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JA Resource Q&A: A social strategy of “purpose and intention”

Former journalist Kimberly Wilson started SocialNewsDesk to tailor social media management to the quirks of a newsroom. She wanted to solve three problems she saw in newsrooms social media management: organization, security and setting goals. 

Journalism Accelerator

What are the biggest challenges for news organizations juggling multiple social media platforms? In the ever-changing, character-limited continuum of Twitter and Facebook, what ways can you most effectively build your business, organize your system, engage your audience with information that is useful to them, maintain internal confidentiality and synchronize the work of your team?

To understand how deliberate systematization can optimize your social media presence on a large or small scale, we invited SocialNewsDesk founder Kimberly Wilson and social media curator Cynthia Parkhill to share their expertise and experience. It’s part of our regular series of live conversations showcasing resources that offer support to the journalism community. 

As we have recently seen with the Twitter scandal involving a freelancer who writes for the New York Times Magazine, news organizations have a need to be particularly careful with social messaging. In the most recent Journalism Accelerator resource Q&A, journalist-turned-social-media-entrepreneur Kim Wilson identified three major challenges in social media management today: organization, security and goal setting.

Establishing a practical vision

Forum participant Anne Derryberry “couldn’t agree more” that “a clear purpose and intention” are vital for a successful social media strategy. Anne got practical with her questions: Where do you start, and what do you shoot for? Kim suggested determining website referral traffic, building brand and community outreach, and establishing goals for monetization. She gave examples of how SocialNewsDesk had helped newsrooms develop those aspects. Cynthia Parkhill concurred with Kim’s priorities, recommending Google Alerts and integrated Google Analytics to track personal branding and blog referral traffic.

Two needs, two strategies

SocialNewsDesk founder Kimberly Wilson says she designed the social media management system for large newsrooms handling multiple social accounts. She says it helps “standardize workflow” and “enforce best practices”.

As the social media curator for a small hyperlocal news site and an independent blogger, Cynthia Parkhill chooses to build her social media management system with free web tools. She says it’s too small scale to justify investing in a social management system, plus she values “gaining an additional skill with which to benefit an employer”.

Working together: Responsibility and accountability

As both social media platforms and organizations develop, posting content from multiple sources across multiple platforms can get complicated. Kim gave great practical advice on team coordination: Keep track of who posts what, create detailed reports of posting history, and maintain tight control on user-level access. To assist in organization, Cynthia suggested a few free tools to help manage multiple accounts and types of contacts.

How to track progress ­– and why

Another vital aspect of a successful management system is knowing what works (and what doesn’t). To gauge this, analyzing the results of your social media outreach and using that information to inform your future decisions is key. Kim and I agreed ­– create frequent reports on social media performance to measure engagement and site traffic response. But The Oregonian’s social media manager Alexandra Manzano pointed out that current platforms limit tracking:

“With Twitter’s API generally being limited to 7 days back and Facebook’s newer limitation of the 90 day window — it is hard to find the time to pull together and analyze our many types of social media daily or even weekly.”

To alleviate this problem, I suggested two time-saving tools, Hootsuite’s tweet archiving function and Crowdbooster’s reach assessment capability.

When is it worth the money?

At what point is it worth investing in a social media management system? Kim says that decision comes down to size and goals. In Cynthia’s experience, generic tools like Tweetdeck and Google Analytics can work for one person or a small organization, but Kim says she started SocialNewsDesk because those options often fall short for newsrooms with a large team and multiple social accounts.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for news organizations working with social media today? Do you have any specific questions the experts in this conversation could answer?  Or can you offer any tips for optimizing management based on your own experience? The full conversation is still open for comments. People who participated will get notified when you post and be able to reply, so jump on in to share your knowledge or questions!