Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Category: Social Media Page 2 of 7

Finds and facts about using social media in journalism.

Holy engagement, Batman! How HuffPost blew up the State of the Union on Facebook

How did The Huffington Post get 32,694 Likes, 2,525 comments and 4,268 shares on Facebook for Obama’s State of the Union address? I mean, every news outlet in the U.S. and beyond has posted something about it, so how did one outlet get so much engagement?

How about a sort of Facebook take on live-tweeting? It was an experiment, to be sure, but it seemed to work out well.

Disclosure: Although I work on HuffPost’s social team, I had nothing to do with this. I’m just passing it on as an example.

Here’s a look at the posts and how much engagement each post received (as of today at about noon).

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What does this show (besides a lot of reaction)? It shows experimentation can be worth it. I’m not suggesting this would work for every big live event or for every brand, but it was well worth the adventure.

On what other occasions do you think this could work? What other experiments have you seen to increase engagement on Facebook?

How to Maintain a Safe, Positive and Public Facebook Life

So you’ve turned on Facebook Subscribe. Now what? Here’s some suggestions from someone who’s been doing it awhile. What would you add? Leave suggestions in the comments.

Set up friends lists to help direct posts.

Click on ‘Friends’ on the left side of your profile. Here you can sort, search and assign friends into lists of your choosing. Take the time to create lists based on the sort of things you share. Maybe you have a list for family and friends to show off photos of your kids/pets/self. Maybe you have one just for coworkers or work-related purposes.

Be selective about who you share with.

You can direct individual status updates, photos, videos, notes and galleries to very granular groups (based on those friends lists you made). Your subscribers likely don’t care about your dinner plans with friends, so maybe those sort of updates should be directed to friends only. Also take the time consider the privacy of those you tag or feature in posts or images, they may not want to be exposed to your public audience.

Be smart.Don’t share where you live or details about your schedule on public posts. And ladies, consider what your public posts say to the sexual harassers, stalkers and all-around creeps who hang out on Facebook. I’ve encountered some real weirdos who’ll respond in an uncomfortable fashion to just about any post – I try not to encourage them.

Manage your comments.If you have comments turned on for subscribers, keep an eye on them. People will sometimes spam you, say horrible things or pop into a conversation thread like a bull in a china shop with a “So hottt. C me in Turkiye”. You need to delete stuff sometimes, your friends and subscribers are depending on you to keep the comments cleared. Do this by hovering over the right side of their comment until you see an X. Click to delete the comment.

Don’t be afraid to block people.

If someone is spamming you or being abusive to you or your commenters, don’t hesitate to block them from your page. Do this by first deleting the comment, then you’ll get an option to block the user.

 

What else would you add?

How To Set Up Facebook Subscribe For Journalists

When Facebook launched its Subscribe feature in mid-September, quite a few journalists sighed in relief. This, we thought, is what we needed: A way to communicate with a larger audience of readers while maintaining a somewhat private personal life behind a friend wall. I’m sure it’s a great option to other professionals, celebrities and wannabe celebrities as well.

I enabled subscriptions the day they launched, mostly to test it out. After all, who would be interested in reading the occasionally inane updates of a non-famous non-reporter? More than 9,000 subscribers later, I found out.

In the six weeks since, I’ve found some things I like and dislike about the feature. This ongoing experiment has helped me to formulate a few tips that may help anyone who wants to use this feature.

Getting It Set Up

1. Customize your profile information.

Your profile will be open to the public when you turn on Subscribe, so this is the place to lure people in (and possibly turn others away). Click on “Edit Profile” on the top right of your profile page. Use the ‘about me’ space to describe who you and and what you do.

For the sake of transparency, you should identify yourself as a journalist, including your job title (or description of what you do) and the name of your publication. I’d suggst you do this even if you don’t plan to use your profile for work.

This is also a good space to lay out what subscribers can expect from you. Do you frequently share links or start discussions on sports or politics? Say so. Will you talk about your personal life? What is your policy on friending?

