Monday, May 9, 2011

How to increase your newsroom's engagement

So I tasked myself with improving our newsroom Twitter and Facebook presence (and your experience with us) back in late March and early April.

Sure, The Daily Freeman and its reporters are on Twitter and on Facebook. But pushing links (or asking questions for the sake of asking questions) is not really the way to go.

Here's what we did.

First, we needed some tools. I personally find the social media manager Tweetdeck immensely useful (here's why), so I decided to equip reporters with the program, and then add the link shortener's API key so that we can keep track of  what links works and what doesn't.

"Wait a second!" You are saying right now. "What's API? (And what's up with the stick man?)"

The application programming interface is basically a language that allows programs to talk to one another. All you do is grab your account's "key" (also known as "a whole bunch of nonsensical characters") and add it to Tweetdeck's settings (needless to say, you need a account and Tweetdeck).

Here's a tutorial on how to merge all this:

(Actually, here's the tutorial).

All of this is basically to figure out what messages generate responses and clicks.

Second: Training. As mentioned in this space before, I set up training session for Twitter best practices and Facebook. Here's the whole enchilada, in two parts.

How to improve your newsroom's Twitter presence:

How to improve your newsroom's Facebook presence:

As a favor to you (because you probably don't have two hours to spare to watch me, me me), I've summarized it all neatly here:

Actually, for a real summary, you're probably better off reading this.

Third, execution time.

This is where the staff really shined. Unprompted, reporters are now routinely thinking in a way that incorporates these tools into their workflow. I don't have to tell you about Patti Doxsey's live-tweeting of a murder trial with an iPad, for instance. (If I do, check this out).

 Here's why we're doing this, by the way, it's not just because we can:

I also like to think that our engagement on Facebook has finally created more conversations with you. We're getting close to 2,200 likes, and there has been more connections and interactions in the past for weeks than since I remember.

Yes, there's much room for improvement, but the seeds have been planted. And they're sunflower seeds. We're tweeting more, sure, but we're tweeting valuable stuff — and not to the empty Twitter forest, which looks like this:

And this brings us to the fourth step. Evaluation, troubleshooting and repetition of successful experiments.
Using Patti's latest live-tweeting as an example. Here are some quick stats from last week's live-tweeting: The average reader of stayed with Patti's tweets for more than an hour. Her sessions along gathered more than 100 comments from you, some opinions, but many of them questions, which I tried to answer when I was moderating the comments.

(By the way, I used the live-blogging platform CoverItLive, so that those without a Twitter account could still follow her tweets. Here's how to use that).

Many people, incidentally, created Twitter accounts just to follow her.

Moving on. On Tuesday, we're doing a livestream of the Kingston school board candidate's forum. And we'll have a CoveritLive container for you to participate while it goes on. The livestream idea came from reporter Kyle Wind, a continuation of the many livestreams and digital-first initiatives we've had in the last year.

All this has been a bit bumpy, yes. But we're getting better and better, so hopefully you won't have to see things like this:

Or worse, this:

We'll get there.