“Less is more - social media at the BBC” - Chris Hamilton at news:rewired

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 15 February 2012

A couple of weeks back I was at news:rewired to talk about the Guardian’s Facebook app, as part of a panel discussing social media optimisation. Here is the first of my set of notes from the other talks making up the panel.

“Less is more - social media at the BBC” - Chris Hamilton, BBC

Chris Hamilton, Social Media Editor at the BBC, said that their purpose with social media was to be clear about who they were, and play to their strengths. They were aiming to concentrate on a core set of Twitter accounts that made up an official presence, which had a human tone. Tone was important, and it shouldn’t, Chris said, be noticeable when there was a shift change of the people manning the accounts. This is an interesting approach - and differs from somewhere like Vodafone, where their customer service channel makes a virtue of naming and showing the people behind the account, and they sign their tweets.

Earlier at news:rewired, Liz Heron from the New York Times had talked about “hashtag science” - how choosing a snappy title for a series in print like “iEconomy” naturally lent itself to allowing the social media conversation to be tracked. Chris explained that when the BBC was tweeting information related to a developing story, they were careful to use already established hashtags to join in an existing conversation, rather than start their own. He gave #mytramexperience as an example. A video clip of a woman appearing to be racially abusive on a London tram could have been labelled in many ways once mainstream broadcasters were posting about it, but the BBC used the #mytramexperience hashtag that had been applied to the original trend rather than anything else.

The BBC were also concerned about workflow. Chris didn’t think that “social media” needed to be a separate team with separate processes, but needed to be embedded as a regular part of the newsroom.

With Google+, Chris seemed proud that the BBC had “set up shop” on the very first day that brand pages had become available. He said that engagement on the platform had been good, and that the “World Have Your Say” strand in particular was making great use of hangouts.

In the course of his talk, Chris praised the work of the BBC College of Journalism, who had helped train a lot of journalists and establish best practice. Chris felt that for most journalists, they didn’t “get” social media until they had a “Eureka!” moment. For everybody this was going to be an individual thing - but it might be finding a source, an extra tidbit of information, or being put on to an entire story because of something to do with their involvement with Facebook or Twitter. He didn’t think you could force those moments on to people - they had to discover what social media could do for them personally.

Next...

Also on the panel, and working with a newsroom of a very different scale, was Darren Waters of MSN. I’ll have my notes from his presentation next.

This is one of a series of blog posts featuring my notes from news:rewired:
“Did we get something of journalistic value?” - Liz Heron
“The Guardian’s Facebook app” - Martin Belam
“Great for users. Great for publishers. And great for Apple” - Alex Watson
“The Economist’s shift to digital”- Tom Standage
“The alchemy of media business model innovation” - François Nel
“Social media, investigative journalism, ethics and security” - Nicola Hughes
“Less is more - social media at the BBC” - Chris Hamilton
“Watch this (social) space...” - Darren Waters
“Me and my big photo of Mark Zuckerberg” - Nate Lanxon
“Social media optimisation” - Q&A

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