I also use this are to put down a couple of ground rules, particularly “Don’t be a creep.” (More on that later)

2. Adjust the privacy settings on all aspects of your profile.

If you adjust nothing here, it could very well be visible to the entire Internet. You can adjust whether areas such as your location, connections, contact info and interests should be publicly visible or shown only to friends (or certain groups of friends).

Keep in mind, while you might consider your life to be an open book, your friends and family may not be as comfortable. Think about their privacy when adjusting the ‘Friends and Family’ settings and remember whoever finds you will be able to find them.

3. Decide what to do about those past posts.

In your privacy settings, there is an option to limit the visibility of past posts. If you have any doubt about the updates, photos and other stuff you’ve shared on Facebook in the past (including those crazy college photos), you might want to check this so new subscribers can’t dig back through your possibly sordid history.

You may also want to look at your photos page and set individually which past albums and images can be seen by the public.

4. Set how people can find and contact you.

If you want to be easily found on Facebook (and why would you turn on Subscribe if you didn’t?), you need to be sure you’ll come up in searches. In your privacy settings, select ‘How You Connect’. Here is where you can set how strangers will find and contact you. If you’re actively looking to reduce friend requests, you should limit those who can send them to at least ‘Friends of Friends’.

5. Turn on Subscribe.

Do this with the button on the top right of your profile page. This is also where you want to decide if those who subscribe to you can post comments on your posts. Your comment numbers will go up – and they will require work (see below), but consider this: Why would you read something you can’t comment on? Weigh this option carefully.

6. Take a look at how the public sees your page.

At the top right of your page, click “View As”. Click “public” to see what subscribers will see or check how certain friends see your page by entering their name.

 

More: Tips for maintaining a safe, positive and public Facebook life.

B.S. Detection for Journalists

Eds Note 10/5: It was brought to my attention that the links in this slideshow are not clickable in the embed here. I included them all below this post. 

Ever see a tip that’s too good to be true (it probably is) or a photo so amazing you just can’t believe it (don’t)? Sometimes you can’t just follow your nose to know what’s good and what’s bad on the social web – so you have to be extra careful in the verification and vetting process.

Following is the presentation I gave along with Craig Silverman of Regret the Error at the Online News Association Conference on Friday, September 23.

Our presentation went over how to verify tips, facts and images gathered via social media and the web. It also has a few case studies that demonstrate why this is so important.

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Links included:

 

Additional Reading:

 

What if we’d had today’s social media on 9/11?

At the Knight-Batten Symposium at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, keynote speaker and Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth made a provocative statement. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something like, “Thank goodness social media wasn’t invented yet on September 11.”

Eds Note: Jeff Sonderman has the full quote at Poynter, along with additional analysis of the eyebrow-raising speech. 

She noted how horrific it would be to read the final tweets or Facebook updates of those destined to die in the Twin Towers or watch YouTube videos from inside the burning buildings as people are jumping out.  And she’s right, it would be horrific….but I don’t say “thank goodness” to that lack of social media. I imagine, “What if?”

I say, if today’s social media had been around, those who perished on September 11, 2001 could have been the storytellers of their own history..  When I put this wondering onto my Facebook page and Google+, it prompted a great discussion with other journalists and social media users.

Cory Bergman of BreakingNews.com disagreed with Weymouth’s premise, “That’s like saying, thank goodness there was no live TV — we didn’t need to see the towers collapse.”

Angel Brownawell agreed with Bergman, saying, “We would’ve all had A LOT of information to consume and sift through, but it wouldn’t have been any more distressing than hearing about the last voice mails, answering machine messages or the live TV images.”

Which journalists wouldn’t look, albeit squeamishly, for the last words and moments of fellow Americans, intentionally left behind for history and final goodbyes? We would have been able to sift through the mounds of social media data to piece together the story in a way we still haven’t been able to manage. We’d know who was there, how they died and exactly what happened to them. We’d have known went through the minds of those who chose to jump from the Towers. We’d have known exactly how a plane went down in a field in Shanksville, Pa.

On my Facebook page, Jeremy Binckes of TBD extolled the value of those first-hand reports,”The one thing about the attacks we’ll never know and will never be CERTAIN of is,”What was it really like? … It’s the one angle of the story we’ll never really know firsthand.”

