Getting a handle on social media #ahcj13

Cindy Uken

About Cindy Uken

Cindy Uken is a health care reporter at the Billings (Mont.) Gazette. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-Rural Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Photo by Pia Christensen

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can be useful — or time-killers.

Social media should be both interesting and useful or helpful.

These are the messages two social media producers delivered to journalists on Thursday at Health Journalism 2013, AHCJ’s 15th annual conference.

“Sometimes when people get started, it’s one or other,” said Adrienne Lavidor-Berman, social media producer for Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com.

Lavidor-Berman and Elizabeth Comeau, health and wellness producer for BostonGlobe.com, spent an hour with journalists helping them find ways to make Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms helpful and not simply a drain.

Some key takeaways:

  • Treat Twitter as its own beat.
  • Take time to follow the right people and respond to them.
  • If tweeting someone’s article, mention them by name in the Tweet to help them build a following.
  • Market your content to the people you know will find it most useful.
  • Twitter is very journalist friendly.
  • If you can’t find someone’s Twitter profile, search for them through Google.
  • Think before you tweet.
  • Follow AP, Reuters and the reporters who work for those organizations.

“One of my themes is, ‘Stay organized.'” Lavidor-Berman said.

To find sources on Twitter, the pair suggests:

Use the advanced search. If you are looking for people near Boston, make sure to type “Boston” under places.

  • Check to see who the person/organization you want to contact is following for ideas on other sources.
  • Follow a user and send them a public @-message (“@username I’m a Boston Globe reporter hoping to connect with you for a story about XYZ. Pls DM me your contact info if interested. Thanks!”)
  • You cannot send someone a direct message (DM) unless they are following you.
  • Make sure to keep an eye on your Twitter notifications to see if a contact has written back to you.
  • Once you get their contact info, it’s best to take the conversation off Twitter and into phone/email.

They also suggested ways to get followers on Twitter:

  • Engage! The more social you are, the more impacts you will have, and the more people who will know about you and follow you.
  • Put your Twitter “handle” everywhere.
  • Share information; avoid self-promotion (don’t just Tweet your own stories)
  • Re-tweet other people’s messages (and respond to other people)
  • Pick people and businesses to follow.
  • Find people who are already talking about your work and thank them for tweeting your story.

There are five buckets to using social media:

  • Listening and newsgathering
  • Event coverage
  • Community building
  • Informing and promoting
  • Personal brand building

When it comes to posting on Facebook, review your privacy settings. Enable “follow.”

Take advantage of “graph search.” You can start to search for people who “like” ovarian cancer research fund and live in Boston. That gives you a pool of people to begin your research.

“It’s a good way if you’re looking for sources,” she said.

Remember that your social media footprint is your resume.

Sometimes you have to actually “like” a page to know what’s going on with the person or organization.

Lavidor-Berman suggests journalists follow Vadim Lavrusik, journalism program manager for Facebook.

One of the ways to get more people to see your copy is to post your stories/content to your personal Facebook page then “share” it with the main brand page.

“Keep it interesting,” Lavidor-Berman said. She keeps her own Twitter account interesting by following the royal family via Clarence House.

A lot of regular people follow journalists on Twitter.

So, how do you do it all?

“Basically you just have to be Wonder Boy and be everywhere,” Comeau  said.

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