The 2013 social media strategy

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There’s one question that smart, successful people ask themselves from time to time regardless of the industry they work in: “What’s next?” It’s a question that keeps professionals and individuals from becoming complacent to a fault. 

In our industry — the industry of social news — it’s the question that some of the most forward-thinking individuals ask themselves (perhaps subconsciously) to stay out front. It’s the reason why certain people — think Craig Kanalley, Anthony De Rosa, Neal Mann, Liz Heron, Jonah Peretti, Vadim Lavrusik — are called upon time and time again to offer their insights and to share their ideas.

When I started using social platforms in the beginning of 2011 to move news, the strategy was simple: Break news fast and provide rolling coverage on big news events. Virtually nobody was doing that with Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr two years ago (Google Plus didn’t make waves until mid-2011). Today, many journalists and news organizations are doing it.

In 2012, the strategy was “Access.” The goal of the strategy was this: If I had access to it, my followers should have access to it. Court documents, emergency scanner traffic audio, photos and other material would be distributed on various platforms — Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Scribd, SoundCloud and Storify, to name a few — in order to provide a bigger picture on the stories of the year.

The strategies of the past two year have paid off — from landing two jobs after being unemployed, to becoming one of the most-followed real-time/breaking news journalists on Twitter. Now I find myself asking, what’s next?

I’m going to spend 2013 refining some of the practices that have gotten me this far as it pertains to broadcasting news events on social platforms. I’ll be following these five guidelines to refine my practice and help me figure out what’s next on social media:

Less opinion and punditry: On social media platforms, users want to broadcast their opinion, but I’ve found there’s slightly less (read: virtually no) interest in reading opinion from other people.

When I started tweeting news from my personal account back in early 2011, my direction was clear-cut — no opinion, no punditry. As my audience has grown over time, I’ve loosened up a bit, letting my thoughts on a matter slip up every now and then.  Rarely do people find my opinions, when published on a social platform, to be all that intriguing, clever or funny — usually I come off as a jerk, and sometimes they can get me into trouble.

What people want are facts and nuggets of information, not necessarily to hear someone else’s opinion (unless it validates their own). So I’m going to roll back the opinion and punditry and stick with what I feel I do best — getting information out quickly from a variety of sources.

Aggressively source everything: Sourcing is a big problem on social media platforms. Often, content will be lifted from one platform and retransmitted on another without any source or credit to the person who created the content or the platform where it was discovered.

As it relates to journalism, social platforms should be no different from other broadcast mediums (newspaper, television, radio and most news websites). Credit should always be given where credit is due — when rebroadcasting content, it’s the least a journalist or aggregate can do to the person who wrote an article, snapped a photo, created an infographic, produced a video or discovered something great.

It’s bad practice to steal. It’s better to aggressively and properly source content back to the original creator or finder than it is to elevate one’s self as a social media rock star by ripping off people and platforms.

More guides: “If you get it, share it.” In 2011, I wrote guides on how to find breaking news content on Twitter and on YouTube. People seemed to respond positively to them, so I decided to set aside time in 2013 to write more comprehensive guides, updating the ones from two years ago and creating new ones for new platforms and practices.

The guides will contain minimal punditry on social media, focusing instead on how to successfully mine for content, broadcast out and aggregate ideas. I hope to solicit ideas and practices some of the sharpest minds in social journalism to help bring together these guides.

More elevation: I’m a big believer in leveraging a healthy following to elevate good projects, smart people and excellent ideas. I would not have gone from unemployed to working for the world’s largest news organization had it not been for a good network of people who saw what I was doing, liked it and elevated it to their own audience.

Going forward, elevating good people and good ideas is going to be a priority in how I practice on social platforms. Sometimes, it will be as simple as a “Follow Friday” to an individual or a brand who is doing something awesome, or it could be writing more blog entries on applications that are particularly useful to individual journalists. Or it could be something else.

Experiment: This is likely the most important point out of the five. A person or organization figures out what’s next by collaborating, moving fast, breaking a few things, bending some rules and occasionally getting into trouble.

This year, I’m going to collaborate with some amazing people (both colleagues and competitors), try out some new practices and somewhere along the way I hope to find the next big thing (or next best way of doing things).  It’s going to be risky without being reckless, and I expect to succeed about as much as I expect to fail.

Here’s to 2013.