F*&k the Fad—This Is Journalism
The tl;dr explanation of social media journalism is that it is modern journalism.
“I wrote a book with social media journalism in the title because social media is a fundamental part of journalism nowadays,” Adornato says. “This is how people engage with stories. This is no longer a novelty.”
Explaining the way journalists use the tools of social media is more instructive.
And content creators are indeed using social media. In the 2017 Global Journalism Study, produced by Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University, nearly half of the 257 responding journalists said they can’t do their jobs without social media. The study identifies a range of users among these reporters, editors and other content creators, with “Architects” being the most active and most positive about social media’s effects and, naturally, “Skeptics” at the other end of the spectrum.
You’ll find varying definitions online, but they all roughly come down to the same question: What do social media journalists use social for?
So much of a journalist’s time—whether they work for a newspaper or for a brand’s content marketing program—is spent in search mode. Searching for stories. Searching for facts for stories. Searching for sources for stories.
“Social media has changed how we gather content, how we do that digging,” Adornato says. “That’s true for sources and research, but also think about how it has changed breaking news.”
Think of the Arab Spring. Think of the US Airways crash into the Hudson River. Think of on-the-ground reports from Charlottesville.
In the longer term, professional storytellers did thorough reporting jobs on all of the above—triangulating facts and providing big-picture context. But they did so with breaking news, sourcing and information hunted and gathered via social media.
Brands, Be Aware: Your content marketing program probably isn’t in the business of breaking news, but you can still learn from the best practices of socially savvy news orgs.
Be active in the social search. Use social monitoring tools—either native to each social channel or specific tools such as Hootsuite, Brandwatch or a seemingly endless array of options—to track both the topics that matter to your readers and what readers are saying about you. And when you’re crafting stories, remember that your audience may actually be a source of expertise.
That’s particularly true if you’re a member-based group. For instance, AACC, an association that serves a highly technical audience of clinical chemists, has its own members-only social platform called The Artery. It started purely for peer-to-peer social communication, with members asking and answering questions, but has turned into a rich source of ideas for the association’s magazine as well as newsletter articles and scholarly discussions.
“We’ve even found that the information that we’re getting is so rich … that we have now, this year, scientific sessions at our annual meeting that are coming out of those conversations,” says Molly Polen, AACC’s senior director of communications and PR. “We’re having some papers that have been written for our journal, that the kernel of the idea for the paper came out of those peer-to-peer conversations.”