Social media stories with happy endings

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 9 January 2012

Everybody loves a social media story with a happy ending - by which I don’t mean that PR stunt about that other Martin guy. Here are two that have caught my eye over the last few days.

Social media at the Muscatine Journal

This is a lovely piece from Chris Steinbach, editor of the Muscatine Journal. It is a paper with a circulation of around 8,000 in Iowa. In it Chris explains how he is beginning to use social media (and SMS) to get tips and newsgather.

“Publisher Steve Jameson and I put our heads together on this question: How can we get more readers to follow Journal staffers on Twitter? Or, for that matter, text us when they see news breaking? These questions are vital to the Journal’s future news-gathering efforts, especially when it comes to breaking news. To cite but one reason: New technology being adopted by police and fire departments in Muscatine and elsewhere. It has begun to limit what we hear about via the police scanner, a tool we have used for decades. If not for a text message from an alert reader, I’m not sure how soon we would have known, for example, about the fire on Dec. 27 that destroyed Phelps: The Uniform Specialists”

They’ve decided to incentivise the readership - tips that come in via social media and get used will be rewarded. Chris finishes:

“This is how I think we should use Twitter. Not many people would want to read a 140-character tweet about what I ate for lunch. But nearly everyone wants to know what happens in their community.”

Using social media to earn an opportunity

“That really got me thinking: if I could get enough people to see that I wanted an internship in social media in sport, I might just be successful: and the best way to do it was to use the very social media platforms that form a huge part of my college course.”

This story in the career section of The Journal tells the the tale of Stephen Cleary, a student of sport management who wanted to get an internship somewhere to further his experience. He hit upon the idea of using a social media campaign to promote his quest - which also demonstrated his skills in the field. The actual role he has ended up with, at Adidas in Amsterdam, was from a direct application, but he used the evidence of his campaign as part of that process. And he has also used the story to generate further publicity for himself.

I think there is a particular lesson here for journalism students. To be able to demonstrate experience you used to have to collects some bylines somewhere. In a social media era, starting up your own hyperlocal or niche social media presence is virtually free, and demonstrates proactive ambition and your skills.

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