Social media best practice for bloggers

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about social media and bloggers of late. I’ve been involved in a research project that has been exploring entrepreneurial journalism (innovative ways for journalism to be presented in the future), which includes bloggers, and I have been focusing on what makes them successful. It is of course no surprise that social media is a key ingredient. But it isn’t just that successful bloggers are active on social media – it’s how they are active. Through studying their habits, I’ve put together the below list of social media best practice. What do you think?

  • Converse, don’t broadcast

Don’t be that dinner party guest. You know the one that just talks constantly about themselves and you can’t wait to get away from. The equivalent in social media is the person who just constantly pushes out links to their content and doesn’t engage with social media sphere in any other meaningful way. I would suggest that 80% of updates on platforms like Twitter and Facebook should be conversation not links to your posts.

  • Be YOU

People read blogs for the people behind them. They want to connect with an individual – so share something of yourself – be 3-dimensional – include them in areas outside your ‘professional’ blogging space.

  • Share interesting content (that isn’t your own)

A good conversationalist asks questions, remembers important information about friends and colleagues – the equivalent in the social media realm is sharing the content of others. Be known for sharing good quality content. Value add – tell people why it is interesting or useful – build your reputation and expertise by showing you are across your interest area or field.

  • Join existing discussions/ groups

Quite often the community you as a blogger want to access already exists. Are there Facebook groups you can join? What about Hashtags on Twitter? For example I follow a weekly hastag #wjchat which is a chat for web journalists on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. PT.

  • Read and comment on other blogs

I think we forget that blogs are actually a social media platform and as such are designed for conversation. A great way for you to join the blogging community is to read and comment on other blogs. Let people know you have interesting thoughts and ideas

  • Blog about other blogs

If you take this the next step then find a blog post about an issue or area in your designated community. Use that as a launching pad to write a blog post that adds to the issue or debate. Make sure you of course link to the post and let people know which community you are associating yourself with.

  • Invest in the platforms that matter

All good bloggers have a very exact picture of who their readers are – so where do they hang out? Using social media effectively takes time, so only invest in the platforms where you are most likely to reach the most people in your niche. Is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest? Start out with one or two and then when you master that, start to explore others.

IAMCR Paper published

The paper I presented at the IAMCR conference in Dublin in June has been published in the new journal  Digital Journalism. The abstract and link to the full text are below.

The “ecology of participation”

A study of audience engagement on alternative journalism websites

This paper investigates how audience members are using “alternative journalism” websites. Based on case studies of four “alternative journalism” sites, two based in Australia and two based in the United States, it examines how and why the audience uses these sites. Traditionally research into journalism and, in particular, “alternative journalism” has focused on the civic role of journalism. However, to consider the individual audience member’s engagement with the site, an approach similar to that which has typically been associated with fan studies is more useful. Using this fan theory, the paper focuses on the role of personal satisfaction and emotional engagement, as central factors in participation on alternative journalism websites. Ultimately it argues that a new definition of participation must be considered for these websites, which does not privilege participation that involves active contributions, but is inclusive of audience members who “internalise” their participation.

Full text available from at the journal website.

Audience engagment as an ecology of participation

So I am in sunny Dublin (well not actually today, but it has been for the last few days) attending the annual IAMCR conference. Below you can find my slides for my paper: The ‘ecology of participation’: A study of audience engagement on alternative journalism websites.

My toolbox of must have apps

Photo by by OZinOH

Photo by by OZinOH

I love a great app or tool that can make my life more organised. As you can guess I spend a lot time online, whether in front of my computer or my phone or Ipad, so anything that helps me be more productive or is just generally entertaining is a must have. I was over reading @prkrg’s blog (another journalism educator and general online nerd like me) and found her list of digital tools which inspired me to share my own.

These are the tools that I use to streamline my productivity and generally make the most of my iPhone and iPad. Continue reading

Entering the fray: When should a journalist join the discussion in comments following a news story?

1378634_man_with_a_megaphone_2This seems to be a question that I am often asked. For most journalists, the idea of readers critiquing their work in public beneath their story is more than a little confronting. Then the question of when, if ever, they should respond becomes even more difficult. Yes, the comments beneath online news stories can include ridiculous, vulgar and aggressive comments – that aren’t worth your time. But through careful management and engagement of reader discussion by the journalist, a higher quality debate can be encouraged. That’s not to say that you will completely eliminate the ‘crazies’ (my term for those ‘trolls’ or nasty individuals who seem to have found a natural habitat online), but you can minimize them and that should be your goal.

Here are my tips for wading into the comment fray.

Join the discussion when:

  1. A reader asks you a question

This one is important, as nothing is more dismissive than a journalist that writes a story and then doesn’t even bother to respond to a reasonable question. Yes, you probably have another five stories to write that day, but taking the time to acknowledge your reader’s question and respond is a great way to ensure they keep reading your work. And you the saying about a journalist without an audience … so enough said.

2.  Acknowledge a ‘quality’ contribution

We want to minimize the ‘crazies’ and encourage high quality debate right? Well reward those who are making a significant contribution. If a reader gives you some further information on the story or points to other examples that may be relevant, thank them, join a discussion with them. Ben Eltham at New Matilda does this incredibly well. He responds to questions and comments and also reminds commenters of the site’s policy following this story.

3.   Correct misinformation

It is important to correct misinformation and the journalist who wrote the story is best placed to do that. Quite often a simply (and courteous, don’t sink to the level of the ‘crazies’) explanation or correction can stop a discussion denigrating into something completely wrong and off topic. Check out how APN journalist Bill Hoffman does this on this story published on the Sunshine Coast Daily.

Don’t join the discussion to:

  1. Tell the ‘crazies’ what you really think of them

It can be really tempting to tell that ‘crazy’ who has used 200 words to remark on your hair, for example, just what you think about them. But you should never, ever enter the crazy fray. Remember that the majority of your readers recognise a ‘crazy’ just as easily as you do. By responding to them you are only giving them legitimacy. If you absolutely must respond, then do so courteously by correcting factual misinfomation (NOT pointing out that in fact you paid $200 to a very well respected stylist to get your fantastic hairdo) or pointing out the website commenting policy.

2.   Respond to every comment

This really shouldn’t be a problem, because let’s be honest who has time for this anyway. But it is worth remembering that by responding to one ‘quality’ commenter you are actually showing that you acknowledge all the commenters. So carefully selecting which comments to respond to will serve you in the long run.

By keeping in mind these principles when you are dealing with reader comments, you are working towards creating a space where more ‘quality’ commenters might join in. Yes, you won’t completely eliminate the ‘crazies’, but you will take some steps to ensuring a dynamic and vibrant community is built around your website. And at the end of the day that’s the goal for all online news media, hoping to monetise their content.