Social Media for Journalists: Making a case for Facebook

There is one clear fact about journalism and social media, i.e. Twitter is the ‘Holy Grail’ for journalists.
The 140 characters in a tweet are used by a majority of journalists for breaking news and microblogging. Almost every journalist has a twitter account.

Facebook on the other hand is what I call a ‘potential’ which is waiting to be discovered by journalists. Facebook is a larger platform than that of Twitter and much more varied. In the following points I will make a case for Facebook and why it should be used more by journalists.

Here we go.

1. Number of users

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This is the modus operandi and source of pride for any social media site. More users will generate more content. In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly users while Twitter had just 313 million in the same time period.

This is a massive difference. More importantly, a difference which can have major consequences on what is being shared and created. Facebook has already become a source of news, with almost every major news agency sharing content on their official Facebook pages.

Contrastingly, individual journalists are not that active on Facebook. Click on a journalist’s profile, and you get a Wikipedia-esque introduction, with few irregular posts.

To reach a bigger audience, journalists who already have a Facebook profile can use their profiles professionally or even make a separate page if they want to keep their professional and personal profiles separate.

Journalists will get a much larger audience to cater to on Facebook.

2. Extensive engagement with audience

fb-reactions
Facebook’s comments section is a platform for opinions, frustrations, and friendly banter. Activity over Facebook has become so relevant in recent times, that governments in certain countries (India and Pakistan) track such activities and curb them. Like the press, Facebook provides a platform for public opinion, forming and shaping it.

Granted that Twitter is good source for breaking news, but if a story is broken on Facebook, the public can actively engage in debate through the comments section.

Facebook’s reactions is a great tool for journalists. It can help them to understand what shared content resonates with the public’s emotions. Before reactions, it was impossible to tell from a “like” whether the reader was angry, sad, or happy about what they had seen.

On Twitter, although you can engage with audiences through replies, the scope of debate is limited to 140 characters.

Engaging with Facebook comments may seem like a daunting task. Twitter is more favoured because journalists are short on time and sending a tweet is easier than commenting on Facebook.

But, if they can spare time to engage with their audience on Facebook, they will be be able to understand public opinion.

3. The multi-platform format on Facebook facebooklive_marquee3
Facebook can influence public opinion because it provides a wide range of platforms on its site through which users can share content.

News agencies are making extensive use of Facebook live to break news and report on stories. If you compare breaking a story on Twitter with just a one line tweet and breaking the same news with a live video, you can understand the huge differences between the two. Video always has a more lasting effect on the viewer than words have on the reader. 

Facebook Live video has revolutionised reporting: where anyone can record live videos of any event through their mobile phone cameras.

Twitter is not so accessible when it comes to multimedia reporting. Short videos, GIFs and pictures are about all there is on offer.

What WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption means for journalism and how to use app

The last time I checked, WhatsApp was not one of the most popular social media apps among journalists.

It was trailing Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, and Line by far.

Microsiervos

Many a journalist have written off this chat app with a disputed 800 million monthly active users after efforts to broadcast through it proved to be a herculean task— adding phone numbers to chat groups and broadcast lists.

Yes, pushing out information through hard-to-make and limited WhatsApp broadcast lists is neither efficient nor economical but this world’s most popular messaging application is still useful in journalism.

It unleashes its power when you reverse the newsroom-audience information flow— from broadcasting to newsgathering.

App

What’s more, WhatsApp’s latest addition of end-to-end encryption (above) has made it safe for internal newsroom communication— including managers’ top-secret chats, planning, story assignment to reporters and content filing, including scoops.

“When you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats,” WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton said in their announcement of the new privacy features.

Unlike Telegram where users have to start a secret chat to enable encryption, WhatsApp’s new security feature, Signal Protocol designed by Open Whisper Systems,  is enabled by default in the app’s latest version.

App

“Once the session is established, clients do not need to rebuild a new session with each other until the existing session state is lost through an external event such as an app reinstall or device change,” Koum and Acton said.

However, there are concerns that the encryption fails in chats between Android and iPhone phones. It should also be noted that the Big Brother may be able to snoop on encrypted messages if the security  of your gadget is compromised.

iphonedigital

So, how can you effectively use WhatsApp for internal newsroom communication, content-generation and newsgathering?

The app that was acquired by Facebook at $16 billion (£10.6 billion) in 2014 uses standard cellular mobile numbers to send information— photos, texts, audio, videos and user location — over the internet, across platforms.

Its web feature, WhatsApp Web, which is installed by scanning a QR reader, makes it easier to type and download information onto a computer for processing.

QR

Once this system is set up, WhatsApp is not only fast in breaking news but also more reliable in receiving and verifying eyewitness media and User Generated Content (UGC).

To begin, it is advisable to set up a WhatsApp group for your reporters and correspondents, with editors as admins who issue instructions and plan day-to-day business

As the newsgatherers post content on the platform, editors have to monitor updates, download, process, package and publish the information.

El Taller del Bit

The app’s chat function allows conversations between the senders and receivers, including clarifications and requests for more information in real time.

Kenya’s Daily Nation has successfully used WhatsApp to receive breaking stories from its reporters and correspondents around the world in the last two years.

It runs a closed group where newsgatherers, online subs and editors are ever conversing— gathering and publishing information as part of the newspaper’s digital strategy.

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The BBC has expanded beyond closed newsroom groups and now uses WhatsApp to receive eyewitness media and general UGC, according to Journalism.co.uk.

Its Have Your Say programme has been particularly successful at this— breaking the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash, covering Nepal earthquake, India and South Africa elections.

The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, reports Journalism.co.ukhave also run successful crowd-sourcing projects using WhatsApp.

bbc

While Facebook, Twitter, Line, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat and Viber are equally reliable in delivering UGC, verification of content delivered via WhatsApp is quicker, courtesy of country phone codes.

For instance, if a user claims to be a resident of Garissa in Kenya where Al-Shabaab killed 148 students last year and their phone number’s country code reads +27, you have every reason to be skeptical because +27 is the country code for South Africa. Kenya’s is +254.

Mark you, it is not impossible for people to download content from the internet and pass it as their own on this ‘dark end’ of the internet.

Syed Ikhwan_edited

As such, content delivered via WhatsApp should treated with the scepticism all UGC deserves and passed through the normal verification process.

The success of WhatsApp in delivering UGC is solely dependent on the popularity of the app in the targeted region.

