100 awesome hashtags for writers, journalists, photographers

100 awesome hashtags for writers, journalists, photographersBy Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

Let’s say you’re spending way too much time on Pinterest (waving hand…) and randomly come across a treasure trove of social media inspiration: pins pointing to collections of recommended hashtags for use on Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Let’s assume further that some of those lists were curated specifically for niche topics and interests such as entrepreneurs or photographers.

Wow! That’s gold for the right audience.

With that inspiration, here’s a list of 100 hashtags that I’ve collected by poking around on Instagram and on Twitter on the theme of Awesome Hashtags for Writers, Journalists, Photographers. I included hashtags for my broadcast friends in this collection even though my career is on the print and digital side.

Many of these hashtags are now saved in a notes file on my iPhone for quick reference. After all, I work in a newsroom. #newsroomlife

  1. #abovethefold (did you know this old school phrase is now website design jargon?)
  2. #behindthescenes
  3. #caffeinateandconquer
  4. #camerabag
  5. #cameracrew
  6. #cameragear
  7. #cameralove
  8. #cameraman
  9. #cameraporn
  10. #ClarkKent
  11. #coffeebreak
  12. #coffeegram
  13. #coffeeoftheday
  14. #columnist
  15. #comics
  16. #comicstrip
  17. #copyeditorproblems
  18. #digitaljournalism
  19. #digitalmagazine
  20. #digitalmedia
  21. #editors
  22. #electionnight
  23. #electionnightpizza
  24. #fakenews (this one is way too timely to ignore)
  25. #firstamendment
  26. #fourthestate
  27. #fourfreedoms – or if you prefer, #fivefreedoms (First Amendment phrasing)
  28. #freelancerlife
  29. #frontpage
  30. #headlines
  31. #journalism
  32. #journalismlife
  33. #journalist
  34. #journalista
  35. #journalistlife
  36. #journoproblems
  37. #newsanchor
  38. #news
  39. #newsflash
  40. #newspage
  41. #newspaper
  42. #newspaperart
  43. #newspaperbag
  44. #newspaperbox
  45. #newspaperarticle
  46. #newspaperclipping
  47. #newspaperdesign
  48. #newspaperfeature
  49. #newspaperhat
  50. #newspapering
  51. #newspaperpic
  52. #newsprint
  53. #newsreporter
  54. #newsroom
  55. #newsroomcoffee
  56. #newsroomfun
  57. #newsroomlife
  58. #newsroompizza
  59. #newsroompokemon
  60. #newsroomproblems
  61. #newsstand
  62. #onlinemagazine
  63. #onlineradio
  64. #onmydesk
  65. #ontheblog
  66. #pagedesign
  67. #partylikeajournalist (this one will get the attention of @journalistslike)
  68. #photobomb
  69. #photogram
  70. #photography
  71. #photographer
  72. #photojournalism
  73. #photojournalist
  74. #photooftheday
  75. #photostudio
  76. #picoftheday
  77. #presshat
  78. #pressrun
  79. #presspass
  80. #presspassmemories
  81. #producerproblems
  82. #radio
  83. #radioboss
  84. #radioonline
  85. #radioproblems
  86. #radioshow
  87. #radiostation
  88. #radioweb
  89. #reporterlife
  90. #reporterproblems
  91. #SundayFunnies
  92. #SundayPaper
  93. #TVproblems
  94. #video
  95. #videogram
  96. #videooftheday
  97. #visualcrush
  98. #writersblock
  99. #writerlife
  100. #writersofinstagram

You can find me on Instagram at @paulawethington where my hashtags have included #ClarkKent #partylikeajournalist and #newsroompokemon.

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

How a newsroom can make the most of Facebook during breaking news

Facebook breaking news checklist for social media editorsBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you have had any experience as a digital editor or web producer for a newsroom, you’ve certainly noticed Facebook doesn’t handle breaking news well.

The problem is Facebook has such a huge impact on social-generated traffic that many sites us it as their sole social media platform — and sometimes their primary content management system through embedded widgets or autofeeds to other social channels such as Twitter.

What you need to remember is that you don’t own that news feed. Facebook does. That is the KEY reason to treat Facebook as just one platform in your efforts to cover the news. It’s an important piece, but don’t make it the only one.

