ever but its proof that it can be done. And further, the goal was to aid the most effective dissemination of bay area, snow related information.