It can work wonders in a country such as  India that has over 65 million active users but may not be as successful in the United States where WhatsApp is still struggling to get users’ attention.

Photo credits: — Harry Misiko, El Taller del Bit, iphonedigital, Microsiervos and Syed Ikhwan | Creative Commons.

How to live tweet an event

Why live tweet?

Share: If you’re interested in an event you’re attending, the chances are that others who can’t make it or don’t already know about it will be interested too. Live tweet to give them an insight into the best bits of what’s being said.

Grow: You will gain followers, exposure and skills. You’ll catch people’s attention. And live tweeting is a great exercise for honing that key journalistic talent for filtering what’s most important, then broadcasting it to an audience.

Save time: Writing a report after the event, if you need to, is much easier once you’ve already distilled the best quotes. It can be little more than adding structure, conjunctions, full stops and some context.

What to live tweet?

When I’m listening to speakers and looking for quotes, I have the “so what?” test running in my head. When you hear a short, important phrase you think worthy of a quote, ask “so what?”. If there’s a clear answer why your followers should care about the quote, then go ahead and tweet it.

Direct quotes are best, in “ ” marks:

Paraphrase if you have to:

How to live tweet?

Before On the day of the event – or earlier if it’s hotly anticipated – tweet at regular intervals to let everyone know you’re going to be live-tweeting. Include details – when, from where, and what about, as well as a link to the event. Entice with pictures!

Check if there’s an event hashtag. Make sure you are following all the parties you’ll want to tag: the speakers, the chair, the venue and the organisers.

Gather your equipment. I prefer live tweeting from my iPhone because:

    1. SILENCE: Typing into a phone is silent; typing into a laptop isn’t. Depending on what kind of event you’re at, tapping away at a laptop keyboard can be disruptive and you may draw weird looks from irked audience members next to you. Obviously if it’s a tech conference, you’re absolutely fine, but at the above Frontline Club event on stateless peoples, the rapt audience did not appreciate tap-tap-tap in the corner.
    2. HABIT: Our minds are habituated to typing brief phrases into a phone keyboard, rather than the long sentences we usually write into laptops. Brief phrases suit live-tweeting.

Have your laptop open too – it’s useful for confirming the odd detail or searching Twitter for a tag you need while your tweet box is already open on your phone.

At the event Sit at the back or sides of the room. I find other audience members tend to get irritated by my flipping between phone and laptop, and this in turn distracts me. Live-tweeting takes focus – distractions aren’t welcome!

Don’t worry if you start tweeting a quote, but then the speaker comes up with a far more interesting one you’d rather tweet. Delete your draft so far and go for it.

You will miss quotes – that’s part of the nature of tweeting live. You’re giving your audience the most salient points, not a blow-by-blow documentation of the event.

You’ll find as you type quotes in that most come up over 140 characters. You’ll need to crop sentences all the time. Paraphrase succinctly, using just a very short quoted phrase if that helps. If only one tag will fit in the tweet, I usually put the speaker.

Tag anyone relevant to a specific quote; for instance, when Gonzalo Vargas Llosa mentioned the UNHCR, I tagged them in the tweet. It’s a great way to get your live tweets more exposure.

If you notice typos or misquotes after you’ve published a tweet, I copy the tweet, paste in a new one, delete the original one and republish the correct tweet. Don’t worry about the tweets being out of time sequence. After Remember a concluding tweet so your followers know it’s over. You also might want to post any follow-up links.

New followers, likes and retweets will continue for hours and usually the next couple of days after the event.

Repeat at your next event!

Five things we learnt from October’s Hacks/Hackers London

Hacks/Hackers at Twitter UK (Image: Peter Yeung)

October’s edition of Hacks/Hackers was a bustling affair held at Twitter’s London HQ. Organised by the Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Marshall, Twitter’s Joanna Geary and PixieLab’s Peter MacRobert, a healthy cohort of interhacktives were in attendance. Here’s what we learnt:


Streamlined design is the final frontier

Erin Sparling, head of newsroom development at Dow Jones, showed off a number of sophisticated in-house tools, as well as a love of Patrick Stewart. Coining many of his programs after characters the actor has played – Picard, Xavier, Arthur – Sparling gave insight into how digital design can be mastered. Xavier, for example, allows the newsroom to alter a layout without the need for multiple templates. What’s News “decomposes” articles into a module of elements (headlines, pictures, paragraphs), and if you’re looking for a slick way of building timelines, lists and slideshows, Narrator is able to make it so.

An “IMDb for the web” is on its way

Joscelyn Upendran talked about Zilpa, an attribution startup for the web. Through bookmarking and curation options, it creates a personalised content feed linked to Twitter. From this feed, Zilpa is able to show you – at a glance – who wrote a link, who shared it, who published it, who’s in it, who owns it, as well as other related information. Upendran’s touting Zilpa as the “IMDb for the web”.

Wearable tech is bad news for the legacy media

 


“Print dollars, digital dimes, mobile cents, and wearable…?” said Jack Riley, director of audience development at Huffington Post UK. Following on from research he did as a Nieman Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, he explained that wearable tech is the most intrusive device we have ever had, meaning user experience must be carefully thought over. His three key points were that they must be: personal, relevant and glance-able. He ominously concluded: “With wearables, there isn’t space for ad-supported content”.

There’s a new place to Tuttle-tattle about emerging technologies

Hacks/Hackers London is thriving, with names from The New York Times, The Economist, WSJ, Buzzfeed and more populating the room. But there are other options too, as Lloyd Davis, founder of Tuttle Club, pointed out. Tuttle’s series in the forthcoming weeks, Future of Work, will focus on emerging technologies and how they’re changing the world of work. Artificial Intelligence, Blockchains, Drones and Virtual Reality will all be explored.

Love is in the air


It may have been due to the free alcohol provided by The Economist, but it was a particularly friendly outing. Peter MacRobert of digital product incubator Pixie Labs took freely-available data from meetup.com (the website used to register for Hacks/Hackers London), and matched up like-minded attendees for us all to see at: http://hhldn-matchmaker.herokuapp.com/. It was a creepy – yet informative and interesting – experience for everyone.

Using Twitter Well: The Strange Case of J.K Rowling and Wings Over Scotland

Twitter, rather than existing as an amorphous abstract cloud of individual opinions, links and gifs, is closely bound up with existing communities and groups.

