Social media has become a significant part of daily life, with many people using social media accounts across multiple platforms each day. Social media platforms play a central role not only in how people catch up with friends and family but also in how they find out what is happening in the world.
The importance these tech platforms have in disseminating the latest news is not just confined to the general public consuming news stories. Social media is also playing an increasingly important role in the work of journalists.
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How can journalists learn about using social media in their role?
Anyone aspiring to break into journalism needs to know how to use social media professionally, given the central role it plays in how news is reported and how people access it. Many individuals now prefer social media platforms over other methods of finding out what is happening in the world, so it makes sense for journalists to be present there. It is also helpful for those in the industry to know how to use social media to effectively distribute content, generate story angles and connect with their audience.
Although you may use platforms such as X or Instagram in your daily life, this does not mean you are prepared to use them in a professional capacity as a journalist, as you do not have the same level of expert knowledge. Therefore, it is essential to find a high-quality academic program that teaches you how to use social media as a journalist and other crucial topics.
The Master’s in Journalism Online from St. Bonaventure University is known for producing graduates who are ready to work in the modern media sector in as little as 1.5 years. This online program provides students with comprehensive journalistic training making them skilled in areas such as social media storytelling, podcasting and mobile experiences.
How does social media benefit working journalists?
The rise of social media in journalism can be attributed to the many benefits these platforms bring to the sector. Journalists would not spend their time using these sites if they had not already earned such a vital place in the industry.
Here is a look at how social media sites benefit journalists.
Help with crowdsourcing
One of the most useful techniques modern journalists can use when putting together articles is crowdsourcing. This entails inviting large groups of people to take part in informing and developing a story they are covering. It can involve everything from data collection to news gathering, collecting documents to substantiate a story or sharing personal experiences that are relevant to the issue being covered.
Crowdsourcing can be an effective tool for putting together print articles, online reports, podcast episodes and TV news stories. It is a good way for journalists to gain a different perspective on issues and a more in-depth understanding of them from the wider community. Crowdsourcing can also help pinpoint specific issues a segment of society is experiencing, bringing attention to them and finding ways to resolve them.
Social media platforms can be valuable tools for crowdsourcing, and this certainly makes them something which is beneficial for all journalists. When compared to putting together an in-person focus group for sourcing insights, platforms like X make it much quicker and more efficient to gain relevant information. When using social media platforms, all journalists have to do is ask their followers for their take on a story and await their replies.
Social media helps journalists access a global and diverse range of people when crowdsourcing information. This enables them to obtain a wider range of perspectives on any story they are writing and gives them the ability to gather data from a larger group of people. When you consider the fact that Facebook has around 3 billion monthly annual users in 2023, the reach of social media and its benefits for journalistic crowdsourcing is clear.
Boosting audience engagement
Another benefit of social media for journalists is the direct engagement it provides them with their audience. These platforms make it easier than ever for journalists to engage with the public and the people who read their articles, whether it is via direct messages or by replying to people who have commented on posts they create on social media accounts. Social media also provides a greater variety in how journalists can engage their audience, from images on Instagram to written words on X and videos on YouTube. Engaging in this way is much more convenient and quicker than previous methods of audience contact for journalists.
Social media platforms can also help journalists engage with their audiences by enabling them to show their true personality. This is not always something people can pick up from reading an online news piece or an article in a newspaper. Social media channels allow journalists to showcase all aspects of their personalities and drive audience engagement as a result. This might take place by posting thoughts, videos or images on their social media accounts that are not strictly related to journalism.
These online platforms also promote audience engagement by making the process more interactive. On platforms such as Instagram, for example, it is not solely about journalists presenting information to the public for them to digest. These types of sites enable the public to engage with journalists directly and share their thoughts. This is helpful for journalists because it can provide them with new takes on an issue and fresh insight into the stories people find most captivating.
One thing all journalists understand is the importance of promoting their stories. Writing an excellent article is one thing after all – but it will be to no avail if no-one knows about it, and it doesn’t gain the reach it is expected to.
Social media is useful for promoting stories and getting your latest piece of content out into the world. As a result, this is another way in which social media sites can be highly beneficial for people in the sector. The proper use of social media platforms can help stories take off and gain more attention, giving your career prospects a major boost.
The number of people who regularly use a social media site each day is important, with stories on the top platforms having the potential to be seen by billions of people worldwide. This means some stories can gain considerable traction in a short period of time. If a story really takes off on social media, it can quickly go viral and pick up a lot of attention.