My former soccer coach, Jim Boyd, noted on Facebook, “Perhaps having social media would have changed the events on the planes in a positive way.”

Law enforcement would have benefitted from social media, too.  It would have helped to know who was in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon and who was just missing after the confusion. Recounting and videos of emergency rescues from these scenes could have helped inform safety procedures for future events.

Even aside from its use for journalists, law enforcement and historians, I think social media would have been a vital way for the nation to come together with friends, family, and strangers for comfort. Remember what it was like the night Osama Bin Laden was killed? Nobody could have felt alone with such a networked world out there.

Bruce Warren noted there was a bit of social media in use at the time that brought he and his friends together.

That morning I was on a public message board with people I had met through a band. Many lived in NYC and were posting updates all morning. Also helped to make sure everyone was accounted for that we could think of on there. Was not uncommon that day to read an update, then hear it via the media.

Brownawell and my friend Lauren Worley noted the importance of AOL Instant Messenger on 9/11.

“I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, and it was the only way I could communicate with my family to let them know my coworkers and I were ok where we were, ” Worley commented on Facebook.

Brownawell had a similar story.

“I remember hoping into an AIM chatroom that day and night, and talking to about 30 or so people for dozens of hours about what had happened. Not Facebook, not Twitter. But still online social interactions. Perhaps if Twitter had been around, I would still be in touch with those people today.”

ESPN goes back in time, bans breaking news on Twitter

ESPN’s reporters have a reputation of breaking sports news on Twitter – but expect that to change.

The company’s new social media policy, released this week, rolls back a hallmark of ESPN’s social media coverage with a ban on reporters breaking news on social media.

Do not break news on Twitter. We want to serve fans in the social sphere, but the first priority is to ESPN news and information efforts. Public news (i.e. announced in news conferences) can be distributed without vetting. However, sourced or proprietary news must be vetted by the TV or Digital news desks. Once reported on an ESPN platform, that news can (and should) be distributed on Twitter and other social sites.

It’s a shockingly backward stance for a company that always seems ahead of the curve on sports news in the social space.

NFL writer Adam Schefter is a prime example of what ESPN used to represent on social media. He has repeatedly broken news first on Twitter, frequently beating his own network on player signings, deal extensions, injury reports and big news such as the firing of Broncos coach Josh McDaniels near the end of the 201o season. Of course, he’s also tweeted news that ended up being inaccurate, too. That said, Schefter is followed by tweeting sports fans because he’s fast and often first.

And this is what sports junkies, bloggers and fans want. Charles Drengberg on Off the Record Sports breaks it down really well, noting that ESPN is often behind the likes of Schefter and other Twitter-friendly reporters when it comes to breaking news.

…As a dedicated NFL fan and sports blogger, I’d rather get my breaking news when it’s still breaking via Twitter than sit around waiting for ESPN or Yahoo to write up some puffy article referencing Ochocinco’s career numbers playing in cold weather when he gets signed to the Patriots.

I can only see two reasons why ESPN would take on such an old-fashioned policy that seems directly at odds with its place in the media world:

1.) The company brass is worried about their role in consistently passing along rumor and speculation. But come on, let’s be serious, they know that’s why we sports fans even visit ESPN.

2.) ESPN must be so certain of its stranglehold on sources within the sports world that it has no fear of losing an exclusive to a social media source.

Whatever the reason, it’ll be interesting to see how (or if) this shifts the playing field in regards to reporting on sports. As ESPN reporters have to wait to share scoops first on their company’s multimedia properties, could their competition at the networks, local news and online-only sports sites (like Deadspin, etc.) beat them to the punch on the viral waves of Twitter?  Could this self-imposed delay on the social channels give a leg up to the likes of SB Nation or Bleacher Report? We’ll have to wait and see.

WaPo arrives late to NATO story on social media

On August 6 around 2 a.m. local time, a NATO helicopter carrying U.S. Special Forces troops crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

The Washington Post had a reporter in person and on the story – but it took a long time for anyone to notice on its social media channels.

A student from my summer social media class at Georgetown University, Katie Bridges, made the following Storify about what happened for a class assignment. I wanted to highlight it here as a lesson, of sorts, to see how social media is still being figured out at news orgs of all sizes.