Scotland is notable for the skill of its political classes on Twitter. The leaders of the Scottish National Party, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives are all adept tweeters. They joke, snipe, tease and engage with their own followers and those of rival parties.

As Twitter is one of the major methods of public communication between Scottish journalists and politicians it is unsurprising that events on the site frequently make the news.

Last week provided quite a spectacular example.

On Sunday, the Scottish Rugby team lost a quarter final game of the Rugby World Cup against Australia.

It was a tight, emotional and highly charged defeat and many supporters took to Twitter to express their grief.

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series quoted a tweet which said: ‘Don’t care. Scotland were magnificent!!! Magnificent!!!’

 Stuart Campbell, curator of the popular pro-independence blogging site wingsoverscotland.com replied:

And that’s when Scottish Twitter went into meltdown. Campbell’s comments were spread across the internet, Rowling responded, and Twitter opinion fell down firmly on the side of the author. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her tacit support,  

Campbell refused to apologise for his comments and posted a list of prominent journalists who had also told other tweeters to ‘f*** off’.

From his perspective there was no story. What on earth was remarkable about one tweeter swearing at another? Did he have a point?

Users swear at each other all the time on Twitter, why should this particular incident be news-worthy?

The spat goes to the heart of the ‘social versus media’ nature of Twitter.

Often journalists forget that most people are not on Twitter to just read their tweeted stories but to interact with other users, watch videos and tell jokes.

Twitter is a functional social area, and thus it is unsurprising that most people expect people to behave as they would in ‘real-life’.

In ‘real-life’ exchanges between celebrities or other prominent people are reported on, it is part of the bread and butter of journalism.

Rowling is a world famous author and became a prominent ‘no’ campaigner in last year’s referendum.

Although his popularity is not quite as stratospheric, Campbell is a well-known figure in Scottish politics. Wings over Scotland is a very successful site, it has thousands of readers in Scotland and played a huge role in influencing Scottish political debate during the referendum.

 

Tweeters thought the winner of the Twitter spat was obvious…

The point should be obvious.

While it might indeed be un-newsworthy when users without the profile Rowling and Campbell enjoy are at each other’s’ throats when one of the biggest names in Scottish ‘new media’ swears at the country’s most famous author in an online tantrum after a national rugby game the news value is evident.

The story also falls within a long running narrative, that of the pernicious ‘cybernat’, the keyboard nationalist who hides behind a glowing screen accusing people of being ‘anti-Scottish’ and ‘quislings’.

De-toxifying the idea of nationalism has been a key part of the SNP’s strategy in the past few years.

Instinctively wary of flag-waving political enthusiasts the SNP have had to patiently put the case to Scotland and Britain that nationalism is not such a dangerous creed as many suppose.

They have had some success, support for the party and independence has never been higher, but, as it should be obvious, outbursts like Campbell’s do not help.

As Sturgeon tweeted, it ‘does our cause no good to hurl abuse.’

J.K Rowling reacts to Campbell’s comment

Campbell is, to some extent, a savvy media operator, but the lack of understanding that the ‘social’ side to Twitter is as important as the ‘media’ side and that our online personalities are crucial in how we might put across our political views and news to others is short-sighted and damaging.

Perhaps I am being naïve, maybe Campbell is completely aware and goes out of his way to cultivate his particular online persona described by STV’s digital correspondent Stephen Daisley as ‘…brash, aggressive, personal. Other blogs shoot from the hip; Wings shoots its targets in the hip.’

To his followers ‘Wings’ is a one man army against the unthinking unionist establishment media, fighting a lonely battle against misrepresentation and one of the few genuine voices in Scotland who tells the truth as it is.

But all people see if they have never come into contact with him or his site before is one man swearing at the woman who wrote Harry Potter.

It is not a good look.

It is easy ammunition for his opponents, further embeds ideas of ‘cybernattery’, scares off those floating voters and makes the media space in Scotland a more aggressive and threatening place.

In short it’s a tactical disaster for the pro-independence movement. Perhaps more importantly than any of these reasons though, is that is just downright unpleasant.

Some Tweeters did not see what all the fuss was about

If the internet is an extension of our social space why should it be acceptable to behave differently online than how we might interact were we face-to-face?

I would be interested to know, would Campbell still tell Rowling to ‘f*** off’ if she was standing next to him watching the rugby in the stadium?

Decency, politeness and respect are important in the public space. Indeed, it is the only way debate and honest disagreement can fruitfully take place.

Twitter is a powerful tool for journalists. Used well it enables you to find previously unreachable readers from all across the world, build committed and engaged communities and nurture a network of contacts and friends.

But used poorly it can damage the public arena by toxifying public debate, increasing feelings of intimidation and reducing disagreement and debate to aggression and insults.

Last Sunday Rowling said that all ‘Wings’ contributed to Scottish political discussion was ‘bile.’

If he does not stop soon, that’s all anyone else will be able to see too.

 

J.K Rowling, photo by Daniel Ogren [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sociotope brings your online identity to life

A mass of multi-coloured tentacles against a grey-blue backdrop

While browsing data visualisations on Pinterest the other day, I came across an interesting-looking tool: Sociotope, a social media experiment which takes the data people leave behind in social networks and turns it into an interactive data visualisation.

The free-to-use web app works with Twitter, Facebook and soon Google Plus. It uses your data to build a “virus”-like creature with one tentacle for every post you’ve made, or post that someone else has involved you in, up to a maximum of 150 (though you can choose to load more). The colour scheme is taken from your profile picture, and the length of each tentacle varies depending on the length of the post. The more the tentacles move around, the more people have interacted with that post – providing a slightly bizarre but effective overview of your social media presence.

 A screen capture of me exploring Sociotope and using it to visualise my Twitter activity

Sociotope is functional, but also fun and interesting – you can use your cursor to spin it around in the three-dimensional space, and watch as the tentacles flop about. You can click on each one to see details about that post, although with so many tentacles in the way, it can be difficult to hit the exact one you’re aiming for.

Sociotope also provides a few options for analysing your social media presence, including sorting posts by time and by author. Its design is geared more towards visual impact than straight-forward analysis; but it’s effective as a visualisation and fun to play with, and could serve as an entry point for more casual users into analysing their social media presence, rather than only appealing to professionals, like most analytical tools.

A visual metaphor

Stefan Wagner, the designer who created Sociotope, says he wanted people to gain an understanding of what they leave behind online:

If you browse websites, data is collected about you – lots of data. I think the average user doesn’t ever glimpse how much data that is actually collected … these kind of exceptional visualisations, they gain people’s interest, and they will be interested in this viewing this data and what lies behind it.

