Which social media network should our staff use?

header_phillyWhich social media application should you use to report the story? That depends on the story, according to Shannon McDonald, a social media strategist with NewsWorks in Philadelphia. McDonald presented at the 2014 Student TV Awards at Temple University on May 14.

McDonald begins each day in a news meeting considering these questions:

  1. how can we present our stories the most interesting way possible on social media?
  2. which social media networks do our readers use?

McDonald gave this example of how she might answer those two questions:

  • The Arts and Culture reporter tells her story about a gallery opening on Instagram.
  • An Urban Life reporter uses Twitter to update busy readers on city happenings.
  • The Energy and Environment reporter covering fracking in upstate Pennsylvania posts updates on Facebook to reach his small town readers.

NewsWorks uses analytics to determine what demographics are drawn to them on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. It’s probably easier for high school journalists to pinpoint what their friends are using.  But even though the high school audience is smaller and similar in age, interests vary. And those interests extend to social media. To reach their audience, high school journalists need to think about the best way to report sports, the spring musical, an awards ceremony, a school board meeting.

To make that decision, student journalists should consider how quickly the news needs to get out. McDonald reminded us that life happens in real time: can you wait two hours or two minutes to post?

The reporter covering the school musical probably won’t tweet every time a lead bursts into song. Instead, he may take notes and photos during the play, get some interviews with the cast and post to Facebook or the website that night. On the other hand, the reporter might also share photos of the play as it is happening on Instagram.

Bottom line: there’s got to be a strategy. And the strategy needs to keep in mind kids’ interests and social media habits. While a teen sitting at home may not care about seeing spring musical photos shared on Instagram, she may be very interested in checking her Twitter feed to see who just made a touchdown at the Friday night football game.


Susan Houseman

Susan Houseman co-advises the Spoke newspaper and teaches broadcast journalism at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA. She was the 2013 PA Journalism Teacher of the Year. She also serves as the vice president of the Pennsylvania School Press Association and the PA state director for JEA. Houseman worked as professional broadcast journalist at both NBC and ABC affiliates before becoming a teacher.

Susan Houseman has 7 posts and counting. See all posts by Susan Houseman

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