Social media plays vital role in community journalism
I have grown up in an age of Internet, social media and smartphones, but I have also been known to resist these technologies until I no longer had a choice.
I refused to create a Facebook account in college, I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 21 and I insisted I didn’t need a smartphone until it was a work requirement.
But when I realized that all of these innovations made my job as a journalist easier, I decided I needed to be on the front line of these changes and not on the back end. After getting a master’s degree in new media journalism and learning the importance of an online media presence, I was thrilled to join The Mountaineer in an effort to build our online audience.
Community newspapers have known for several years now that multiple platforms are needed to keep and attract readers and revenue — websites, e-editions, Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps and the list goes on. This importance was re-iterated last week when I attended North Carolina Press Association training sessions at UNC-Chapel Hill.
So you can imagine my shock when many other community editors said they didn’t see the benefits of using social media. Most of them said they did have a Facebook account for their paper but didn’t do much with it. One publisher said Facebook killed the productivity of his staff writers and he wouldn’t allow them to use it.
“Why would we use Facebook if we can’t make any money from it?” were his exact words.
While many echoed his sentiments, I had to interject my own experiences with social media. It might not be a moneymaker, but our first duty as a community newspaper is to serve our community. Facebook allows us to have two-way communication with our readers.
The Mountaineer Facebook has more than 9,000 followers who are very engaged. I can post important stories, events and alerts, we can all share photos with each other, we can get feedback on important issues and we can find story ideas that our readers care about.
It can be time consuming to consistently keep up with a business Facebook page, but I have found that the pay off is well worth it. And if your business isn’t properly using social media, you are missing out on a great (and free) marketing tool. Social media helps you reach a broader audience, build a reputation and it can help you decrease your marketing costs.
No, newspapers haven’t found a good model to monetize social media yet, but technology is continuously changing, and I want to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. I want to have a solid and loyal audience of readers and supporters who know first and foremost, The Mountaineer is here to inform and engage our community.
Whether the feedback is good or bad, we need to hear from you. Newspapers can’t be successful by operating in a bubble and we will not be successful if we can’t provide information that is relevant to our readers’ lives.
I understand adding social media responsibilities to an already stretched staff and budget can be daunting, but it is doable. I don’t think I convinced everyone in the room during that workshop, but a few people seemed excited about the possibilities and even asked for my card so they could talk to me more about what we are doing here in Haywood County.
As many media experts advised us that day, small steps are all well and good, but at some point you have to make that giant leap!