Social media must be personal to be effective

6 Apr

One of the greatest benefits of social media is its ability to personalize news. Telling stories in first-person, as bloggers often do, can help writers establish personas their readers can become attached to and recognize as that writer’s shtick or “brand.” Personality is an important part of social media, and it’s easy to establish a rapport with readers by making personal posts or interacting with them via comments and messages.

News organizations that are trying to stifle that connection, such as E.W. Scrippsjust don’t get how social media is supposed to work. Personality makes social media effective. People like hearing from other people, not faceless corporations. On my Facebook news feed, for example, people read stories on the Washington Post Social Reader app and then share them so the articles show up on my news feed. I’m more likely to click on these links that my friends recommend than random links to stories recommended by faceless, voiceless news blogs because I’m familiar with my friends’ tastes and trust their judgment. The same goes for bloggers who establish a rapport with readers: The more readers feel connected to a writer, the more likely they are to take their opinions and recommendations to heart.

While there is room to debate what should constitute the difference between personal and professional use of social media, when it comes to online journalism, personality is what’s going to sell it. I’ve noticed that well-known news sources that have Tumblrs often get positive feedback when their staffs decide to reblog pictures of kittens or leave comments snarky comments on a post. I came across a post yesterday, for example, that was an infographic about what the average American household bought in December 2011. the Newsweek Tumblr reblogged it and added, “Dear average Americans, please spend more on books, magazines and newspapers and less on alcohol. Your friend, Newsweek.” (The infographic showed that alcohol accounted for 0.9 percent of money spent while books, magazines and newspapers accounted for only 0.2 percent.)

Readers are more involved with the news process than ever as reporting becomes a collaborative process, and reporters reach out to readers via crowdsourcing and hashtags on Twitter. To get the conversation going, however, it’s good for journalists to be able to be candid and accessible. They are more likely to get a response by inviting comments and feedback than by keeping the conversation one-sided. Social media can also let the audience speak first. Browsing Twitter trending topics and sparing more than a passing glance to your Facebook news feed can unearth trends and dig up leads to stories people care about and bring to light issues you may have no been aware of. Understanding your audience and speaking your readers’ language is essential.

Google Trends and Google Correlate

Google Trends and Correlate are two examples of how the Internet has made research ridiculously simple. Just by entering a word in a search bar, years of data are simplified into a chart like the ones above and catered to your needs. The examples I chose were just for fun, but they nonetheless show the practicality of the tools.

The first chart shows how often actor Darren Criss’ name has been Googled in the last couple years. It is interesting to see what Google came up with for Criss, whose claim to fame was starring in a musical Harry Potter parody that went viral on YouTube before he landed a role on “Glee”: The trends directly relate to his exposure to the public eye. For the summer of 2010, when the Potter musical was becoming a hit, the numbers are modest, but when rumors of Criss’ casting on “Glee” begin to circulate, they jump. The trend peaks the day after Criss’ debut episode of “Glee” aired, and Google helpfully provides links to articles that surfaced around that time to explain the cause for the peaks in trending.

Google Correlate is great for searching for an initial relationship between two search terms. Correlation, as we know, does not equal causation, but if two terms are Googled together often enough, there may be a story idea buried in the data. I chose to enter “Harry Potter” into Google Correlate to see what it came up with, and, unsurprisingly, “muggle” was on the list. The chart shows that the search history for the terms is similar, but interestingly, there are small peaks where one is searched far more than the other. Correlate could be used to show the relationship between two concepts, ideas or events, but more research would need to be conducted before conclusions could be reached about causation.



One Response to “Social media must be personal to be effective”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers April 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Interesting graphs

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