Stefan describes Sociotope as a “metaphor” that represents people’s social media activity and their social relevance. “I always liked connecting data visualisation to some sort of metaphor – I like working with metaphors to convey information about something. The idea was created to make a data visualisation of social media and put it in some sort of other form, to shape it differently, so that the viewer would learn something else from it.

“I really hope that people are using it to analyse their own presence and maybe the identity of others. Because social networks, they’re all about social interaction, and I think it’s really important for people to realise how they use this kind of social media, how they interact with their friends, and how deep this interaction goes.”

Does he think that this is a role that data should be playing – in helping people realise these things about themselves? “For me, it’s the only way data should be used. Of course big data is used to do advertisements and stuff but for me, the interesting thing lies in analysing behaviour and getting into how people use this kind of media.”

A colourful Sociotope visualisation with a few tendrils extending out towards the words "tweet", "reply", "tweet with media" and "link"
Sociotope can break your online presence down by type of post and whether or not it contains media | Stefan Wagner / andsynchrony

Sociotope also provides an unexpected insight into how the internet has developed over time and how users’ social media presences have changed with it. By loading posts back far enough, you can play them as a time-lapse which shows the evolution of a person’s social media presence over the years.

“When I started to build the project,” says Stefan, “I saw that in 2009 or 2010, people were writing a lot more text, but now they restrict themselves to posting photos or one-liners – just a few words. People tend to not write so many things any more; they more tend to post photos or videos.

“You can read it out of the visualisation. [Similarly], when you look at websites, how they are structured and how they try to gain attention, photographs or images get a lot more space these days than they did two or three years ago.”

Generating Utopia

Sociotope isn’t Stefan’s only project which uses data visualisation to give insight into how people use social media. In 2013, he created ‘Generating Utopia’, a real-time visualisation of social location data using the social platform Foursquare.

It takes a map of an existing city and alters the topography based on a person’s Foursquare check-ins, elevating the areas where a person checks in the most, to emphasise their importance. The locations are connected by a web of neon lines in primary colours: red for work, blue for recreation and yellow for transport. The overall effect is a dramatic, futuristic cityscape.

“People like to represent themselves from their best side, in social networks,” Stefan explains. “So when they check in somewhere, it’s not like the doctor’s office or something; it’s some awesome place. So people will build up a utopic vision for themselves, and I wanted to build utopian landscapes from the data.”

A bird's-eye view of a cityscape with several buildings perched on top of high mountains, with lines of red, blue and yellow light winding their way around the topography
A still from Generating Utopia | Stefan Wagner / andsynchrony

“I really love provoking people by showing them data in a different way. I like using metaphors and images, strong images, which provoke people’s imagination to make them build up a sensibility towards what data means and how much data they produce. I think it’s really important.”

Stefan says that he would like to see more people creating images and ideas from the data that lies behind a person’s online presence. “Every image which is created helps shape this future idea of how data should be, or how social networks should work. I can only motivate people to try to visualise data.”

Our favourite #AdviceForYoungJournalists

If you were on Twitter yesterday, you probably noticed the trending hashtag #AdviceForYoungJournalists, which was sparked off by a bitingly cynical blog post from financial journalist Felix Salmon. His advice to young wannabe journalists contacting him for guidance is this: don’t become journalists. At least, not if you want to get paid, or have anything that resembles an actual career.

Forty-eight hours on and the hashtag is still going strong, featuring contributions from old veteran hacks, fresh-faced newbies, bitter ex-journos, and – for some weird reason – Joss Whedon. Some of the advice has been funny, some of it obnoxious; many of the advice-givers are clearly pushing an agenda or taking the opportunity to have a sly dig at an industry they hate. But there’s also a lot of genuine, heartfelt advice to be found. And it says something about the state of journalism that a lively debate around its future prospects can spring up so easily and last for so long, with so many people eager to weigh in.

Needless to say, we Interhacktives – as young journalists – don’t buy into the idea that journalism is a doomed career path. Among the wave of bitterness and snark, we found a lot of helpful tips, so we’ve rounded up for you here our favourite #AdviceForYoungJournalists.

Common-sense advice

Some of the best advice given sounds a lot like pure common sense, but at some point every journalist will be learning these things for the first time. For more experienced journalists, it never hurts to have a reminder, either.

This one in particular has been a key point in our interview classes so far:

 

Practical advice

It’s easy to say vague things that sound sage and profound, but how about some solid advice that you can really act on?

A practical tip for students from our own Ben Jackson:

Our Social Media and Community Engagement lecturer, Ben Whitelaw, also gave some advice which almost all of the Interhacktives are happy to be practicing next month:

 

Advice for a changing field

We can’t forget that the reason Felix Salmon wrote his blog post in the first place is because the field of journalism has changed massively with the rise of the internet, and has continued to shift and change ever since. Here is some smart advice on how to stay ahead of the curve in a constantly evolving industry:

My personal favourite series of Tweets came from Randy Lilleston, editor-in-chief of business news site Industry Dive. He managed to succinctly sum up what is currently happening in the journalism industry and why, and how to succeed in the midst of it:

 

And finally, one last piece of practical advice from our Online and Data Journalism lecturer, Paul Bradshaw:

Done and done. Thanks for the tip, Paul!

Header image: Esther Vargas

A social media style guide for local newspapers

Declining print circulations, traditionalism, internal politics, a small budget. These are problems that don’t just affect local newspapers, but it hits them worse. So why have I written a social media style guide principally aimed at locals? Because, generally, they have fewer resources to invest in their social media channels.

As journalists, we’re still trying to figure out which social platforms work best for news reporting. The most recent questions have been about the journalistic potential of WhatsApp and Snapchat, closed platforms where young people are doing whatever it is young people do. For the time being though, let’s focus on the big two – Facebook and Twitter.

The Times social mediaHere’s how social media is done at The Times and The Sunday Times

I wrote this guide while on work experience last December, so it is influenced heavily by The Times and The Sunday Times‘ social media style guide. I’ve updated it so it can be applied to any local newspaper and indeed any news organisation interested in boosting their social media presence.


Welcome to your social media style guide.

Here’s how to produce the most fun, engaging and informative social content that serves the reader and drives new followers. It is a working document – the social web is always changing and so are your readers.