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What should we learn from this? For one, that someone should always be assigned to watching the Twitter feeds of staff reporters (even on weekends). Since that isn’t always possible, at the very least there should be a behind-the-scenes communication in place to make sure the work of reporters on the ground is highlighted and re-tweeted for a larger audience in situations like this.

All of that is most likely in place at the Post and it just failed in this case (hey, it happens). WaPo is a big publication with a lot of reporters and a sizable social media staff – and it can sometimes be a comfort to know that even the big guys are still figuring out social media in their news flow.

Facebook comments can’t guarantee a lack of anonymity

There’s a conventional wisdom out there in the online journalism world that: 1.) News site comments will automatically be better if people have to use real names, and 2.) Using Facebook for your comments will accomplish this.

I’ve said many times before that I don’t think anonymity is the problem. My campaign on that seems to be a lost cause so far. As a former comment moderator and current manager of social media accounts, I know for a fact that people have absolutely no problem spouting hateful views and violent rhetoric under their real name. I see it every day.

Aside from that, there’s also all kinds of evidence that Facebook comments aren’t the end-all, be-all answer on this front.

As my friend Jeff Sonderman recently wrote at Poynter, Facebook comments can be a boon to news sites in lots of ways: Increased Facebook traffic referrals, fast page load times, an easy out-of-the-box comment solution.

One thing Facebook doesn’t do, however, is prevent anonymity (as the same article and several others insist).

While there is a rule on Facebook that one has to use their real name, it’s not always followed. I have several Facebook friends who use false names for various personal reasons – and they are all, essentially, anonymous. That said, they are still identifiable to their friends, which still keeps some people in check with their online comments. (Though this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone.)

The biggest threat to the alleged transparency and decency of Facebook-powered commenting lies in the same tool many news organizations use to communicate with readers: Facebook Pages.

Just speaking anecdotally here (if you have stats to back me up, please help), I’ve seen an uptick of abusive posts and trolling on Facebook ever since it rolled out its new pages in February. That rollout included the new ability to use Facebook as a page.

This change made it possible for just anyone to set up a fake character on Facebook – and then use Facebook as that character. On The Huffington Posts’s pages (on which I am an administrator) and the pages of other groups and news organizations, I’ve seen these fake accounts spreading spam, trolling the page’s regular users and making hateful statements under the guise of a made-up character.

Here’s a view examples of some alias accounts I found on news pages (or skip below if you want):

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Even before this change, there was a history of false profiles spamming and trolling Facebook, the addition of Use-As-Page to the toolbox only gave trolls a new way to stay in business. Facebook has staff that deals with those accounts when they are found or reported, but it certainly can’t be easy for them to keep up with people who are dead set on being trolly.

(Related aside: When I worked as a comment moderator for the Cincinnati Enquirer, a troublesome site user with many usernames emailed me to say, “I’m retired and have nothing else to do but create new accounts every time you block me. I can make your live miserable.” This is just a sampling of the mentality of trolls, folks. Here’s another.)

Now, I’ve got no doubt that some news sites have seen higher quality discussion after installing Facebook commenting; it’s definitely better than many of in-house or other out-of-the-box solutions I’ve seen on news websites. It likely is the best option for those sites that don’t have the technical expertise and manpower to host and manage a heavy flow of onsite comments day in and day out – so long as they don’t mind handing a big part of their community to Facebook.

I’m just warning that news sites shouldn’t assume that Facebook on its own will solve their commenting problems. Users can and will still be anonymous (or even identifiable) hateful trolls. To make it work, you still need a daily moderation workflow and a newsroom-wide commitment to not only reading story/blog comments, but responding to them.

 

The Bin Laden story and real-time engagement

Please allow me to think aloud on the past 15 hours.

We all acknowledge that the news of Osama bin Laden’s death broke on social media. We’ve all got stories about Twitter’s impact, roundups of Twitter reactions, tweet timelines and Storification galore – but did anyone in the heat of the developing news last night start engaging readers on the spot? (This is not a rhetorical question, I actually want to know.)

