Let’s face it, there’s no way around it. It’s the social media way or no way; it’s the only way to get yourself out there.
I was diagnosed early in life with an aversion to social media. I am the only person in my graduating class without a Facebook profile. My twitter feed looks as though it belongs to a news-prone robot and not a breathing cerebral human. Suck it spies!
A couple of years ago, I interned at the Guardian’s News Desk and ended up working on the Middle East Live Blog with Matthew Weaver. The Syrian war was at full swing and getting foreign correspondents on the ground was proving to be a challenge. I was amazed at the alternative route the live blog was taking. A large portion of its immediate reporting came from activists on the ground through Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. As I translated posts from Arabic and cross-referenced for accuracy, I knew I needed to get with program (yet to fully happen).
Journalism’s future may be ambiguous but social media is here to stay. In 2014, this is like saying “I just discovered this great band, Guns n Roses”. Nevertheless, for the recently graduated flocks of journalists, social media remains a minefield best explored deliberately.
As I tread the waters of recent and unexpected unemployment (I was supposed to be at City University in London, if it weren’t for a bureaucratic black hole of the UKBA variety), I have 20/20 vision on where my social media path has gone awry.
If you’re a newbie like me, or just wanting to get ahead, check out some of these tools I’ve found useful.
First off, social media isn’t just about intake, Twitter is not limited to its aggregator role. Above all, an actual consistent online presence is vital.
Every 20-something journalist is automatically expected to be adept at anything internet-related, rightfully so.
Storify is a great way to curate various stories around a single topic. You can then tweet the link to pertinent followers as well as create posts and relay them to your Facebook page.
You yourself may want to engage with stories other journalists are producing. Meddle, a dynamic blogging platform, provides an option to comment and write about articles on the spot.
Twitter can be an incredible news-gathering tool. Use tweetdeck to create filtered lists, keep up to date with what’s trending and how it may impact your journalism.
Make the best of topsy, an online tool used to analyze twitter trend and curate everything on RebelMouse (It’s free for individuals). This will help you hone in on specific topics and sources you may have not noticed before.
Create Gmail alerts to search for key terms pertinent to your specialty and coverage.
SocialMention, a search and analysis platform, is a particularly useful application I came across. It helps you track topic trends, strength, sentiment and reach.
If you’re not engaged online, then you will fall behind. As you work on a story, tweet related facts to interested parties. If you’re doing a piece about refugees, perhaps tweet the Refugee Council about an interesting figure your research has revealed. Digital storytelling is an art in its own right.
People search for what they’re interested in. You might gain readers by consistently tweeting about what you’re writing, even if it’s just for your personal blog. So don’t forget your hashtags. Use language that is conversational and approachable. Attach a good quality photo that will attract attention. When you create a post, think of its share-ability not just its readability.
If you’re lucky enough to be on the field, then tweet what you see, describe, and offer facts a removed audience wouldn’t be able to know without being where you are. Harness the power of immediacy and take your audience with you.
It goes without saying that everything you publish online is there forever, so remain tasteful, professional and accurate.
The age of a journalist’s job being done after submission is OVER. Once you publish, take publicity of your work into your own hands.
There are journalists by the dozen, sometimes it’s about who’s the loudest i.e. who has the most optimised use of social media.
If your interviewee is of a relatively high profile, mention them in a tweet promoting your work. Mention activists, organizations and people who are engaged in the subject. Don’t leave any stones uncovered.
I hesitantly add a certain degree of shamelessness to my list. Helen Pidd claims she has her “armpit hair to thank” for her job at the Guardian. Let us take a moment to appreciate that audacious proclamation.
During her second year at the University of Edinburgh, Helen wrote a 2 page spread about how she abandoned depilatory habits for a year and grew out her armpit hair. She went on to win Student Journalist at the Herald’s student media awards in Scotland. The ingenuity of her idea and her follow-through were the impetus for her career.
I fear an unwillingness to follow in the armpit hair tradition will be the detriment of my career but I’ll get on board with the rest.