General points

● Be accurate and consistent
● Tailor content to the platform – Twitter and Facebook are different!
● Show off about your exclusive content
● Correctly attribute images
● Use appropriate hashtags

Twitter

The average half-life of a tweet is 2.8 hours. So ideally, you should publish one tweet an hour from 7am to 8pm, showing the range of content on the site.

Tone

Tweets should be conversational and directed at followers. Make it clear there’s a human behind the account. There’s nothing wrong with an exclamation mark every now and then. Be funny, be smart, and be engaging.

Retweeting

Retweeting followers shows you’re engaging with them on some level (reply to people too!). Retweets don’t necessarily mean endorsement. Please don’t ever manually retweet someone (“There’s a button for that”) unless you have something valuable to add as an extension of his or her tweet.

Links

Use a URL shortener such as bit.ly – it looks much better. Install the bit.ly browser plugin to speed up the process.

Embedded content

Tweets with images attached perform much better than those without. Embed images, whether they may be Twitter cards, charts or photos, wherever possible. Soon you’ll be able to embed video content on Twitter without using a third party app. Embedding short videos will boost your engagement rate.

Vines

Vines work really well on Twitter. Vines can also reach hundreds of thousands of people if they get featured on the app, so it’s certainly something to consider. A Vine account could be used to show behind-the-scenes content from the office.

Hashtags

People follow hashtags for news and topics they care about, particularly breaking news stories. We need to reach these types of people – users who are invested in something – so include trending and popular hashtags in tweets wherever possible. You can check if a hashtag is popular by searching for it on Twitter. You know it’s worth including it if tweets are coming in every couple of minutes or seconds.

Live tweeting

When covering a live event in person, embed photos and Vines as much as possible. Try to tweet differently to the crowd – don’t just report what’s happening. Here’s something I wrote about how to live tweet better. Try not to begin a tweet with a full stop and the person’s Twitter handle ‘.@bjacksonuk…’ – it looks ugly (‘full stop before @ reply’ should only be done if you’re replying to someone’s tweet and you want all your followers to see it).

Facebook

Facebook statuses should be posted sparingly if you don’t currently get much engagement – morning, noon and evening. The best performing content should be given priority here. Take a look at your Facebook page’s furniture, such as the profile picture, cover photo and ‘About’ section. Have these things been updated recently? These things need to look attractive and fresh, communicating your brand just as well as the daily front page is supposed to.

Tone

Statuses should be personal and appeal to the reader’s emotions wherever possible – Facebook users are more likely to engage with content framed in emotional terms. It’s good to ask questions, share quotes and use pithy one-liners. Don’t ever just copy and paste the headline into the status. A curiosity gap helps with engagement too…

Style

Statuses shouldn’t be any longer than three lines. Ideally, you shouldn’t use more than five words. Remove the link when the post generates a preview of the article before you hit ‘Post’. When you choose to embed an image, you need to keep the (shortened) link in the status because the image replaces the article preview. Don’t use a colon to point to the link. It’s not cool and the user knows where the link is.

Embedded content

Embed an image if it contributes to the story and makes the status look more attractive. Videos also work well and they play automatically, so they’re more likely to get the user’s attention if it’s any good!


I think that’s a good start, don’t you? If I had to sum up my social media style guide in four words, I’d go with ‘put the user first.’ Put yourself in their shoes. What do they want to see? What stirs them, what makes them tick, what will they share with their friends?

By following this guide in conjunction with studying site metrics and performing experiments, your community of readers will definitely grow in size and loyalty. Everybody wins.

Header image: Scott Jackson/Flickr

6 tools for measuring social media success

Lies, damned lies and statistics – everyone knows this famously pithy quote often attributed to 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. In the social media world though, it’s statistics that are king.

There are lots of free tools you can use to measure social networking success. Here is a list of some of the best out there to help you get a handle on just how other people and organisations are doing on Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter

TWBirthday

A free online service that will tell you when a Twitter profile was started. It is useful for analysing early Twitter activity and what events corresponded with your subject’s early Twitter use.

Twitter Birthday - twbirthday.com

 

Simply measured

A paid for service (it does, however, have a free trial available for demo) that allows users to measure Twitter account follower levels, interests and influence of an account that you do not control.

Simply Measured graph data

 

Twitter Counter

The free version of this service allows you to compare two different Twitter accounts to provide some valuable insights into an account’s activity in comparison to other similar accounts.

Twitter Counter graphs data social media

 

Facebook

Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma is a powerful analytical tool that allows you measure a number of key benchmarks for how effective a fan page is. These include the ability to easily measure the size of likes on a fan page against growth levels and ranked profile performance.

When combined with data that is available on fan pages themselves via Facebook Insights, it and the other tools on this list become fairly powerful for analysing page activities.

 

Fanpage Karma social media analytics

 

Simply Measured

Its free service allows you to compare one fan page to another, which can be very useful when comparing competitors on Facebook.

Simply Measured free social media analytics.

LikeAlyzer

This free tool lets you input a Facebook page URL and gives it a rating out of 100 based on a comparison of other pages. It also gives a series suggested improvements that can aid in-depth analysis of the social media strategy that the page is operating.


likealyzer social media analytics facebook

 

This is not a definitive list by any stretch, so if you have anymore tools you use and would recommend please share:

 


I Wrote a Tweet: What Big Numbers Can Do To You

Mark's Tweet of Alex Salmond

I wrote a tweet.

I say ‘wrote’. There were no words, just four images. The first three were screenshots of the possession statistic during the 24th minute of the Scotland v England international match. The other was of Alex Salmond’s face.

The Process

It is, of course, a joke about the result of the Scottish referendum. I’d come up with the idea as I was preparing a chicken and chorizo jambalaya five minutes before kick-off.

I realised that, if it was to work, I would have to stare at the BBC Sport stats page until the numbers read how I wanted it. Also, I would have to do so from the game’s very first minute because the possession stat fluctuates a lot during the early periods.

The rice in my jambalaya hadn’t cooked yet.

I ate it anyway.

Initially, my chances of capturing the right numbers looked bleak. England’s early dominance meant that they had the overwhelming majority of the ball.

After twenty minutes, I could feel the numbers falling my way. The BBC’s statistic updated a few moments later and, finally, the share was 45%-55%. I hit print screen like it was a free bar.

Next, I searched ‘alex salmond’ on Google Images, but found too many pictures of him looking cheery and amiable.

