Where do people get their news?
The way information is gathered, sent, and received has dramatically changed. The speed at which information travels is now quicker than ever. Traditional media such as newspapers, television, and radio are still the main sources for news and information; however, more and more people are now going online to get their news. According to the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of Americans get their news online – up from 34 percent in 2010.
In order to survive, traditional media outlets have had to make changes. Print newspapers are available online, radio stations now stream their programs live and post podcasts online, and television networks post their stories, video clips, and transcripts of their stories online. Government agencies are also increasing their online presence and sharing their content via blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, websites, YouTube, and other social media networks.
Social media in the news
With social media playing a more involved role in the reporting of news and live events, many news outlets are now citing social media in their stories and are also using social media to promote their news stories. For example, this tweet from MRG President Tom Shields was used in a story by the Detroit News regarding charter school expansion in Michigan.
After 12 years the Michigan legislature finally erases the cap on the number of charter schools. The kids win one.
— Tom Shields (@TomShields) December 15, 2011
The news and live chat
Many news sources have begun to use online town hall meetings and live chat rooms as a way to generate community engagement regarding important issues and public policy. This is a great place for you to chime in and share your thoughts and key messages on important topics. It allows you to connect with your audience, answer their questions, and engage in real-time conversation about important issues.
Join the conversation
The conversations taking place on social media are just like the conversations at your local coffee shop, except the discussion is taking place online. While some are reluctant to use social media, it is better to communicate your message via social media than to not be heard at all. For example, if there is misinformation being spread through social media, you can counter act it with your message and the facts – in a polite and positive way.
Think of your communication efforts on a radar screen. If you do not communicate, your message will not be seen. If you communicate using multiple social media platforms, your voice is not only heard, but multiple audiences will hear it – which will maximize your exposure.
Why is social media relevant?
Social media is used by everyone, including businesses, government agencies, policy makers, and individuals.
Currently, there are more than:
- 1 billion people actively using Facebook
- 200 million actively using Twitter
- 200 million actively using LinkedIn
- 300 million actively using Google+
- 800 million actively using YouTube
…and those are only the mainstream social media platforms. As current platforms improve, new platforms arise. As technology continues to shape the way we communicate, those numbers will continue to grow. Social media is free and there are no barriers to enter – it is not an exclusive club.
The uses of social media
Social media is a good way to build trust, foster relationships, and increase public participation and feedback. Social media platforms are also a great place to create online communities and collect information from citizens and consumers through engagement.
Social media effectively delivers information that citizens want, when they want it (instantaneously and in real-time), via the channel they prefer. This may include news, information, and public notices. The key to becoming a resource is not letting others dictate your image and messages. Tell your own story!
Social media is also a great way to promote events, local businesses, public meetings, fundraisers, etc.
The value of social media
Social media allows you to provide your audience with all the news they need and allows you to become a resource. Furthermore, you can receive feedback and ideas from your audience and put the feedback you receive to good use.
What makes social media sharing so powerful is that instead of sending out the same message through different social media channels, hoping to find the desired audience, communicators can see how their target audience is using social media. From there, they can tailor both their message and heir medium, whether it be email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Social media can also fuel your other communications tactics. Email can drive traffic to your website and social media networks and vice versa.
Social media messaging
With social media, the goal is to successfully deliver your key messages. If you keep the end result in mind, you’re more likely to deliver that message. Developing key message points is an invaluable tool for getting through to the public and reporters. Sticking to your key message points allows you to exert more control over a conversation and the final story.
No matter what is going on, it is important to stop and organize your thoughts before responding. Keep your message simple and only provide information relevant to your topic. Finally, ask yourself: what is the most important thing I want to say? What is the most important thing I want people to know? This process of defining your important points is known as message development. The result is your key messages.
Responding to social media
When responding via social media, there are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Be transparent. Be honest about the content you are responding to or your connection to the story.
- Cite your sources. Be clear about your sources and include links. It gives your message strength and credibility.
- Don’t rush. Take your time to make your response in order to make sure you are accurately conveying your message.
- Consider your tone. Portray yourself and your company or county in a positive way. If you are unsure about a message, test it on a colleague for feedback.
Practicing these tips will help you avoid a social media crisis and help you build your online credibility and trust.
Creating a social media plan:
To better understand your audience and communication goals, set up a basic four-step social media plan.
- Listen to your audience: What are they saying? What type of content do they find appealing? What is the best format of content your audience consumes?
- Engage: Create content based on the areas or topics of interest in the listening phase. Overall, the content you create should be relevant, helpful, engaging, and information-rich.
- Measure: Measure your communications by tracking “likes,” “shares,” “retweets,” ”clicks,” etc. so you can easily determine success, failure, and areas of improvement. Determine what type of content is resonating with your audience.
- Learn: Measuring your results is useless unless you learn from it. The goal of measurement is not just to understand what happened in the past, but to determine your future actions as well. You can then tweak your strategy and try to solicit more engagement.
The social media potion
Everyone can succeed using social media, it can help improve your communication and help you become a more efficient employee. The potion for social media success includes:
- Strong content: the most important way of increasing your reach is sharing relevant, creative, and enjoyable content with your network. Not only should the content be of quality, but also it should also be visually convincing.
- Persistence: Sometimes, you have to find a rhythm for making and sharing strong content. Be persistent and stick with it. Start slow until you get the hang of it, and gradually increase your presence.
- Being Human: play an active role in the conversation and react to other people’s input. Don’t fall into the trap of one-way communication on social media.
The social media toolbox
Once you’re ready to take on the social media universe, there are a few tools to help you succeed.
HootSuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to consolidate all of your social media accounts into one easy-to-manage platform. Some of the benefits and features of HootSuite include: managing multiple social media networks, scheduling messages in advance, tracking results, and measuring success.
Another useful social media tool is Social Mention. Social mention is a social media search and analytics platform that gathers user generated content from across the social media universe and consolidates it into a single stream of information. Social mention monitors more than 100 social media forums including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google, and more. It allows you to quickly track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, or any topic in real-time.
Constant Contact is a great device for creating customized HTML email messages. It is user friendly and includes customizable templates, real-time tracking of emails, click results, and around the clock online support and personal coaching.
All of these services are free of charge and can make creating content and managing your social media accounts a breeze.