freelancing · online journalism · socialmedia · twitter

A journalist’s guide to developing an online presence

At the recent Walkley’s Freelance Journalism conference I was asked to speak on developing an online presence as a freelance journalist. It was a fun session, in which La Trobe University’s Lawrie Zion and Anthill Magazine’s James Tuckerman also gave some very valuable and interesting advice. Here’s a recap of what I presented.

In order to understand the online world – and let’s be honest that’s where journalism is heading – you need to operate in it. Here are my top 6 tools (which are a combination of my personal favourites and those sourced through the Twittersphere) that will not only have you operate in the online world, but can actually help you with your day-to-day job.

  1. Twitter: It is the social media tool of the moment and with good reason. It enables you to tap into a huge network of other journalists, potential editors, potential sources and your audience or at least they could be your audience. Twitter is a hugely important tool for finding stories and leads, but it is also invaluable in driving traffic to stories.
  2. Google Reader: The internet can feel like a ‘white noise’ of information. For many making the first steps into operating in this space it can be overwhelming just how much there is. Google Reader is the answer. I like to think of it as my personal media monitoring service. Rather than visit the hundreds of different web sites and blogs that I like to read I can have them all delivered to one site. I can even set up a topic based subscription for particular stories or beats that I might be working.
  3. Delicious – social bookmarking: Delicious works hand-in-hand with Google Reader for me. Rather than have a large list of browser favourites or bookmarks, I save stories or static websites to my delicious account. I can access these bookmarks from any computer, but more importantly, I can save them under relevant tags so I can easily search for them later. They are also presented in a format that makes it easy to share with others.
  4. Flickr: The social image sharing service in absolutely invaluable. It has a great selection of creative commons licensed images that you can use to brighten up any story or blog post. It is also a great way to get high res images  to editors without clogging their inbox.
  5. Linked In: I will admit it took me a while to fully realise the benefit of Linked In. Yes, it is an online CV, but I think its real value is keeping in contact with and up-to-date with all of those previous professional contacts. The sort of people that you wouldn’t call for a chat – you don’t have that type of relationship. Linked In lets you see if they have moved on (perhaps to a publication where you need a foot in the door?) and keep up to date with them professionally.
  6. WordPress: I love WordPress – you can probably tell that, given my blog is hosted by it. It’s free and really easy and lets you create a blog and therefore an online presence in a few minutes – what’s not to love.

Ok, so there is one glaring omission from this list – Facebook. I have actually done that quite deliberately. Facebook has great potential for bringing users to content of news websites, but I think it is more limited for a freelance journalist. A Facebook network is determined by a mutual relationship (each must accept the other as part of the network) which means that you will continue to draw from a smaller and already engaged personal network. I think this limits its use for an individual. Given that there are only so many hours in the day – I would rank it beneath the others listed above in terms of usefulness.

4 thoughts on “A journalist’s guide to developing an online presence

  1. I actually think that journalists should have a Facebook page, separate from their personal profile. Either for themselves, or for their site/blog. It’s a very powerful tool.

    1. Hi Caitlin, thanks for the input. That is good idea to make it separate. How do you go about getting a wider network than your personal acquaintances?

      1. Perhaps by sharing interesting links on a particular topic, not just the links to stories that you write? That’s one approach anyway.

        But even without a wide audience it’s still useful because a professional Facebook page would rank well on Google.

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