So, instead, I tried ‘alex salmond resigns’, and found an image of him looking like he’d realised that the rest of his life would be a slow march towards death.

The Google Image results for 'alex salmond resigns'

It was perfect.

By this point, the half-time whistle had been blown. I published the tweet and went to the kitchen, leaving my phone and laptop behind. I cleaned my plate, tidied up a little and all the while, I was looking forward to modest returns.

The Madness

I had been gone all of two minutes. It had been retweeted 100 times.

As more notifications rolled in, my phone began to sound like a heart monitor. For a few minutes, it pretty much was a heart monitor. If it had stopped beeping, I think I would’ve keeled over and started foaming at the mouth.

It was exciting. It was exhilarating. It was the kind of self-validation you don’t usually get when you’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for three days. By far the most entertaining aspect of the whole experience, however, was seeing the people who shared it.

Within fifteen minutes of putting it up, there were two people flirting in my mentions.

A Rangers and a Celtic supporter with two of the most violently sectarian bio’s I’ve ever seen retweeted it within seconds of each other.

It seemed to cause one lad to have an aneurysm.

The incomprehensible reaction of one Twitter user to my tweet.

However, as my disciples amassed, they became difficult to track. Soon enough, they didn’t really matter anymore. Each one was just another number.

I started to think that this must be how rich people feel. After all, what’s a second million dollars after you’ve made your first? Once you’ve passed one milestone, it becomes all about the next one.

With this in mind, I decided I would call it a night. I vowed to put my phone down once I hit a long-term target.

About two hours in and following a helpful push from my course mates, I found what I’d been looking for.

1,000 retweets.

I went to the corner shop and bought some cans. I drank to forget and then went to bed.

The Aftermath

My tweet is still, today, picking up favourites and retweets from secondary school kids with nothing better to do in Scotland.

Every variant of the cry-laugh emoji is in my mentions ten times over.

It has, at the time of writing, 1,879 retweets and 1,292 favourites, with 233,394 impressions and 50,722 engagements at a rate of 21.7%.

A graph showing my tweet's analytics.

And yet, this is not enough. I need another hit. The dopamine receptors in my brain are now a nest of hatchlings demanding me to regurgitate shareable content down their throats.

Even though it was weirdly empty experience, even though every ‘well done’ I received only made me realise how ridiculous it all was, even though I woke up the next day with only regret and a mild hangover, I want to do it again. I want to experience that strange rush of seeing a big white number in a red box. It’s not going to be easy but I know what I need to do.

I need to write another tweet.

Here’s how to live tweet protests if you want to get all the followers

Get retweets, get paid.


Tweet differently.

Everyone else is tweeting where the march is, where it’s going, how many people there are… Zzzz. Why do you want to be like them? Find your own voice, present things a little differently and maybe you’ll get noticed.

https://twitter.com/bjacksonuk/status/535063249965051904


Vine it up.

If you get lucky and Vine decide to feature your clip on the app, your Vine could reach 100,000+ loops. Plus Vines are fun and people like seeing them on Twitter.

This Vine got 120,000 loops and it’s just people walking!

https://twitter.com/bjacksonuk/status/535059995868819456


Stick with the troublemakers.

If in doubt, follow the black bloc. If you don’t know what that is, follow the guy with the firework/flare/can of smoke/insert-illegal-item-here to get the best view of the action.

Here’s BuzzFeed’s Siraj Datoo almost getting hit by a firework.

Be funny.

Too many people on too many protests tweet serious things too much of the time. Break the trend and maybe you’ll get trending. Eh! Sorry. PS Russell Brand loved this.

https://twitter.com/bjacksonuk/status/535041981094068224


Listen.

I once overheard a student declare his opposition to free education at a free education demo. People say funny and interesting things all the time so keep your ears peeled.


Tweet fast and accurately.

Just don’t libel anyone, yeah? If there’s no way to confirm something, it’s always best to just not tweet.

It’s easy to not tweet, I’m doing it right now.

Now go tweet this article.

Cat begging photo tumblr_lllvv3wWvc1qfstdz.gif

6 sites that show why data is beta

New to data journalism and keen to learn but unsure about the kind of stories you could uncover with numbers? Well worry not because the Interhacktives have collected the examples of experts in action so you don’t have to.

Here’s a roundup in no particular order of the best news sites that use data journalism and data visualisation in the UK.

 

Guardian Datablog Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 13.46.07

 

Guardian Data Blog

Data journalism is by no means a new trend. The Guardian is cited as the first major publication to bring data journalism into digital era, with Simon Rogers launching the Datablog in 2009.

The blog covers everything from topics  currently on the news agenda to general interest.

This week saw a report on the record levels of opium harvested in Afghanistan and a visualisation about the lives and reigns of Game of Thrones Targaryen kings.

The Guardian’s Datablog is good for beginners as there tends to be a link to the source of their data on each article, enabling you to access the data and to use it for your own stories.

Amp3d graph - We're eating more chocolate than there is in the world, "Predicted world chocolate deficit"

Ampp3d

This arm of the The Mirror is what its creator Martin Belam calls “socially shareable data journalism”, the successor to his Buzzfeed -esque site UsVSTh3m. Launched last Christmas, after only eight weeks of building, Ampp3d is the tabloid perspective of data journalism.

Stories this week included what makes the Downton Abbey’s perfect episode and the British city where people are most likely to have affairs.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that it’s a site specifically designed for viewing and sharing on a mobile device. As Belam writes on his blog,  80+ per cent of traffic at peak commuting times comes from mobile, which the project aims to capitalise on this attention.

i100 "The list" Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 14.30.30

i100

i100 is The Independent’s venture into shareable data journalism. It takes stories from The Independent and transforms them into visual, interactive pieces of often data journalism. It also incorporates an upvote system to put the reader in charge of the site’s top stories.

The articles are easily shareable since social media integration is a core part of the reader’s experience.

To upvote an article, you have to log in with one of your social networks (currently Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, Instagram or Yahoo).

Bureau of Investigative Journalism homepage

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Championing journalism of a philanthropic kind, the data journalism of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism differs from most of the other publications on this list.

Based at City University London, its focus is not on the visual presentation of data, but the producing of “indepth journalism” and investigations that aim to “educate the public about the abuses of power and the undermining of democratic processes as a result of failures by those in power”. As a result, there is little visualisation and mostly straight reporting.

For data journalists, though, its ‘Get the Data’ pieces are indispensable resources as they allow you to download the relevant Google spreadsheets that you could then turn into data visualisations.