Here are the problems you’ll run into:

  1. Actual “news” is not a priority in the news feed. Instead, Facebook gives preference to content from friends and family. Because of that, users do not see all the posts made every day from all the news and lifestyle pages they follow, much less see that content in real time.
  2. Facebook comments are not seen by all. Fans who add comments to your Facebook page expect everyone else to see their contributions to the conversation. This is not necessarily the situation. When someone shares the original post on Facebook to their friends, the share does not include the original comment thread. An entirely new conversation has spun off.
  3. People don’t go to the trouble of resetting their news feeds. You can switch the view of your news feed from “top stories” to “most recent.” You can toggle the settings of any page or person you follow to “see first” rather than “default.” You can give likes, shares and comments so to increase the chances you’ll see future content from that page or person. You can hit “hide post” for content you don’t want to see – thereby giving clues to Facebook on those topics. You can unlike or unfollow pages you are no longer interested in. … But how many of these steps do you routinely use in your own Facebook experience? If you don’t use them, how can you expect casual Facebook users to do any of this?
  4. The best timing for posts is when your audience is on Facebook. This has nothing to do with deadlines and production schedules – or even when breaking news happens! To find your timing curve, get into Facebook administration panel, click on “Insights / Posts.” Then consider this: You reach about 50 percent of your potential audience in the first half hour and 75 percent of your potential audience during the first two hours of that post. While that’s from a 2013 study from Wiselytics, based on my experience scheduling content on pages I believe the theory is still valid.
  5. Facebook posts can circulate for couple of days. If content proved to be popular soon after posting, Facebook will continue to show it to people who may be interested over the next day or so. In a newsroom example, this means Facebook doesn’t understand that a tornado warning you posted two hours ago has expired. It just knows that post was popular and more people might want to see it. This also explains why daily reach may not coincide with posting dates for content that went viral – the content could have found a bigger audience as it continued to circulate.
  6. Facebook has a “today in history” feature. This feature encourages people to reshare a favorite memory. This might benefit your site with additional traffic for older content. But sometimes people mistake a reshare for current information and unfounded rumors result.

Here’s what to do on Facebook:

How do you compensate for the news feed not synching with the news curve?

You watch the conversations and reactions from your target audience; and tweak how, when and what you do on Facebook. Here are some action steps:

