Working in the world of local television news, social media was once seen as an enemy, just another thing added to a long list of things we have to get done by deadline.  There just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done and to have it done well! Unfortunately, the world changes and to keep up with it, we too must change.

I will say that adding social media to our workflow has been a challenge. Getting reporters to focus on putting their stories out on Facebook and Twitter ahead of their on-air deadlines is something even the newest and most modern reporters couldn’t get into their heads. Of course getting our on-air product should be the focus! We don’t want to give our competition a headsup on our stories! These were all complaints I listened to daily. They seemed very valid complaints at the time, but I’ve learned that instead of fighting change, we need to embrace the change.

Something I’ve learned about using social media is that it is a great tool for engaging your audience. Instead of just telling people what is happening, you can gain a greater depth of understanding of the fallout from certain situations. You can get a more personal touch on a story – finding the daughter of a murder victim who is crying out for justice, or a family that lost everything in a fire. Using social media, not only can we report the story, we can be part of the answer as well.

What I find the most useful when it comes to using social media is the open ended question. If you are posting on a topic that you want feedback on or shares, it’s vital to invite someone to do what you want. An example of how to spark conversation could be, “Government shutdown enters 15th day. What do you think needs to be done to get the government back on track?” Or perhaps, “A walk to cure diabetes is coming up next week. SHARE this post to let everyone know and get involved.” This is a proven way to increase hits and shares on your post.

People like to be engaged. They want posts that are interesting. Appealing to emotion or action are good ways to get people involved, whether it be a story or an event. In the news business, I find that if you post a story on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, you need to be concise but get the vital information. If the words READ MORE… appear on your post, people aren’t interested. They will likely scroll past and keep reading. Grab their attention as quickly as possible. We need to tell them why this post would be interesting to them. We try to use this on a daily basis in the news, but it could be used in business as well. Say you have a fantastic product or service you’re trying to sell. You want to use the growing world of social media to capture attention and develop interest in what you’re doing. Like in advertising, you need to sell it to your customers.

Look for ways to grab attention in the fewest words possible. An even better idea is to use a picture to draw people in. Give them a reason to be interested. I’ve heard a lot of people tell stories about how they’ve got that one friend on social media who posts everything they do all day long… “I’m eating a sandwich now” or “Walking the dog.” These kinds of posts don’t draw people to what you have to say; rather, they cause people to avoid your posts. Instead, try to find the interesting angle on the action – for example, “I’m eating a sandwich now. I can’t believe the price of bread these days!” Or, “Walking the dog earlier – stumbled on this great place at the park.” The posts aren’t much longer, but now you’ve peaked interest, and you will start conversations, likes, shares, and even have people talking about you in the real world.

Something I’ve also found useful out of social media when it comes to television news. It takes our audience from something intangible – a faceless person out there – and lets them interact with us, gives them a chance to add the personality to the stories. The time we have on television is limited to the best and most compelling. Often, there are times when there are people in the communities affected by the stories we tell that we are not able to reach. Using social media, we are able to reach a much wider audience. An audience that can add perspective and insight, sometimes even help.

While many of us who worked in local news production for years fought the change of our workload and the addition of SOMETHING ELSE to do – we’ve long since embraced it and are trying to see it for the benefits it brings. There are more changes headed our way. Even social media won’t stay the same for long.


About the Author: Valerie Sullivan is an Orange County, NY native. She graduated from Concord University in 1999 and has worked in the world of local news production in Southern West Virginia for nearly 15 years. Her greatest accomplishments are her sons. You can find Valerie on Facebook and Twitter.

photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa