Wick Communications

Making social media work

In Online media on June 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

So we all know we need to embrace social media, right? Do you know why?

That second one is a tricky question for me. This week I sat in on a webinar hosted by

Dave Olson

the Poynter Institute and I did so partly in an effort to answer the “why” question.

The webinar was led by David Olson, editor of the Salem News in Salem, Mass. His publication has embraced the new media and keeps a vibrant presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Among other things, I learned that he’s not in it for the money. In a separate e-mail to me after the webinar he told me it’s important to be on social media platforms because, “that is where the readers are now. We can’t pretend otherwise.”

I completely agree. We want our publications to be ubiquitous in our communities. We want to be impossible to ignore. If there are conversations about our hometowns, we want to butt in – on our Web pages, on Facebook, on Twitter and anywhere else that consumers of news congregate…

So what if we don’t? What if we just continue to publish the paper as we did in 1980 or 1990? Well, you tell me: Is circulation at your place keeping up with Web readership?

Olson said he measures social media success in terms of interaction. “Does it start conversations?” he asks.

And why do we care about that? Well, obviously, because we want to be in the middle of such conversations. If we aren’t we are in a very bad situation in a world that no longer depends solely on print for local information.

He had some other points worth making:

  • Should you feed all your headlines into Facebook and Twitter? Olson thinks not, though there is no consensus on this. He thinks these aren’t platforms from which to push your wares but rather common areas where the discussion takes place. I tend to agree. When I see my friends selling real estate or their journalism on my Facebook page, I find it kind of boorish. Just my personal opinion.
  • You don’t control these spaces. Social media hubs are not analogous to your Web site. Olson puts it like this: “We are a guest in their home.” We end up on their Facebook page and their Twitter feed. We can participate, but we can’t control the message. Maybe that feels subtle, but I understand what he’s saying.
  • Olson has “democratized” his paper’s social media. That means he lets everyone on the news side contribute. It’s not centralized with a single editor or one Web-savvy staffer. That is partly to spread the extra workload created by monitoring and posting to the media and partly because some of his (and your) staffers know as much or more about the platforms as you do. Curiously, he doesn’t extend that privilege to others in the building – ad and business staffs, for instance. I might be a bit more democratic once the ground rules are set.

There is a ton more to say about our use of social media. And I suspect that will always be so. I don’t think there is any last word on this topic. I just wanted to share a bit of Dave’s wisdom.

Clay

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