  1. Be specific with dates and times in time-sensitive content. For example, type “the 1978 blizzard anniversary is Jan. 26” instead of “the 1978 blizzard anniversary is today.” This provides clues when people are scanning through the news feed just how immediate (or perhaps outdated) the content actually is.
  2. Be specific with city or neighborhood locations in the content. It annoys me when TV stations send out a Facebook post that says “in our viewing area.” A “viewing area” on social media is the entire world! Besides, the newsroom has now missed missed an opportunity to catch the attention of the audience where that headline will matter the most. If you live in Fremont, Ohio, are you not more more likely to notice and share a Facebook post that says a newsworthy headline happened in Fremont? Think about the target geography for that headline and write accordingly.
  3. Tell Facebook fans where they can find faster updates. A mobile audience often can’t get full websites to load up. That’s why they tend to stay on Facebook and the “I saved you a click” conversations start. But Facebook-only followers will not get every detail in a timely manner. This is why during breaking news, I’ve sometimes added this pitch: “please watch our Twitter feed or go to our website for updates, Facebook does not handle real time information very well.” Now they have been reminded about the options: follow the links or hope for the best on a hit and miss news feed.
  4. Provide Facebook-only content during breaking or ongoing stories. Facebook Live video is an obvious choice; although that’s limited to situations such as press conferences, meetings or live action. If you wish to provide a quick glance update, then create a simple infographic sized for Facebook via Canva, Snappa or another image creator. Post that graphic on Facebook and include key phrases and words in the description. I’ve found simple infographics work amazingly well for keeping a Facebook-only audience happy and boosting engagement.
  5. Give thank you comments and likes to pages that share your content. If you want to encourage another page’s admin to continue sharing your page’s content, then follow up with a like or comment back as your page on their page. Remember that shares from one page to another generally do not do well in terms of reach. Your response as the page can boost the reach of that share in addition to encouraging such action in the future.
  6. Pay attention to continuing likes, comments and shares. Make edits or hit “refresh share attachment” for the website link. I have often used “UPDATE …. PREVIOUS POST… ” and other page admins do as well. On really old stories that pop up randomly, consider editing the post to add “THIS IS A STORY FROM 2014” or whatever is appropriate to clear up confusion.
  7. Schedule follow content during Facebook’s peak audience times. Because Facebook uses keywords in the description to guess who may be interested in particular content, a repost with the same content tends to be shown to the same people as before. They won’t appreciate seeing the same story twice. Instead, introduce the latest details you can provide have into posts such as “We have updated our developing story about …,” “We now have a photo gallery about …,” “This is the latest video about …”
  8. Plan as much as 48 hours lead time for advance content. While this isn’t directly related to breaking news, it can be. Let’s say a city council agenda includes a high interest topic, or the town’s Christmas parade will take place this weekend. You’re probably preparing an advance piece. Get that content up on your website and Facebook about two days ahead. In addition to providing useful information, the fact that the same words and phrases as will be seen in follow up coverage is a way to trigger views later.
  9. Use the “stop news feed” switch for time-sensitive content. If you have a few minutes wiggle room for a post that will be dated quickly, program it as a scheduled post and include the “stop news feed” time. Scheduled posts can be within about 10 minutes, so even in most weather situations this is very useful.  With this setting, content won’t be fed to new people after the cutoff time.
  10. Use the “pinned post” feature. Pinning puts content on the top of your page. Here is how that works: When visitors expect you to provide information in a timely manner on a specific topic, they are likely to go directly to your page and not wait for it to pop up on the news feed. They will appreciate finding the information quickly, especially if other posts are a mix of topics. When reach for the pinned post slows down or the campaign expires, pull the pin off or replace it.
  11. Explain how to set the “see first” instead of “default” view on pages or profiles. This helps teach Facebook what you want to see, remind readers to try that if they complain about what topics they are seeing or how little they see from your page.  That being said: in my experience, “see first” does not completely override what Facebook has decided through other metrics what to show me first.
  12. Worst case senario: delete the post. The best workaround should old content cause a problem (as in feeding rumor mills) is to edit the post with updated information. But if the original poster deletes the content, it’s gone. This is one of the theories behind the ask on Facebook for “please copy and paste / repost rather than share.” The original posters want to get a message or idea circulating while protecting themselves from a deletion. (Read why “copy and paste” is so popular.)

Here’s what to do beyond Facebook:

  1. Understand everything your website can do to prioritize content. Do you have a “breaking news” or “featured” spot in your web template? If you are on WordPress, do you know how to pin a post or page to the front of your site? Do you know how sidebars, categories and tags can assist and redirect readers? With visual cues for content priority, someone who came to your site for one topic might notice another and the traffic spills over.
  2. Understand how SEO works on your website. People use Google and other search engines to find content they know or hope is available somewhere on the web. This is why you need to program alt tags on images, include keywords in the headlines and description box, and link related content to each other. Good SEO strategy can attract views for content that doesn’t quite catch on in social media or has long faded out of social conversations. Because of a very SEO-friendly headline and content, I got traffic for nearly two years on a blog post that discussed a one-time shift in food stamp schedules! That’s despite the fact that social posts were long off the news feeds.
  3. Build a targeted Twitter audience. The Twitter audience may be smaller than on Facebook, but I find it is much more predictable. Twitter doesn’t play games with its stream – your fans will see your content if they they are logged in when you post. Twitter also takes well to “in case you missed it” posts when that strategy can easily backfire on Facebook. Do some investigating on Google Analytics as to how long Twitter leads stay on your site as compared to Facebook leads – you might be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Learn how your newsroom’s email newsletter works. This is the best opportunity for overlooked content to get links. Do you know how people opt in to the newsletter? Do you know which keywords or categories trigger an article being added? Can you plan ahead of the deadline to make sure time-sensitive content gets in the next edition? Have you looked over examples so to understand whether headlines are too long and which photo formats work best? Are you adding related links such as photo gallery or video embeds into articles whose headlines feed into the newsletter?
  5. Use mobile news app notifications for breaking news. I don’t think anything can beat the ROI on app alerts after people have opted in. This has not just an immediate impact, people continue see the notifications for the next few hours as they check their phones. However, be picky with when and why you send mobile app alerts. One of the TV stations I subscribe to sends a “good morning” post with the weather forecast of the day. I don’t care for that at all. Use your email newsletter subscriptions for daily briefings, and save app alerts for “here’s what you need to know that can’t wait.”