I’m seeing a lot of the same curation sets of the same tweets or calls out for “tell us where you were or how you found out” second-day stories. These seem to be late reactions or pallid imitations of the wonderful, shared experience many Americans had in real-time on social media channels last night. What could we do better?

The story – and most initial reactions to it – were played out in the Twitter timeline before any major news outlets even confirmed the rumor. At this point, I’d speculate a lot of the on-the-spot reaction had passed. At that time, reporters and editors were busy working sources, heading to in-person meeting places and writing headlines (as they should be), but how many jumped into the social media fray in real time?

Who led or hosted a conversation about the night’s events on Twitter, Facebook, on-site comments or live chats? (As opposed to curating what was already occurring out there.)

If you didn’t – why not?  Was there not enough staff to juggle hosting a full-time talk? Did nobody think to do it in time to get initial reactions? Was technology an issue? Was your audience not as plugged in to the social sphere?

This story – and the outpouring of reaction and conversation amongst strangers on social media – could serve as a lesson to newsrooms on how to develop a breaking news workflow that includes an element of community engagement when (or even before) the news breaks.  We all saw it happen, we reacted and engaged as we best know how – now, what could we have done better?

Making community engagement an everyday process

This weekend, I was fortunate to be invited to speak to the Kiplinger Fellowship program at Ohio State University. Twenty-four working journalists are learning new skills and strategies on social media, new media tools and community engagement.

My presentation, featured after the jump, is aimed at reporters to help them better connect with audiences, brand themselves and work more efficiently in the social sphere. I hope others may find it helpful/interesting.

Interacting with the audience as a news brand

Last week I went over a few tips for setting a social media strategy and persona for your news org’s branded account(s) and tips for using those accounts as a brand. Today, let’s get into audience engagement on social media tools. These tips have served me well as both a brand and as an individual, helping me to establish great relationships on the old internets.

Audience Interaction in the Social Sphere

Responding: I’d suggest you try to always respond to those who reach out to the brand on Twitter or Facebook with questions, criticism and tips. You can respond via private direct message (if they follow you) or outward replies. If you’re squeamish about public replies, remember: Unless a Twitter user is following both parties, they will not see this interaction in their streams. If the reply is something you think other followers may be interested in, you might want to re-tweet the question/comment and answer it outright.

Note: After you DM a user, you will need to follow them from the brand’s account if you want a reply via direct message. People cannot direct message you unless you are following them.

News Tips: If someone sends a good news tip via Twitter, Facebook or by email, ask them follow-up questions (if necessary) and be sure to publicly acknowledge their contribution. You may want to re-tweet the tip once you have verified it.

Ask for help: If you want a photo or info from the scene of a story, ask for it from your followers.

Be thankful: Treat those supplying you with information as a respected friend – and they just might end up becoming regular tipsters and brand evangelists. If you get a news tip, photo or other info you’d like to use from your followers, be sure to thank and/or credit the user by name in social media messages and the story itself. Credit them on Twitter with (h/t @theirname) or similar when the link is shared. If you use a photo, make sure they are credited in the cutline.

Questions: If someone asks the branded account a question, answer it as soon as you have time (or ask someone else to do so). If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll find out and get back to them.

Criticism: If someone offers criticism, address it, even if only to say you’ll pass it to the right person internally. Try to avoid an extended back-and-forth with Twitter users and don’t get into embarrassing Twitter arguments. Once it seems to be approaching a point of no end, take the conversation offline.

Corrections: If you made a mistake, like a misspelled name, wrong link or factual error, it’s best to correct it in a follow-up tweet. Do not erase the first tweet unless you absolutely feel you must – and not without some acknowledgement of the mistake.

Start the conversation: Instead of always offering up a headline and link, add a question element when appropriate. Like, “What’s your favorite”, “do you agree” or whatever. If you want this to be an ongoing topic for the day, you may want to start a hashtag to accompany it.

Responses: If someone gives you a particularly good response, RT it with a link back or some notation as to what it’s about. Example: RT @someguy I think it’s a bad idea. // What do you think of Md’s new traffic law? http://bit.ly/ghgkg

Note: This is an especially good way to keep an ongoing topic going throughout the day. Use this to keep a hashtag going instead of tweeting out a boring old headline on the same thing again.

