Kristen Wilson spent her college career working on design and magazine projects, but her first job out of school put her on the front lines of WTVA’s social media presence. Wilson is a Web producer for the NBC affiliate in Tupelo, Mississippi. She says the best way to master social media is by observing your audience in action.
“Always have a picture with your posts, and it helps sometimes to add a small tease with a little more information so people can know what they’re getting into before clicking on the link,” Wilson said. “People just don’t care about certain things and you kind of learn about your audience that way- it’s fun to see how your audience changes.”
Over time, Wilson says she’s realized just how sharp the social media audience can be, too.
“I know that if there’s a drug arrest, people will get upset about the use of a picture we use that has multiple drugs on it. If the story doesn’t involve marijuana they’ll say, ‘Well why is there marijuana in the picture?’.
Understanding the make-up of your audience is also important, according to Wilson, and analytics programs make that much easier.
“It breaks it down as far as are you reaching men more, or women more, or what age group?” Wilson said, “And right now, you can see that we have heavily more women, but the men’s percentage has increased, so I’ve tried to put things out there that they might be more interested in.”
Of course, reporters also interact with the social media audience and reporter Chris Tatum says most journalists should already have the skill they need to write excellent social media posts.
“The one thing that always works across the board, and I can’t say it enough, is good, simple, clean, writing and crystal clear communication is never out of style,” Tatum said.
But Tatum says some suggestions for creating better social media content just don’t make sense.
“Forcing words into sentences just because they are searchable will not work for television news because we still have to speak a clean language that’s simple. That’s why I don’t think TV stations are making great use of social media,” Tatum said. “I think they think they are, but no one has been able to come up with a good solution of how to combine [the writing styles] – they’re almost competitors trying to be friends.”
Tatum does value the “social” in social media, however.
“People make stories, information doesn’t make stories,” Tatum said, “Human beings connect to other human beings.”
For Wilson, it also comes back to the people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
“It’s a learning thing. Social media made me conscious of what the audience is looking for.”
Thanks to WTVA producer intern Christina Jones for contributing to this post.