If you are a newsroom web editor / social media producer, you can learn a lot from the experience and research of social media professionals and agency owners. Take a look at the huge collection of social media pins I have on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in February 2017 and updated in May 2017.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

5 steps to apply SEO strategy to news content

SEO strategy for newsrooms blog postBy Paula Wethington

Consider this scenario: An editor looks over the search engine results on a story that your news outlet broke a day ago. She notices that the competition’s news report, which was posted some time after yours, shows up higher than your newsroom’s news article.

What’s up with that?

Shouldn’t Google recognize you posted the story first, that your newsroom actually had a reporter at the event, or that it happened just blocks away from your newsroom when the competition usually focuses on another zip code?

Here’s what happened: Google – and other search engines – doesn’t understand the context your audience might take for granted. What search engines do understand are keywords in specific spots in the website coding, inbound and outbound links, shares from social media, and general traffic patterns.

How to get your content to be understood by the search engines – and therefore get more traffic as people look for content – is the concept called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Most books, courses and articles that discuss SEO use marketing content or corporate websites as the examples. But when reading these discussions, it’s hard to imagine how testing and formatting marketing, lifestyle or undated content to be SEO-friendly is applicable to news content.

SEO lessons also typically use website programming language. But the Content Management Systems (CMS) many newsrooms use apply different phrasing or terms to the programming steps. Even the menus in WordPress do not translate exactly to the backdrop of web programming.

As a result, journalists need to learn through training or experimenting what exactly those boxes, spaces and checkmarks do in their particular CMS. But once you understand the functions in your CMS and how they translate to website coding, you can apply SEO concepts to news content and boost your traffic!

Here are five important details that are universally applicable to news organizations:

  1. Write a clearly understood headline. In website programming, the headline is known as the page title. On the web, a title must stand alone. Puns don’t translate well out of context, neither do common headline words such as “city,” “local” or “area.” When that headline goes out on mobile app notifications or Twitter, a reader sees only one line of text. And when a story gets forwarded around on Facebook to friends of friends, you have just lost control of the geographic area that your audience is typically understood to be. To compensate, you must include specific keywords such as this headline “Winter storm watch in effect for Monroe County” — and even then be prepared for misunderstandings among a web audience as there are Monroe County communities in other states. If the headline character length isn’t long enough, and it probably won’t be to clearly explain the news report, read step 2.
  2. Write a clearly understood description using exact words, names, numbers and phrases. Journalists are familiar with writing a lead, lede or nut graf – a snippet that gives more content and information than a headline can do. Copy and apply that summary into the description box on your website’s CMS. When used correctly, this box can help get link clicks! Here’s why: this is the short paragraph some search engines add just under the headline in results. In some websites, this paragraph appears under the headline. It’s also the paragraph that Facebook will import when a story is linked to on Facebook. So this is how I use a description vs a headline: When I post a news report about a traffic accident, my headline relates how many were injured or whether the highway is shut down; and then I use the description box to relate the time, date and location of the incident.
  3. Type specific words such as a person’s full name in the image file name and alt tag. The words typed in the alt image box are meant to help visually impaired readers understand the image. A file name with keywords instead of a number can help you find that image in your library the next time you want to use it. But these spaces also describe the photo that is attached to that article to the search engines. Remember that a computer can’t “see” the photo the way people can! An easy hack to fill the file and / or alt slots for photos in your CMS: write a short version of the caption you are placing on reader view.
  4. Learn how to find the keywords and phrases people use when landing on your website. Even if you don’t check analytics every day, take a minute to do lookups of incoming traffic during breaking news. Look past the top two or three phrases to see if anything in the top five to seven give you ideas for a fresh headline, a rewrite, a spinoff story or follow up. Keyword research is how I brainstormed every possible angle for my former personal finance blog during the federal government shutdown of 2013 – and got huge traffic as a result.
  5. Watch for older articles popping up on search engines. You can see this via your website analytics. If you notice a spike in interest in an older or expired story, send those viewers to the newer content by adding note at the top of the story with “See update at …” or “See related story at…” You can also add a paragraph at the top with a detail such as “the tornado warning was expired at 7:30 p.m.” You now have provided helpful information those visitors might share. In most cases, you won’t need to delete an article that has old details just because people are still looking it up. From a reader’s perspective, it’s very frustrating to follow a social media link or search engine link to a website – only to find a 404 notice and no explanation why or where to go next.