Channeling the news brand on Twitter and Facebook

The other day, I mentioned that I’ve been transitioning TBD’s social media channels to a new team and doing some basic training in how to communicate as a news brand. I got into how news brands need to have a planned persona and strategy in place to effectively manage a presence in social media. Today, I’ll pass on the tips I’ve been giving to the new brand managers for you to try out in your newsroom.

These tips assume that you don’t want a stiff headline feed for your news accounts and you will be devoting some manpower – either a set staffer or a group sharing duties – to maintaining a personalized social media presence.

Tweeting as the News Brand

1. Think curation instead of broadcasting. Your goal is to find the most immediate, informative, interesting, re-tweetable news in as conversational a manner as is possible/appropriate.

2. Use your best news judgment when you decide to tweet. Some stories that come across your desk may not be ideal for the brand’s Twitter account. If you have a set strategy for your coverage area and topics (and you’d better, son), things like link roundups, uber-niche coverage, out-of-coverage-area stories or, frankly, old news, won’t be very useful to your followers.

2.5 If you do want/need to tweet a roundup post, highlighting an individual segment works well for Twitter interest.It’s way better than saying “Today’s news in X” or, god forbid, “link roundup on X”.

3. Timing is everything. I found over time that the best times for TBD to tweet are generally in the morning, over lunchtime and in the late evening. It may be different for your brand. You can find this out by checking the incoming traffic to your site from Twitter – or by tracking how often you get replies at certain times of the day (many analytics tools do this). You may also opt to schedule some tweets to hit spike times that are not staffed.

3.5 Space non-breaking tweets out to avoid flooding people’s streams too much. And remember, silence is OK. You don’t have to tweet for the sake of tweeting.

4. Tweeting something more than once is OK. Besides, rewording an old tweet makes it sound new.

5. Sometimes the headline on the story just isn’t right as a tweet. Turn on your best inner copyeditor to write a tweet that’s informative, descriptive and short enough to be re-tweeted.

6. Be selective when re-tweeting. Re-tweet good information, breaking news alerts, news tips, reactions, but be sure to stay relevant. Also, make sure it’s easily understood if the information is verified or not.

7. Stick to your strategy. Remember the mission, intended audience, scope and topic area for your Twitter account. You DO have a strategy, right?

 

Special notes for breaking news

  • If news is breaking fast, don’t wait for a link to tweet.
  • BUT Linking is a priority: If you have info to send a lengthy tweet, we have info to quickly copy and paste into a very short post to update later. Missing a link is missing page view opportunities as the news is retweeted. Perhaps more importantly, it also makes it harder for the follower to get more information on the story if they see it on a re-tweet later in the tweetcycle.
  • Updates: When a breaking news post is updated with notable info, tweet about it again with the new info and include the same link.
  • Exclusive news and scoops: If information is exclusive to your site, you may want to save the information for a quick blog post so a link can be tweeted with the breaking news. Why rush it to Twitter if you can have more information out there from the get-go?

 

Facebook is not the same as Twitter

Facebook should generally be updated far less frequently and with a different kind of story than Twitter. You don’t want your brand to be the friend that updates too often.

Story choice: Think about which kind of stories you’d share with friends on Facebook. Consider if this is something that could start a conversation.

Timing: For TBD, Facebook activity is heaviest in the morning, around and just after lunch and in the evening after 7 pm. Check the analytics on your Facebook page to see when your busy times are. You might want to start out by sharing a link in the morning, one or two over the course of the day and one or two in the evenings. Think about when people actually use Facebook, and post when they’re on. (Don’t forget weekends!)

Cross-posting with Twitter: If you do want to share updates between Twitter and Facebook, do not set it up to function automatically from one to the other. They aren’t built similarly and it shows when news orgs try to do both at once. Facebook users shouldn’t be seeing Twitter names and hashtags – and Twitter readers shouldn’t be seeing tweets that are too long coming from a Facebook stream. Use a service like Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite to cross-post to make it easier and faster.

 

Coming soon: News brand guidelines for audience interaction

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