FT Datawatch: the world's stateless people screenshot

The FT

The Financial Times’  Data blog is one of the leading international news sources for data journalism and one of the UK’s leading innovators in data visualisation. It creates pieces of interactive and data-driven journalism based on issues and stories around the world, which include everything from an interactive map showing Isis’ advances in Iraq to UK armed forces’ deaths since World War II.

It describes itself as a “collaborative effort” from journalists from inside the FT, occasionally accepting guest blogs.

Bloomberg screenshot of homepage

Bloomberg

Bloomberg  has perhaps some of the most impressive-looking data visualisations out of all the news sources mentioned. The emphasis on the aesthetic is immediately apparent since a zoomed-in version of each visualisation functions to draw a reader in on the homepage as opposed to a traditional headline/photo set up.

Interactivity is the most defining feature of Bloomberg’s data journalism. Many of its pieces rely on the reader to actively click on parts of the visualisation in order to reveal specific data. For example, its World Cup Predictions and Results article requires the reader to select a game in order to see statistics and information about it.

Two hours of Interhacktivity: #hackshangout

Interhacktivity tutorial #hackshangout

Interhacktivity tutorial #hackshangout

Our tutorial on data journalism will start at 6pm today (Monday 24th March) – click here for the link.

 

To see last week’s tutorial on social media verification, click here.

 

The time for our first hour of Interhacktivity is almost upon us.

The tutorials will be held via a Google Hangout on Air. The exact link to the Hangouts will be posted at the top of this article when they go live, on Monday and Thursday (at 6pm).

Throughout the tutorials, non-presenting Interhacktives will be monitoring Twitter. We’re hoping to keep matters as informal as possible, so, if you have any questions during the event, please tweet using the hashtag #hackshangout. And, of course, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments before or after the event, please do the same, or tweet us directly.

Two hours of Interhacktivity #hackshangout

 

After taking into account the results of our poll, the topics were decided as follows:

Data tutorial (Monday 24th March, 6pm)

– Data cleaning and mapping with Daniele Palumbo

– Data visualisations (Datawrapper and Raw) with Laura Cantadori

Social media tutorial (Thursday 20th March, 6pm)

– Social media verification with Rachel Banning-Lover and Chris Sutcliffe

If you are curious and feel in need of some guidance on how to fit into a modern newsroom, join us on Monday and Thursday.

For more details of the thinking behind the event, click here.

Your website should be a hub


Even though we’re spending so much time giving the site a makeover, our second Top Tip is to remember that your website is just one part of what you have to offer.

Your site should act as a hub, and should be a good first point of call for users to find out about what you’ve been up to.

But with so many tools and social media available much of your activity is likely to happen off-site, so your website should be able to direct users to it.

A quick glance at discussion taking place on Twitter using #interhacktives.
A quick glance at discussion taking place on Twitter using #interhacktives.

Continue reading “Your website should be a hub”

Technology isn’t a guarantee of journalistic success

broken_iphone_by_wh4y-d3b1dup

Technology puts you in contact with people, but it doesn’t give you their attention.

A reporter can have all the smartphones, iPads and software on the planet. If the interviewee doesn’t want to talk, there is no story. A journalist must know how to use gadgets in a way that don’t stop him or her from doing their job.

More important than technological skills are interpersonal skills. One of the experiences that really proved that for me came about recently, in the three months I digitally chased former football icon Roberto Carlos all around the world.

He only surrendered at the brink of the closing of the transfer window. I cornered him through my experience; I have been a reporter since 2003 and have worn out a few shoes in my career. If I had relied on no more than the means of communication, I would never have gotten him to talk.

When a British magazine asked me for an interview with the former Real Madrid and Brazil star I didn’t think it would be difficult. I contacted a friend in back home and I got his Russian number right away (Roberto is a director at Dagestan’s Anzhi).

I called the man through Skype because I didn’t want to pay for an international call. No response for days. I had to go to his press people. “He doesn’t answer calls from a 000000 number,” his PR said. “And you should have called us first.”

So I buy another phone number and start calling him in Russia. At first he was very gentle and prompted to give the interview right away. I told him we needed more than the five minutes he had to offer. He was in Moscow then.

He asked if I could call on the following day. That happened at least eight times during the three months I electronically chased him in Russia, Qatar, Brazil, Greece, UK and Spain.

In our first contact he told me he was going to war-torn Dagestan and that iPhone’s Facetime was what really worked there. He told me to call at 10 am, which meant 6 am for me in London. I did what he said and all I got was his answering machine and a headache.

I called his agent and they said all I could do was to send an email and set up another time. So I did. No answer. I tried Twitter. No reply. I followed the routine for weeks.

Days before Christmas his PR people told me Roberto was on holidays in Brazil and wouldn’t take any calls. I decided to start again in January; with a different phone, just in case. Miraculously Roberto answered. He said he was in Dubai and that I should call him within three hours. So I did.

And there was no response again. “They have mechanisms to ignore calls they don’t want, technology isn’t there only for you,” a former boss told me. We journalists aren’t that special.

But I am persistent. I decided to call him really late via Skype (I could always have the excuse of the time difference and not knowing where he was). He could think it was someone else. He ended up answering.

I told him I needed some talking so the magazine would accept postponing the material on him for the following edition. He didn’t say yes or no. So I started asking questions. The plan was to split the interview into two.

Roberto spoke for 7 minutes, clearly bothered for my boldness. And then he said he had to leave. I promised to call again. No answer for days. I call his PR people. “You will find this funny. He was going to pick up the phone to get your call. His phone fell in the water. He is now in Madrid. He is going to get a new phone and transfer his line from Russia.” I didn’t find it funny. I found it unprofessional. But that had become personal.

So I called people from the magazine to write him emails in Spanish and English. I write to him in Portuguese every day. It was clear he wanted neither to say no nor to give the interview. But he was going to. And we still needed his pictures for the cover – I mentioned that in all emails I sent him.

In my deadline week I texted him to say I need his address in Madrid to send photographer to his house – I knew he would be there to watch Real Madrid vs. Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu. No answer.

I went to a friend who had interviewed him in Spain and he gave me the address. I texted Roberto asking to confirm. Probably frightened for my insistence, he said “yes, send him on Tuesday at 4 pm.” Those sessions usually take 30 minutes. Roberto stayed for five.