If you want to dig deeper into SEO theory and best practices, here are some reference articles:

Reading a library book on SEO tactics was one of my “a-hah!” moments years ago on learning how and why certain things I did on websites worked. But my expertise is more in social media. Follow me on Twitter at @WethingtonPaula for those conversations.

Save

5 ideas from corporate social media for social media editors

social media editorsBy Paula Wethington

The role of a social media editor in the journalism field is fairly well understood: content research, reader content curation and delivering the reporting content to fans and followers in various networks.

But the best social media editors take a step beyond the tasks that reporters and editors tend to gravitate to and also closely study what the social media managers in the corporate and freelance world are doing.

Here’s why: corporate social media professionals have learned to be incredibly successful and resourceful with the limited content collection they have available. They still have learned how to boost their audience and attract fans to their accounts. Can you imagine the impact on your newsroom’s social media reach by adopting just some of their strategies on the news of the day and your archives?

Here are five ideas that can be applied in the newsroom that spin out of what corporate social media managers are doing:

  1. Read a book, take a webinar or sign up for a class in marketing and copywriting. A basic understanding of how and why marketing-style phrases and styles work can give you additional ideas when writing news headlines and text for an audience you need to grab quickly. Bonus: Some non-traditional writing styles, such as listicles, work just as well in print as they do online!
  2. Learn how to use advertising and paid promotions for each network that your newsroom is active on. Because social networks want brands and companies to pay for sponsored posts, they typically provide free tutorials on their websites about those features. It is true that a reporter, photographer or lower-level editor may not be authorized to spend the budget to run a paid campaign on Facebook. But if you understand how social media ads work and their best practices, you can make a well-prepared pitch to management that money should be spent on social media to promote a particular project that the newsroom worked on. (maybe yours?)
  3. Learn how to use two or three photo or video tools such as Canva, Typorama, Ripl, Tout and Instagram’s Layout. These are all apps for your desktop or mobile device that can give a “something extra” to the content you are creating. I love the ability to add a title on Tout videos – that one detail makes a short format news video look so much more professional. And Canva has been perfect for creating simple customized graphics to use in print or digital formats for breaking news and special projects. My favorite trick is finding an appropriate picture in our file art library that can be cropped for use as a background, add the transparency filter for a hint that this is file footage, then add text overlay for the headline of the day. (The graphic on this blog post also was made on Canva.)
  4. Bookmark your best “evergreen” or archived content to repost or refresh on slow news days or significant dates. If the piece is still on your website and can be quickly updated or is still relevant, then give it tweets, Facebook links and Pinterest pins to bring that content to a new audience. You can also dig into off-line archives for great content to bring back. One of the best examples I have of doing this in the newsroom happened when a co-worker and I found in our archives and reposted on the appropriate date a 20th anniversary story from five years earlier about a local woman who won Miss America. We found a whole new audience that day of people who just loved the piece but never saw it the first go-round. It also took less than a half hour to find the article and photo in our library, load it up on our website and send it out on social media.
  5. Be an active part of the social community. This means spending time to find your sources and readers on social media and follow them. Add them to public Twitter lists. Share or retweet their posts when appropriate. Tag or mention social screen names when posting headlines about a school, agency or business. Answer questions in a timely and professional manner that are posted your account’s page. Chime in on Twitter hashtag games when appropriate, join in on the hashtag puns on Instagram. Here’s why: Social media fans notice when you take the time to pay attention to what is important to them. Those connections will go a long way when you want attention to your messaging and content. Perhaps that attention will result in more traffic on a breaking news day when your reporting is ahead of the competition by a mile!

Do you geek social media topics? I tweet links, discussions and tips on that topic at @WethingtonPaula

Be inspired in digital media by those who only exist in digital

By Paula Wethington

I’ve been in the journalism business long enough to remember when people would complain about the lack of a news media outlet covering their community, or wish that they could cover it in a way that the established media had overlooked.

In response, an alternative weekly newspaper might pop up. In another era, someone might apply for a low power / non-profit radio or television frequency. In the mid-2000s, blogging was the genre that independent voices flocked to. On an off and on basis, another format has been podcasting.

