One study estimates that as many as 70 percent of journalists now use social media to do their jobs–mainly to find sources and information quickly.
Chip Mahaney, director of digital content for Scripps TV stations, says that Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools can be used in three ways: 1) Newsgathering 2) Dissemination and 3) Engagement.
In terms of newsgathering, tools like Trendsmap.com allow you to do real-time mapping of Twitter trends in your area. Much of the time, it may be drivel, but in a breaking news situation, it could be invaluable. Facebook, for example, is often used as a means of finding friends or relatives of newsmakers or as a tool for finding people affected by a particular issue or development.
And though journalists are tweeting about the stories they themselves are covering, Mahaney thinks they could be doing more to capitalize on the content that Twitter provides.
“Twitter is open,” Mahaney said. “They are giving information away for free.”
He suggests that news organizations can create custom feeds for their sites on particular topics. For example, Mahaney believes TV stations should try to grab Twitter names like “Atlanta traffic” or “Houston weather.” If you can engage the audience on those topics and get them to contribute, think of how valuable those feeds would be in the case of a massive pile-up or a severe weather situation.
In addition, Mahaney feels news organizations and individual journalists could be doing more to engage their followers.
“Call out someone in a tweet,” Mahaney said. “Let one of your followers know you are following them or send a message to let that person know you’ve read what they’ve written.”
Mahaney says the trick to getting more people to follow you on Twitter is to follow them first, and he says another good engagement strategy is to re-tweet what someone has written.
And if you want to check out the impact of your own tweets, log on to TwitterCounter.com, which allows you to track your Twitter name’s effectiveness. Or you might try Twitazlyzer.com , which looks at how much junk versus real information your tweets provide.
“It’s a chance to see what kind of clout your Twitter name has,” Mahaney said. “It allows you to check on your brand.”