Of course I asked the photographer to tell Roberto I was going to call for the interview and that it had to be in that week. He said he was going to call me, which I never believed. I knew the following day would be the deadline for Europe’s transfer window. And I also knew he might turn his phone off again after the most difficult task for him in the semester was over.

On Wednesday I woke up at 8am and started calling every hour. I gradually step up every 30 minutes. And then 15 minutes. And then 10 minutes. At 4 pm he finally answered. Probably because I was calling him every five minutes and he had to keep his phone on in case of last minute deals.

He knew I was going to insist as much as I could. But, very gently, I didn’t give him the time to say a thing. I just started asking the questions. After three minutes he noticed it would be better to do it at once.

He spent 15 minutes on the phone, gave me all the material I needed and never again got a call from me. He didn’t even tell me, probably because he didn’t want to, that he had just clinched the biggest signing of that whole transfer season – he paid 35 million euros for Shahktar’s William.

To me, what this experience shows is that if you start with the wrong foot there is a chance you will have to make a much bigger effort to get the material you need. Technology is fine, but just having it doesn’t make any difference to the most important part of the journalistic craft: access to sources.

Of course there are various tools that enable reporting that seemed impossible decades ago – at a very low cost too. Still content is king. Knowing how to get attention doesn’t come with an account at Skype or in a smartphone app.

Can a Facebook ‘like’ Make You a Criminal?

Facebook like

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has been debating whether ‘liking’ a defamatory comment on Facebook makes you guilty of libel.

To date, no one has been prosecuted specifically for ‘liking’ a statement, link or photograph posted by someone else. Last year, a judge in Virginia ruled that ‘liking’ was not covered by the first amendment (guaranteeing freedom of speech), but the case dealt with unfair dismissal rather than libel.

It may sound absurd that something as trivial and instantaneous as ‘liking’ could be a criminal offence, but in reality it’s surprising that the Philippines is the first place to discuss the question seriously.

According to UK law, a statement is defamatory if “it tends to lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society.” To succeed in a defamation action the claimant must prove three things:

  • the statement was defamatory
  • the statement referred to the claimant
  • the statement was published

It is the last of these which is important here: by ‘liking’ a Facebook status, are you publishing it?

There is currently a new defamation bill going through parliament, however, it refers back to the existing 1996 defamation act which states:

“In defamation proceedings a person has a defence if he shows that he was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement […]

 For this purpose “author”, “editor” and “publisher” have the following meanings:

‘author’ means the originator of the statement, but does not include a person who did not intend that his statement be published at all;

‘editor’ means a person having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the content of that statement or the decision to publish it; and

‘publisher’ means a commercial publisher, that is, a person whose business is issuing material to the public, or a section of the public, who issues material containing the statement in the course of that business.

Because ‘liking’ doesn’t reissue the story (i.e. it doesn’t come up on your timeline as well) it is arguable that you have not republished it. In this sense, it is different from re-tweeting. On the other hand, your ‘like’ improves the statement’s edge ranking making it more likely to be seen by others.

You might be said to be an editor because your ‘like’ can materially add or change the way the story is perceived. If, for example, a famous or influential person endorses it, then the statement carries much more weight.

Like everything in law, it’s debatable but there is potential for a libel action to be launched on these grounds. With so many Facebook users, it may occur sooner rather than later.

Perhaps the most important part of this issue is not the legal technicalities. Rather, it is the general point that social networking sites make it incredibly easy to commit serious, criminal offences yet do not provide any guidance or warning.

Journalists know that what you write on Twitter and Facebook constitutes publication, but most other users don’t and end up saying things they shouldn’t.

There probably is a warning buried somewhere amongst Facebook’s terms and conditions but I’ve never seen it.

 

 

Twitter’s real face

Looking like the sort of fake futuristic technology you’d see in an episode of 24, Tweetping, a stunning new visualisation from French designer Franck Ernewein, highlights the exact location of every tweet on the planet with a bright blue pixel. In real time.

At the bottom of the window, underneath the rapidly changing map, you can view continent-by-continent information including number of tweets, characters, and the last hashtags used. A pie chart also displays the global distribution of tweets by continent.

Unlike other Twitter visualisations, there is no option to pause the action – Tweetping’s visualisation simply grows and develops, revealing as much through beautiful build-ups of light as it does through areas of stark darkness.

China, for example, has the highest concentration of mobile phones on the planet – 1.05bn – yet remains shockingly devoid of blue light-ups. In Africa, which has a not dissimilar level of mobile phone ownership, one presumes it is perhaps poverty and a lack of internet penetration which is keeping its citizens in the dark.

After the visual spectacle wore off however, I found myself craving a deeper understanding of the torrent of data that presents itself when you visit the site. It would be interesting to visualise intercontinent connectivity between tweets, or where trending hashtags are coming from, for example.

That said, any further exploration of this mega data stream would obviously transport you away from the magic of watching social media in real time.

 

By Henry Taylor

Social media tools to use (more) in 2013

Being a student puts you in touch with new resources, but it also makes you wonder how people in real newsrooms are actually using tools to reach out to readers. So I asked some of my former colleagues what are the most interesting tools they will try to use more frequently in 2013. The three most mentioned by them were Talkwheel, Commun.it and Storyful. This is why.

Talkwheel helps organize the influx of data for those who get many post comments and questions in social media. It is designed as if it were a dinner table, with lots of conversations stored in the same place. They can be filtered according to topic, time and amount of interactions. The pictures of the users in the wheel will show you the comments they made in Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Since interaction is important for the ratings of any big website, there is a potential there. Talkwheel has a free version available, although IBM sells a special one.

How to use Talkwheel

Commun.it is focused on Twitter and its purpose is stimulating engagement. It helps users with categories such as influencers, fans and engaged members. It makes it easier for you to detect lurkers and active members – and that includes the number of interactions via Twitter. This tool also shows you unreplied comments and identifies your most engaged Twitter followers, so you can address them instantly. There are paid and free services for Commun.it.

How to use Commun.it

Storyful gets you the most popular stories of the day in social media. It is designed for iPhone and brings stories of the man on the street to attention. Some of them are worthy of a follow-up and others are basically to keep track of what is going on. The most important asset Storyful has in the human perception: their editors actually make sense of who are the credible citizens that become sources and who aren’t. It works a bit like Storify, but there is a team behind it to support their choices – it is not based solely in ratings to tell what is important or not.

Any other suggestions for good social media tools to use in journalism this year?