Enhance your publication's presence with social media

By Katherine Hill

I spent a fascinating day at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit on the campus of the University of Nevada–Reno recently.

The summit was an interesting mix of students, newsroom veterans, teachers, business owners and marketing professionals who gathered to discuss everything from Facebook and YouTube to blogging, Search Engine Optimization and business practices.

Social Media. That term both excites and perplexes me. Yes, I have a Facebook page designed mainly for friends and family; a LinkIn Page for business contacts, although I haven't made much use of it; a Web page for our publication that looks like I designed it in PageMaker in the 1990s; and I've tried my hand at a blog or two.

But, here's the daunting issue: How does a print publication, make use of social media to enhance its business, increase profits and serve its readers?

The summit showed that there are many useful and free applications available for newspapers.

Blogging

Erin Kotecki Vest, political director and producer of special projects for BlogHer, gave an interesting keynote speech that boiled down to one essential point – blog, blog, blog.

Blogs are a free application that anyone can use to report on stories, as Vest does, or to share insights and opinions. One of the things she talked about as an element for a successful blog is that the blogger needs to include the personal information to make it of interest. That goes against every journalism tenet that's been hammered into my psyche, but this is a new world. Report the facts, check your sources, be right and build a reputation with your audience, she said, but if you include a personal element from the writer's own life, or opinion, when appropriate, the blogger will establish a core audience that trusts them and will value their information.

It's about establishing a relationship between the blogger and the reader – “Treat it like a friendship,” Vest said.

“My readers are my friends and they trust what I tell them.”

An interesting concept and one that I plan to integrate into our own coverage.

And, don't forget to tell everyone about your blog – include it in the print product, on the website, in e-mail blasts, etc., to build an audience. Check out www.blogspot.com or www.wordpress.com, just a few of the few blog applications available.

Facebook

I've had a Facebook page for friends and family for some time, but many participants at the media summit challenged businesses to establish a Facebook fan page – another free application – to promote business and to build a network of “friends.”

Described by one presenter as “relationship marketing,” the fan page concept combines marketing, customer service, information and “being human” into one platform.

A fan page may be established by any user of Facebook but is geared for your business or publication. This will allow readers and clients to become a friend of the page and it provides an audience for disseminating news or other information.

As well, blogs may be set up to feed into the fan page automatically, and Facebook provides free search engine optimization. Its pages are fully indexed in search engines. You also can link to Twitter, LinkedIn, your web site and other tools.

Google applications

There's a plethora of free, and some fee-based applications provided by Google that can be valuable tools.

Google Analytics analyzes traffic on your web site, which will help in targeting ads and content, while Google Alerts will let you know any time your publication is mentioned on the Web – a great tool to have to track comments about your publication that may appear on a blog somewhere in the vastness of the Internet.

Google Calendar is a Web-based calendar application that can be used internally or you can add it to you web site to allow the community to post calendar items.

Google Docs is a Web-based suite of applications for producing spreadsheets, presentations and documents. This is a great application for sharing documents with more than one user, while maintaining the most-up-to-date version online where it can be accessed from anywhere.

You can find out about these and other applications at www.google.com/a.

These are just some of the applications in the social media realm that I thought could be most useful for our operations.

If you're interested in learning more about what was discussed at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit, visit www.slideshare.com to view the presentations for free. (Free content – that's another tenet of social media).

© Katherine Hill 2010

Katherine E. Hill is the associate publisher and editor of the Tahoe Weekly in Lake Tahoe, Calif. You can contact her at katherinehill@tahoe.com.

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