If you work in mainstream media, you would be smart to pay attention to what those startup organizations can and will do. We are long past seeing ordinary people starting a site as a hobby and then trying to make money off the web ads. Instead, some of the sites today are run by experienced journalists and broadcasters who know how to find quality content, how to present their work and understand their audience, … and are simply using today’s digital tools and social media to do just that.

Since there are so many design tools available for free or low cost, including flexible WordPress templates, today’s independent news and media sites can have flexibility, design and flourish that is way beyond what was possible 10 years ago.

You can debate the business finances all you want, but I’ll tell you this:

I started paying close attention when I realized at one point that a friend of mine who hosted an independent local news site had Facebook fan count that beat the COMBINED Facebook fans of the newspaper and radio station in his town.

In other words, these media startups could easily eat your lunch if you work in mainstream media and do not take their resourcefulness and focus seriously.

Ponder that thought, and then figure out how you will compete against that.

(Updated Feb. 15, 2016)

How journalists can use Facebook’s “Pages to Watch” feature

How journalists can use Facebook's Pages to Watch featureBy Paula Wethington

Shortly before writing this post, I watched the Using Facebook as a Reporting Tool webinar recorded in June 2015 for Poynter’s News University.

While the presenter, Tory Starr, did a great job explaining pages vs. profiles for journalists, along with detailing which features that are currently working vs. which ones have been phased out, I think she overlooked a huge resource for beat reporters and social media editors:

It’s the Facebook “Pages to Watch” Feature.

Don’t delete your journalist page even if you have moved to profile + subscribe, or a group as how you communicate with sources and your audience, as Tory recommends for smaller market journalists.

You will need a page to access this function. And furthermore, perhaps there is a different list of pages you personally would like to monitor as compared to the list that is built for your newsroom’s page.

Here’s how you find it:

Log into Facebook via desktop and go to a page you admin. Now go to the “insights” tab. You’ll see page likes, post reach and engagement stats for your page.

Keep scrolling down that section. There’s a “Pages to Watch” dashboard at the bottom.

Type in the names of about five pages into the search bar – it will suggest some – but you can add others as you wish. It doesn’t have to be a page you follow on your profile, and the other pages don’t know who’s “watching” them.

Keep in mind this will only provide numbers for the past week. If you wish to track long-term trends on pages that you don’t admin, create your own spreadsheet based on the information you see on a recurring basis.

But this is what you will find:pagestowatch

  • Total likes on the page.
  • The percentage of how much the likes changed this week.
  • The number of posts for this week.
  • Engagement this week. The count is likes, comments and shares for the week’s posts, added into one number.

While you are in that dashboard, click on the name of each page you watch. You will see a pop up window that shows some of the most popular posts of the week. For further review, visit the actual pages and see what they did.

Here are some questions to include in the analysis, especially in situations where post frequency and engagement numbers don’t seem to mesh with fan counts:

  • There might be promoted posts in the mix. You will realize that the page is running sponsored posts if one crosses your feed or can find a post on their page that is obviously a promotion. But they also might be running a “dark post” in which a promoted post is on the news feed but does not appear on the wall.
  • The “fans” might not be the intended target audience; or outright fake. Facebook has explained why “artificially inflated like counts” through fake fans are detrimental to the success of a page. Unfortunately, it’s also possible through a legit advertising campaign to pick up people who aren’t the intended demographic. Since they are not really interested, there’s no interaction aka engagement. How do you know whether a page has purposely or inadvertently picked up likes from random or inactive people? Admins can review the demographics in page insights and take steps to weed out useless likes, as Social Media Examiner has explained. If this is someone else’s page, your only resource is “Pages to Watch.” So then ask yourself: do the engagement numbers make sense when compared to other pages of their size and focus?
  •  Look up the date the page launched. The launch date is usually on the right rail in desktop view. You also might be lucky enough to find dates for milestones such as reaching 1,000 fans. But here’s a historical reference point: most pages launched in 2013 or before had a huge running start in building fan counts. It was fairly easy at that time for niche topics, startups and small businesses to get likes, comments and shares without paying for promoted posts; but not so on the current news feed formula. That being said, the current formula does favor trending topics and breaking news, which is a benefit to newsrooms.
  • There might have been some “one off” success weeks or months ago. A post that suddenly goes viral, in theory, will bring new fans to your page. But not all of them decide to stick around. While fans can “unlike” a page when they move away or interests change, they generally don’t. They just kind of drift away; and some  hit “hide this post” instead of realizing they should unlike the page. Facebook will realize they aren’t paying attention to that page’s newly published content and show them other content they seem to be interested in instead. So while the fans are counted, they’re not active fans.
  • There might have been a change in admins. Fan count increases will slow down, level out or speed up based on how well the page is run in terms of content choices, scheduling and community management. Unfortunately, this isn’t clear in cases when breaking news will skew the results. A good admin team or leader is far more likely to prove his or her worth in how well they do on a slow news day and in the long range stats.

