Be social on social media and other ways to take advantage of journalism’s new tools

Print isn’t dead, not quite yet. But its future isn’t particularly bright. According to Pew Research, 36% of adults between the ages of 18-29 get their news from Twitter, Facebook and similar platforms and just 2% from the newspaper. Journalists of any age need to understand how to use social media. But that doesn’t mean abandoning the ink-stained ways completely. Here are a few tips, for young and old, on managing the new landscape.

A tweet isn’t a text. You should speak in a conversational voice on social media. But be professional: write in complete sentences, use exclamation points sparingly, and forget about LOLs and emojis altogether. (And sit up straight while you’re at it.)

Know the platform. Social media audiences have different expectations. For instance, Paul Bradshaw in The Online Journalism Handbook says that Facebook is a particularly social site. One study he cites found that seeking input and including questions in posts increases engagement by 64 percent (i.e., your stories are more likely to be seen).

In a tweetstorm, remember the Boy Scouts … their motto anyway: Always Be Prepared. Twitter is a terrific way to grow your brand online. When you liveblog events, think in story terms: beginning, middle and end. That means understanding the issue enough to add context. 

Remember, it’s called social media. Engage with readers who engage (nicely) with you. Don’t just throw links at them. Use social media to build your source base and get story tips. It’s OK to be funny and human but leave out the snark. It is possible to be nice online.

Content counts, still. An oldie but a goodie: Write compelling, watercooler stories that people can’t help but talk about, or better yet, share.

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