On a daily basis, news reporters have to cultivate a successful social media presence where they are expected to publish meaningful content and engage with the audience. This often means having a digital-first storytelling plan in place that may not overlap with traditional news reporting.
“You really have to treat social media like a second job. It does require a lot of time,” said Neima Abdulahi, a news reporter for WXIA in Atlanta.
So, what strategies could journalists use to improve their social media presence?
Know the tools
To have a great social media presence as a journalist, you need to know and understand the tool you are using to maximize its abilities. This means knowing what works on each of the social media platforms you are using.
Leah Pezzetti, a news reporter for KGTV 10 in San Diego, says she uses Twitter and Facebook in different ways. When posting on Twitter, she starts a thread.
“That’s beautiful. If you have multiple pictures, videos, quotes, whatever, start a thread, and then it all lives in one place,” Pezzetti said.
But Facebook is a different story. Pezzetti says chances are that different people are going to see different posts and the posts are not necessarily going to be a cohesive story. To ensure consistency, Pezzetti often attaches her main story post in the comment on a preview post she made earlier in the day.
“So that way if people are just seeing one Facebook post, they’re still going to get the whole picture,” she explained.
No matter which social media platform she is using, Pezzetti says she tries to post three times a day. She posts a preview post that explains what she is working on that day, then follows with a product post, or the finished story she wants people to see. Finally, she creates a personality post which can be anything from pictures of her cat to behind the scenes mishaps such as spilling coffee on her shirt.
“That’s what your viewers want. That’s what they want to get to know you as a person. And so if I get all three of these on a given day, I’m happy that was a win on social media for me,” she said.
Understand your audience
Understanding who your audience is and where they get their news is an important part of journalist’s social media strategy. Alex Rozier, a news reporter for WFTAA in Dallas, says he realized early on in his career that the audience for television is oftentimes different than the audience on social media.
“So find ways to push your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook audience to television and look for ways to push your TV audience to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook,” Rozier said.
When Pezzetti started her job in San Diego, she asked her digital team which social media platforms have the most audience.
“Markets are going to vary. Some are Twitter markets, some are Facebook market, hopefully, none are a Tik Tok market,” she said. “But know your audience, know where they live. And then also, how long do they actually stay on each post.”
In most cases, as people are scrolling through their social media feeds, they decide within the first three to seven seconds if they want to watch, click, or read a post, so grabbing them immediately is crucial. Pezzetti’s advice – attract your audience with a caption that is simple and straight to the point.
In addition to attracting attention, Pezzetti says journalists should cultivate the relationship with their audience on social media. She says “building an audience is like making a friend.” In other words, the relationship and trust will develop over time through consistent conversations and follow up.
“Because as journalists, as local journalists, we want our community to know and trust us. And so, as you’re posting online, keep that in mind as everything you post is just one step closer toward building a relationship with your viewers and your community,” Pezzetti said.
Build a brand
Abdulahi says she always goes an extra mile to customize content just for social media and tries to post things that are relevant not just to her audience, but to her as well. She says there is an integration between who she is and the kind of content she creates.
“I think the state of the nation is demanding unapologetic authenticity, and relatability,” Abdulahi said. “So I really try to always push myself and what you’re always going to see is how my social media brand always relates back to my brand.”
Abdulahi created her social media brand by picking areas that really represent who she is: history and culture. She grew up in Atlanta, but is originally from Somalia and English is her second language. She embraces her background and culture on her social media accounts and her posts always relate to these areas.
“Identity integration really means bringing your authenticity to the table,” she explained. “So when you see me on TV, you really see me, I’m not toning anything down, I’m not flipping the switch on and off, you’re gonna get the real Naima. And that’s how I always try to be.”
What are some of your favorite social media strategies? We welcome your suggestions in the comments section.
Our experts shared their views during the webinar series “Virtual Video Storytelling” organized by The National Press Photographers Association.