Enlightenment from the social media talk circuit

Enlightenment from the social media talk circuit


By: Jaci Smith

I am straying from the game plan this week. I was supposed to write about monetizing Facebook, and I promise I will, but I had forgotten when I wrote my last column that I was slated to speak last week about two of my favorite topics — social media and native advertising — at the Missouri Press Association’s annual conference.

There are a lot of parallels between media folk in Missouri and here in Minnesota. Other than a few larger metro papers, the vast majority of those attending the conference were from smaller community papers.

They attend the conference to laud each other’s best work, to network and to find ideas for generating revenue and building audience (and efficiencies). And, like us here in Minnesota, their involvement in the digital realm runs the gamut from not having a website or social media presence at all to running a streamlined, digital first operation.

They had a lot of questions, and raised a lot of great points that, in thinking about later, are worth sharing.

So, here are a few of the themes that came up and sparked interesting discussion:

Social media is not just content we post on the platform of our choice. It represents a culture change.

I have to give credit to Joy Mayer, former professor at the University of Missouri journalism school, for this insight, which I share whenever I get the chance, because it is so true. Think about it: If you use social media after you’ve done the “real” journalism work, you’re not using it correctly and you’ll struggle to get the dividends you’re looking for from it — namely engagement. And social media isn’t just happening on the Internet. Now, there’s a real mind-blower. How do you build community and interaction in print?

Do you have a social media culture in your building?

Just like with any good conversation, you should listen at least as much as you post.

As I talked about my last column, data is important. Before you begin dedicating any significant time to a digital strategy, you need to be able to answer these questions:

-Who is my audience?

-What kind of content are they looking for?

-How do they want to consume it?

-On what platform do they want to consume it?

-When do they want to consume it?

You can answer all those questions by looking at the analytics on your website and social media platforms. Not on either of those? By no means are you out of luck for data. Get with your circulation manager and see what she collects from subscribers. Start there.

Don’t expect miracles. Think quality, not quantity.

If posting on a social media platform more than once a day seems daunting, post once, but make it a good one. Post about what stories your newsroom is working on. Post a link to your cops & courts logs, if you do them. Post a list of obits that have come in since you last published. Ask a question.

Engage, engage again, then engage some more.

Be prepared to post and receive no feedback at all. But don’t stop, keep posting. Remind readers of your print edition that you’re on ____________(Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope). After a while, you’ll reach what I like to call “critical mass,” when your audience starts participating. When that happens, DON’T IGNORE IT. Whether it’s a question, criticism, photo submission, ANSWER. And keep answering. Social media is all about the conversation. You can’t let it be one-sided.

Here’s a link to my full presentation, if you want to look it over: http://goo.gl/Vqc1Kl

And, as always, if you have questions or don’t like my advice, I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me at jaci.smith@gmail.com or call/text me at 507.649.1693. I also post these columns on LinkedIn. Have a completely unrelated question, or interested in a little one-on-one social media training for your staff? Feel free to look me up.