Every news organization wants its stories shared as widely as possible. Managers encourage reporters to share their work using their own social media profiles, while the social media desk (if there is one) posts to the newsroom’s main Twitter feed, Facebook page, and other outlets. But, if we’re honest, it can often be a bit scattershot. At the Wall Street Journal, a new emphasis on teamwork has helped to juice the process.
“We work hard a communicating internally,” Natalie Andrews, social media editor, said during a recent webinar hosted by Muckrack. When political stories are published, for example, the social team sends the link to other reporters on the politics team along with sample text they could use on social.
“I was worried at first…I’m going to be flooding these people’s inboxes,” she said. “And people were like, no, this is the kind of email I want to get.” People want to tweet each other’s stories, Andrews said, and it also helps them to know what the rest of the team is doing.
The social team has been getting involved in story planning, too, in an effort to help make stories more social- and audience-friendly. They meet with the design team to ensure they build gifs and graphics that can be shared on social media and read on a mobile device. During the presidential campaign, for example, simple graphics linked to a comparison of candidates on the issues. As topics came up, the graphic would go back in circulation. One graphic had a million views over a weekend.
“We can tweet them every day and they get seen every day,” Andrews said.
The social team doesn’t work in a vacuum, either. They stay in touch with reporters from start to finish.
“It’s really helpful for us to hear from the people who are doing the reporting and editing,” says Todd Olmstead, senior audience engagement editor. “They help us wrap our heads around what the key points are. We’re managing an influx of stories from all around the world and they help us filter through what they’re working on.”
How do they manage all this communication? “We Slack a lot,” Olmstead said. Using the online collaboration tool “helps us stay organized and on track.”
But the real key to success has less to do with process and much more to do with content. “What makes the whole operation run is having really great stories and kick-ass reporting,” Olmstead said. “That’s the thing reporters do and should be doing. That allows us to have an engaging social presence. We can write the best Facebook post but it’s not going to be successful unless we are consistently publishing really great stories.”