5 Social Media Basics for Business Journalists

by December 7, 2016
Twitter (Image from Pixelkult via Pixabay)

Today’s reporters need to maintain a consistent presence on social media. Follow these basic reminders to stay on track. (Twitter image from Pixelkult via Pixabay)

Today’s business reporters must be excellent writers, thorough reporters and savvy promoters. Many of us are responsible for pushing our work through social media channels to increase readership numbers. Here are some basics to keep in mind.

Keep on top of engagement

To ensure readers don’t just passively like your work on social media, make sure you engage them in a meaningful way. Monitor dwell time and monitor reader comments, too. Jill Hilbrenner, director of branded content at the Guardian News and Media, says that her team spends considerable time ensuring readers actively engage with the content while scrolling through their feeds. “By monitoring click through and comments, we learned why people actually consumed and cared for the news. In turn, this helped us shape our posts, for example, using more quotes for business content.”

Consume social content to understand social content

Hilbrenner adds to better understand what success strategies in social media work well, reporters need to skim their feeds and read what others say about their work and their publication. “Many frequently overlook this step, but to make social media work well, you must consume it too.” In terms of trends, Hilbrenner suspects Facebook Video and Facebook Live will remain big; we’ll also see more work with push notifications and messaging services. “I predict more short, snappy content that doesn’t feel like homework to read later.”

Have a consistent point of view

As you come up with your social media strategy, remember to have a point of view. Hilbrenner suggests thinking carefully about the tone of voice you want to convey; do you want to sound blunt, lofty, humorous? Whatever you decide, your social media audience should hear your voice across all platforms. Hilbrenner cautions against spreading yourself too thin, which can dilute your image and readership. Be selective with which platforms you use.  “Make sure you focus your energy on the platforms that make the most sense for your audience. For example, if you lack the time for Snapchat, don’t force yourself to create one at the expense of other social channels.”

Offer a unique spin

In a crowded market, it’s essential for your social media postings to stand out. Consider using images, a refreshing take on an over-reported subject, a partial quote of one of your sources offering an unusual (or controversial) point of view. You might also want to include within your posts a compelling data point—anything to grab your reader’s attention. Just remember that journalistic integrity remains important even in social media posts. Don’t craft a tweet or Facebook post that doesn’t deliver on the content within.

Use social media as a reporting tool

Social media has increasingly helped me with my reporting, as well. As it becomes increasingly difficult to retain and find good sources, I’ve had considerable success with reaching out for interviews through an organization’s Facebook Messenger. I email my interview request to the public relations or marketing team first, but I also put this same request on Facebook Messenger. Each time, I hear from the webmaster within an hour and by the following day I’ve secured the direct email of the gatekeeper for this expert source. I’ve had similar success using LinkedIn as a reporting tool. I connect with the person on LinkedIn first, then put my interview request in a message. Sometimes, I’ve tweeted directly to the source I wish to interview, inserting my email in the tweet. This approach cuts down on the constant looping of simple email requests and voicemails.


Reporter’s Takeaway

• Consume social media to use it well. Spend time reading how your readers respond to your posts and feeds to help create ongoing, engaging coverage.

• Be consistent with your voice and avoid diluting yourself by selectively choosing a handful of social media platforms to promote your work.

• Consider social media as a reporting tool and a way to promote your work.

Debbi G McCullough writes and edits for the Guardian and Washington Post’s branded content studios and teaches business communication part-time at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Debbi is a United Nations Foundation press fellow for the 2016 Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen.