OPINION: A journalist’s perspective on social media branding

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If you’ve ever wondered how a journalist should and shouldn’t use social media, I have the answer.

We’re not exactly sure either, but we’re getting there.

When you follow a journalist on social media, you are following a carefully thought-out combination of news articles, broadcasts, personality and professionalism — essentially creating our brand.

I recently took a social media strategy course that outlined good practices for branding ourselves, and it almost made me miss the old days when I could share anything I wanted without thinking. Everyone says you shouldn’t do that because who knows what potential employers might find on your profiles later, but don’t lie — we all did it at some point.

Nowadays, social media has become such an integral part of journalism that you’re not really a journalist until you have honed your profiles to achieve that balance of professionalism and personality.

The major thing that news consumers need to keep in mind is that social media — especially as it pertains to journalism — is a relatively new phenomenon. There are no right or wrong solutions to problems that might arise during this transition.

According to a Journalist’s Resource article by Avery Holton and Logan Molyneux, most news organizations can’t even agree internally on how to handle social media in their newsrooms. Some might require their reporters to have so many posts on their Facebook page each day, while some might just say, “Do whatever you want as long as it’s appropriate.”

The only constant there seems to be is the acknowledgment that social media has to be a part of the news organization. It’s where the news consumers are, for better or for worse.

With such an emphasis on social media and how it can be used, journalists can feel a little lost in it. Not only are they having to figure out how to balance the personal and the professional in their profiles, but there are few universal guidelines.

I constantly struggled with this in my time as social media manager for the Collegian. I was always thinking, “How active is too active? Oops, now it’s not active enough. Would this post be appropriate or will people not get the joke?”

I also had to decide how to handle the hecklers on certain articles and the people that messaged us on Facebook. Ultimately, it came down to how we want the Collegian to appear on social media. Big question, right? Now imagine doing that with your own account with every single post or tweet.

Following a journalist is not just following the newspaper or TV station they work for. Yes, they will work to promote the news organization as well, but they have to reach the audience in an entirely different way than what a faceless news organization would be able to do. It’s a series of promoting their work before, during and after the whole process of reporting, sharing other journalists’ work and trying to remain neutral and uncontroversial.

I’ve made jokes that a reporter’s social media feed should be 60 percent reporting with 40 percent food and dog pictures to humanize themselves (the 60/40 rule is an actual social media tip for people trying to create professional social media accounts). It’s a bit on the dramatic side, but it roughly describes the struggles of this balancing act all journalists are dealing with.

As more and more young journalists make their way into the field, all of this will probably change. Social media strategies are becoming clearer and clearer, but that’s only through trial and error.

Kelsey Kendall is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Kelsey Kendall
Hi everyone! I'm a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.