Now that you have a list, what can you do with it? Here are two very practical uses:

  • Beat reporters can watch pages for the agencies and organizations they cover. You are probably following those pages, maybe you have even set up an interest list on your profile. But you probably will not understand which content resonated with their fans. Use the “Pages to Watch” as a way to backtrack through the week and find the most popular posts.
  • Social media editors and news directors can watch sister papers, partner media organizations and competitors. In a “Pages to Watch” list, you can see what stories from those newsrooms and media outlets went viral and study why. While you will (naturally) think the breaking news or trending topic of the day is one detail, it’s not the only one. Timing has a lot do to with the success of a Facebook post, as does formatting, image selection and phrasing. You can also understand how well page admins know their audience by studying the content and dashboard analytics of their news outlets in comparison to competitors.

I host or co-host most of the social media accounts for a daily newspaper in Michigan. If you’d like to chat about digital media, find me on Twitter; and for a huge collection of social media tips and tricks, find me on Pinterest.

This post was written January 2016, updated June 2017.

My “do it yourself” education in digital media

It was 2008 when I first decided my career path would move into the digital media side of journalism.

I had already dabbled in digital media by serving on the admin team of the reader forum for The Monroe News. I also had launched a personal finance site that was well on its way to becoming our newspaper’s most successful blog.

But there was no clear career path for this emerging role.

The assumptions were that such a person would already have information technology skills and ideas and bring them to the newsroom.

I had a knack for computer skills and an interest in the Internet, with early adopter “street cred” that included building a couple of hobby websites in the late 1990s. I did not, however, have what would be considered the latest I.T. training. Because of that and unrelated staffing issues, I decided to sit out the job opening and consider that as a next step in the future.

After the person who was initially hired was no longer with our company, we went into a “learn as you go” mode encouraging anyone who was interested to try something and share with the others any ideas or what they found had worked. Text and Skype messages, a Google doc to share links, and ad hoc meetings throughout the week were the building blocks for what became our digital media procedures; while our digital media manager attended conferences and I would follow blogs and Twitter chats on social media and new journalism.

In fall 2014, I was invited to meet with a college student who was considering career options to explain what a digital media producer does for a news organization. We did not refill that position full time at The Monroe News; instead, the duties for that role were split among various people. But I had years of experience handling it on a part-time basis. I looked on JournalismJobs.com for job descriptions to give the college student, told her “Every newsroom needs someone like this,” and we had a good discussion.

That sparked my interest in researching what else I could do to become the ideal candidate for such work full time, should the opportunity come up.

I could not afford either the time or the expense to go to graduate school, but I did learn there are some practical, free and low-cost options for training in this genre. I found this information based on certification programs that I was noticing in job descriptions or on LinkedIn profiles and in recommendations from people I follow in social media.

For all practical purposes, a constant pursuit of knowledge is necessary in this field. Best practices frequently change based on which apps and technology are considered up and coming; paired with whatever tactics are declared by consensus and experience to be “no longer working.”

But any training at all is a good building block for whatever comes next.

As of August 2015, I have completed numerous webinars and modules from:

  • Poynter’s News U.
  • Hubspot. (This program updates every year).
  • Hootsuite.
  • Canva.

And I’m currently working on Kate Buck Jr.’s Social Media Manager Pro course.

I also knew from working on various professional and personal projects over the years that digital media is temporary. Links expire, websites go down, authors and journalists change beats. I’d bookmark or pin articles, sometimes download them to my computer, but couldn’t always find exactly what I saved.

That’s why, about that time, I started printing off the best examples, how to resources and checklists to save in a more permanent manner. I have them sorted and saved in a series of pink binders by topic.

Why pink? My home office is pink.

Besides, my other office binders are all white or black depending on their project contents.

pink binders
These pink binders are my “DIY” manuals for social media.

— Paula Wethington