you, the columnist
Social media was built for YOU
So why aren’t you doing a better job?
By Dave Lieber
NSNC Education Foundation Secretary
I heard somebody say the other day that the only thing social media does for you is make you less social.
Knew you’d like that.
You’re a columnist. Let me stereotype you and offer five quick reasons why social media is not your cup of tea.
1) For years, you were the sole broadcaster of major thoughts in your community. Now everybody is.
2) When you can write 750 words twice a week, why bother with 140 characters on Twitter?
3) Wait! You’re supposed to research, think, write, edit and promote your work after it’s already been printed? Social media takes several hours a week. Like YOU have the time.
4) Who wants to know when I walk my dog?
5) It’s annoying.
See, these were, and sometimes, still are my main objections to the work that goes into my year-old blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts. They’ve added several hours to my work week. Usually on Saturday or Sundays when I’d rather be doing anything but re-circulating my stuff to people too cheap to buy a newspaper.
Then I had an epiphany. I began to understand that social media is all about high-quality content. Bright ideas. Wonderful and new information that is useful to others. Fantastic storytelling. Art. Photos. Video. And I realized that my work for my newspaper is all about that. I realized that newspaper columnists, more than anyone, are in the best position to put their stuff out for everyone else in a high-quality way.
Because the Fort Worth Star-Telegram pays me a good salary and gives me the time I need to pursue ideas that are mostly “oh wow” stories for readers, I now see that social media is absolutely built for a newspaper columnist to showcase his or her work.
Our stuff is better than most. We know how to present, to design and to entertain and inspire. That’s what Internet folks crave.
So why aren’t you bigger on Facebook?
Why do you ignore Twitter, laugh at it, steer clear of hashtags?
Why haven’t you put your profile on LinkedIn?
Now I know some, maybe even many of you, are saying, “I do that. I got that. What’s he talking about?”
My scientific rationale for my little lecture here is what happened at the 2010 NSNC conference in Bloomington. (Good one, Mike and Mardi Leonard!) We set up our Twitter hashtag as #NSNC10, the second year we’ve done that. This year, only three of us tweeted the conference in real time. Aside from me (I used Twitter to post conference photos), they are:
— Bill Tammeus, author, former NSNC president and still writing a column in Kansas City. He’s not known to pass up a good opportunity to promote his fellow scribes.
— Ben Pollock, our new NSNC president, tweeted from his new iPad. Cool!
So here’s why this matters to you:
“Facebook is a business machine,” says sales speaker and author Jeffrey Gitomer. “Facebook is the third largest country in the world.”
There are 500 billion people, businesses and causes who are registered for Facebook accounts. There are 7 billion people on LinkedIn. There are about 8 million actual Twitter users.
“Quality is the great differentiator,” social media advocate Rory Vaden says.
He adds, “If you have a lot of followers, people assume you know what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be a creator of great information. You have to be the conduit of it.” That makes you the trusted source, he says.
But columnists are creators of great information, aren’t we?
Here are some general suggestions:
1) A columnist should have several hundred followers on Twitter and several hundred on Facebook. Many of the followers will be readers who want to get to know you better online after reading your stuff in the newspaper. They will find you. Accept them as your new online friends.
2) A columnist should post on Twitter at least several times a week. Ditto for Facebook. (You can create a separate list for family to protect your private life.)
3) A columnist should slightly rewrite his or her newspaper work from the print version to make it more alive for the web. A hipper style.
4) If you don’t have a personal blog, you can use Facebook’s “Notes” pages, but that’s cumbersome. With your blog, you can repost your print stories and add hyperlinks to key websites, videos you make that tease the story (put them on YouTube and then link back to your blog) and photos you take of the subject that don’t make it into the newspaper.
5) When you have a good blog post that goes beyond your newspaper work, you should copy the URL link and send it by e-mail to many of your contacts. Ask them to comment on the blog. It sounds silly but old-fashioned e-mails asking others to check out your blog posts works. They will comment favorably and build your traffic.
6) If you don’t know how to do any of the above, you can take a class in your community, hire a young person to show you, or do what I do: Google for the answer. That’s how I learned many of the techniques listed above.
I have two sites I invite you to check out. WatchdogNation.com ties my new book, newspaper job and speaking together. DaveLieber.org, a newer site, is an attempt to tie everything together for search engine optimization purposes. It’s the hub of the wheel.
So what are you waiting for? Do you have a hub for your wheel?
None of this stuff is going away. If you don’t engage, you could be the one going away.