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Sep 11, 2019
Published on: Medium
2 min read

Social media is everywhere — and it should be a journalist’s best friend.

More than two-thirds of us now get our news from social platforms, and that number is still increasing exponentially year-on-year.

So, how can journalists use the power of these platforms to raise their voice and reach their content into new audiences?

We’ve compiled five reasons why journalists need to take social media seriously, do things a bit differently to stand out, and step up your social game to produce content readers will want to engage with.

1. You have the upper hand — make the most of it

Despite what everyone’s saying — trust in good journalism is actually on the rise. It’s the media platforms themselves who are losing readers’ trust.

Edelman reported a 5% increase in trust towards journalism up to 59%, with a slight decline towards platforms to 51%.

Francesco Zaffarino, Social media editor at The Telegraph, wrote in a piece on the changing role of social media in publisher strategy and journalistic pluralism:

“Forecasts about the end of social networks have never proved right. Platforms are here to stay, with all their problems and visible imperfections. The people who own, manage, and shape them might go — but social media are not going away anytime soon.”

This is exactly right. Social media is here to stay — and its inherent individualism and direct mode of communication mean it will also benefit the journalist over the publication when it comes to connecting with readers. Publishers and platforms are easy prey to changing attitudes and algorithms, but the demand for content and information isn’t.

Unlike your publishers, you have a face and a voice — so use it.

2. You’re with them — now speak their language

One study found that the majority of people using social media for news believe it to be a ‘largely inaccurate’ source of information.

For some journalists, this might make grim reading — but it’s a great opportunity to cut through and communicate your content directly. Readers who trust you, your information, and the way you set it out narratively are more likely to follow you across platforms, publishers or mediums.

This chart from Cision illustrates it well: more than six in ten journalists say they are using social media to promote their content — and almost as many use it to interact with audiences. Building relationships is just as important as driving traffic — and will create better outcomes for journalists in the long run.

Broadcasting your work out to the world is great, but everyone’s doing it — engaging directly with the audience it serves will take your content even further, and will help you play the long game while publishers may flounder.

3. Promote, promote, promote

We know you’re making great content — but do your readers?

In polite society, modesty gets you everywhere — but news feeds are a crowded marketplace. Be loud and extremely proud about what you’re producing.

Got a great podcast or are you doing your own videos? Don’t shut up about it!

Working on a series of mind-blowing think pieces? Get your social audience signed up to email alerts so they never miss a thing.

Social media certainly isn’t the only way to promote your work — but it’s a big deal across all age groups.

4. Pay attention to the long game

Love it or hate it, Facebook has more than two billion monthly users , more than any other website — and your content will only benefit from them.

In the short-lived halcyon days of online publishing, Facebook served as the perfect form of content curation for anyone remotely interested in the work you’re doing — it’s a bit more complicated now that Facebook doesn’t want readers to leave their news feeds.

Increasingly, these platforms act as gatekeepers for content — what material should be seen, how things can be packaged for success, and whether certain kinds of work can even be viable in the long run.

You don’t work for the social media giants, but you can make them work for you.

So what can you do about it?

Turn short-term social engagement into long-run benefits for your work. Building an email list around your work for your dedicated, hard-won social followers is a great way to secure that sweet regular traffic, and take a bit more power out of the hands of the media leviathans who would prefer you tailored your content for their platform.

You don’t work for the social media giants, but you can make them work for you.

5. Analytics? Yes!

Social media analytics are a bit of an industry secret — guarded under sacred order by publications, and generally kept out of the way of journalists.

There are two kinds of social media analytics — one which offers you data based on your individual accounts, and another which shows how your content is performing on all accounts, across social platforms.

It’s the latter which is the most valuable, and is made unattainable to the majority of journalists.

That’s unfair on content producers — and creates a disadvantage where the individual journalist should have the upper hand. Given what we know about readers’ trust in journalists, and how platforms can change in an instant, the secrecy makes it harder for journalists to see the value of their content, and keep an eye on their best opportunities to follow up or develop a story.

While Facebook still dominates the market, there is a proliferation of huge platforms that can drive traffic, and keep your content alive well after you’ve finished tweeting it out — if something is performing well on Facebook months after the story broke, you need to know about it.

Many journalists produce dozens of articles every week, which makes it impossible to keep track of which articles are being shared widely, and which have caught a second wind through shares on Facebook or Twitter long after publication.

This lost information could be critical to informing what, how and when you as a journalist want to cover certain topics — and could be holding you back from building a connection with a broader base of readers across social media platforms.

Imagine this; an evergreen article you wrote is gaining a ton of traction on Facebook months after you published. Thanks to detailed, platform-wide analytics you can see the boom in real-time, judge its performance against the current news cycle, and decide to double down on a topic that has proven longevity, and a significant potential readership for yourself.

Who could say no to that?

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