For journalists, social media makes promoting stories easier and more convenient. Most social media accounts are free to create and easy to use. The best journalists will also take advantage of features that help them target their stories to specific audiences, such as hashtags in X, so they can be seen by people who are likely to enjoy them.
Networking is essential in most sectors, and journalism is no exception. Building up a comprehensive professional network helps working journalists forge industry connections that can prove useful throughout their careers and help them stay up to date on the latest job opportunities.
Networking is easy on social media, making these platforms valuable for all journalists. LinkedIn is perhaps the best example; this site is focused directly on networking for professionals in industries such as journalism.
Online platforms like this give people in the sector an easy way to make useful connections and expand their own professional network. This can help them build up their own personal brand in journalism, advance their career, and forge good working relationships with other journalists.
Social media can also be beneficial for journalists when it comes to source development. Sources are a key part of any professional journalist’s work and provide the basis for stories or help substantiate information. By using social media to develop their sources, journalists can easily stay in direct contact with them. Social media also gives journalists an effective way to build relationships with sources over time.
Another reason social media can be useful for source development is that it offers a certain level of anonymity. Sources who are concerned about their safety can use VPNs and aliases when helping journalists online so they do not risk being seen talking to them in person.
Identifying news trends
The world of journalism is fast-moving and which often depends on trending topics within social media. Being able to pick up on hot trends in the news is important for working journalists for a number of reasons.
Perhaps the most essential is that social media enables journalists to keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening on a local, national and global scale. This helps them remain relevant in terms of the content they produce and better informed about what is happening in the world.
Staying on top of news trends is also important for journalists because it means they can write about topics everyday people are interested in. This helps them to connect better with their audience and write about topics they need more information about. It can also make their articles more popular with the public and more likely to be shared.
Social media is beneficial for journalists as it makes it easier for them to find trending news and topics to write about. This is because logging onto social media sites is very easy to do from anywhere and gives journalists access to trending news as it happens. Most platforms make it easy to see which topics are gaining traction. Journalists can also choose to explore subjects their followers are contacting them about or posting about.
Using social media to pick up on the latest trends to report also takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Journalists no longer have to rely on their gut instinct to determine which topics people may be interested in. By using social media, those in the industry can focus their efforts on what matters most to their readers.
Ideas for stories
Social media can also be used to generate ideas for stories. Once journalists have identified a topic that is trending and worth writing about, they can use their social platforms to develop ideas for stories related to it.
This may involve reaching out to people who have been posting on social media about the subject that is trending and speaking with them to gain inspiration for an article. Journalists might also see pictures, videos or written content on social media that gives them an idea for a story of their own on the same topic.
Social media platforms can also allow journalists who are really stuck for ideas to reach out to their followers for help and obtain feedback from them on what their story should focus on. All of these examples show what a valuable tool social sites are for idea generation and how they can provide the inspiration journalists need to craft successful content.
User-generated content can be used by journalists to help boost their careers. This is also something that is closely associated with social media sites and is another example of how social media can help journalists in their role.
In simple terms, it entails loyal followers on social media choosing to share your articles, stories and content online in an organic, authentic way. It can also involve them helping to build your brand online by speaking positively about your journalistic skills. This may include actions such as reposting a story of yours across their social media accounts to promote it or encouraging other social media users to follow you.
User-generated content is powerful because it is an online form of word-of-mouth advertising. This tends to strike a chord with people in a far more effective way than traditional methods of sharing content or connecting with them. User-generated content also stands out as a more trusted way of gaining recognition online and can help any journalist build a positive reputation in the sector.
Helping journalists get used to innovative tech
The benefits of social media in journalism extend beyond what these platforms offer in isolation. By becoming adept at using these types of sites, journalists can refine their general IT skills and become more confident when using other types of technology in their roles. This is especially true for older journalists, who may not have grown up using a lot of technology.
What other types of useful technology might journalists use in their role?
- Running their own online blog to publish articles and stories
- Using the latest mobile tech to make notes, record interviews, stay in touch with the newsroom, and take photos for a story
- Attending online meetings
- Conducting interviews or speaking to colleagues via video call software
- Using email in their daily role
- Using languages such as HTML or CSS to create digital stories
These are all good examples of the types of technology that modern journalists use. There is no doubt that getting familiar with social media can help journalists develop their IT skills and the confidence needed to use them.
As the above shows, social media platforms benefit journalists in numerous ways. Their ability to bring the latest news directly to audiences and engage people on a more personal level has been a game-changer when it comes to how news is reported. It has also changed how journalists connect with the public, get their stories heard and develop their own reputation in the industry. With time, social media’s role in journalism is likely to expand, and technological advancements will also give the field a boost.