Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that news media and the social web is a subject I am especially passionate about. Whether a local community newspaper or national news organization, embracing social media is a must. It should be integrated into news gathering and dissemination, advertising services, and all aspects of community engagement. It is vital to stay relevant to both readers and advertisers. To engage them in the medium where they themselves are engaged. It is also vital to be at the very center of the community, whether that community is a physical community or online community. If we do not maintain relevance then by default we become irrelevant. If we allow ourselves to become irrelevant then ultimately we become obsolete.
It is also important to understand that it isn’t just about setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page and pumping out headline after headline. That might drive some traffic. But the opportunity is much greater. Opportunities to re-engage the community in new, exciting and very real ways. To report in a truly dynamic real-time fashion. To share rich multimedia content. Create and engage in conversations. Deepen relationships. Be experts for advertisers and help them effectively integrate social media with existing marketing strategies. Build very real online communities. Develop new revenue streams. The list goes on.
One news organization that is truly embracing the social web as a powerful platform to gather and share news and to reach an engaged new audience is NBC News. I recently chatted with Ryan Osborn, their Director of Social Media, who took time out to share insights on the role social media plays in their organization.
What social networks is NBC News actively engaged in?
It is getting hard to define a social network as almost all digital outlets have social characteristics but to name a few NBC News is engaging users on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, MeetUp, Tunerfish, GetGlue, GoMiso and our team is always looking for what is next.
What are your goals of being present on the social web?
The key opportunity is to reach our users in the most convenient way. As we report, promote and distribute content, we see that our users can help us with each part of that process.
Has the social web impacted the way you gather or disseminate news?
Yes. The social web never stops. We are always listening and also trying to figure out what is the best workflow for how we share our stories. Asking: What makes a good tweet? What makes a good blog post? How do we offer the best context around all of this reporting on TV?
Do you actively monitor the social web for potential breaking news? Have there been examples of stories you’ve broken as a result of monitoring the social web?
Yes. Our best example was when the US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River, we found a TwitPic and did a phoner with the witness on MSNBC.
Are there any examples you could share of how using social media has impacted reporting of a specific story?
I’m particularly interested in watching how social media will be used on Election Day. Watching people report from polls and surfacing that content continues to evolve. We are also focused on giving users the tools and resources to watch our coverage how they want. Working with msnbc.com, our video player is shareable on Facebook and for the first time the new Twitter. We are also working with some other developers who are doing interesting things.
Do you provide any type of social media training to news staff?
I have found the best kind of training happens one on one. Simply introducing people to tools and how they can be used to tell stories. Within a big organization, we can have different goals and we want to empower our employees.
Do you have a social media policy in place providing formal guidelines for conduct on the social web?
The President of NBC News Steve Capus has been very supportive and encouraging the division to use the tools but also understand how to use them correctly. Our standards and practices team has set guidelines. We are always working to communicate them. As some journalists have recently lost their jobs because of behavior online, it is an evolving conversation.
Any advice you would have for current students who may be considering a future in the news industry? Is the social web something they should be investing in as part of their future in the industry?
One thing that interests me is how social media has aided the rise of personal brands within organizations, particularly news organizations. If you are a current student, try to figure out what skills and ideas make you unique. Own your brand online and start building a community around your work. As you start applying for jobs this will offer you an advantage as you will come to your potential employer with a built-in audience. If your audience is big enough, you may not even need an employer.
Any other comments or anything else you’d like to share concerning NBC and the social web?
We are committed to learning. We are still at the beginning of this curve and I think being able to innovate in the future will rely on our ability to listen to our users. Always appreciate feedback so look forward to reading comments.
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