Friday, September 14, 2012

The cheat sheet: Modern journalism tips for the busy features reporter

I recently received a request from a features reporter/editor who wants to increase her web presence -- from ground zero. She doesn't have a Facebook or Twitter, and she doesn't know where to start.

Let's face it. There are a zillion options, apps, portals and links explaining how journalists should be "digital first." But let's also face it - we're all busy and overwhelmed and then there's Storify and Cover It Live and maps apps and Tumblr and did Google Plus ever take off and what about blogging and AHHHH my head is crying just making this list.

Stop. This doesn't need to be so hard.

Here is my super simplified "dummies guide" cheat sheet for how to start from scratch. I think all journalists should at the very minimal incorporate the following into their standard job duties.

If you are going to incorporate only five apps into your journalism, use these: 

1. Set up a Twitter. Do it yesterday.
2. Set up a Facebook. Just do it. It’s easy.
3. Download the Instagram app and link it to your Twitter and Facebook. Use Instagram pictures to easily populate your other social networks all at once.
4. Set up a Hootsuite account. Schedule your stories, photos and questions in advance so your web presence is consistent, even on days you’re too busy.
5. Set up a Pinterest account. Pin your stories in appropriate categories. Repin topics from your beat. Set up your Pinterest to automatically repost to your Twitter and Facebook. Follow people locally and beyond. Pinterest is ideal for features stories like food, fashion, books, home, garden, DIY, weddings, trends and fitness.

Strategies to quickly and easily improve your web presence as a journalist:

1. Set aside one hour per week to manage, update and play with your social media. Call it Web Wednesday. Do it first thing in the morning, so you don’t get distracted or push it aside. Just log in to your portals, respond to followers, post something live, retweet something and pin or repin something. Post recent stories with a time element.

2. Once a month, let’s say the first Web Wednesday of the month, set aside one hour to schedule that month’s Hootsuite posts.
Schedule all of the stories you wrote the previous month that didn’t have a time element. Book out the month as much as possible.

3. Grow your followers by running your social media contacts in your byline and promote them with your stories. Also, be a follower. Find sources in the community that interest you and follow them. If they don’t follow you back, occasionally respond to or retweet their posts and encourage them to follow you.
Hashtag everything on twitter with #Boulder, at the bare minimum. Hashtags are an easy way to grow followers and help people find you.

4. Instead of thinking of social media as more work, use it to lighten your workload, while getting more info out there for the community.
Dirty tricks:
* Instead of rewriting a blurb from a poster, take a photo of it and Instagram/Tweet/Facebook it for a quick way to share information.
* Instead of reading and reviewing a new book of interest, let followers know it’s released as soon as you get a press copy by taking a picture of it and pinning it on your “to read” list.
* Instead of writing out a recipe, take a picture of it and pin it.
* Use Instagram instead of your other camera options because it automatically posts, eliminating a step.
* Use Twitter’s “favorite” button as a “read later” bookmark - or start a “read this” Pinterest board and pin stories/websites you want to read later there.

5. Be live. Check in to places you’re at on Facebook (note: Some people use Foursquare but it hasn’t yielded much feedback/interest from readers for me, and FB does the same thing): at interviews, working remotely, getting coffee, getting lunch. Be out in the community. Let people know where they can see you. Maybe they’ll stop and say hi.
In addition, live tweet whenever possible. At an event or concert? Share what’s happening. Don’t have time to type a bunch of tweets out? Tell your story via pictures with short descriptions.

6. Got an insanely busy month and need to pick just one thing to do? Promote your stories on Facebook. Why? It drives traffic. Overall, the websites in the Chicago ecosystem got more than 23 percent of all their referrals from social media. Facebook drove 18.9 percent; Twitter 4.4 percent.”
Facebook is the No. 1 social site for news traffic:

Want more info? Here are some helpful links to check out when you have time:

* Five digital tools for newsrooms:
* Ten things journalists can do to reinvent journalism: