Our entrepreneurial journalism class at Georgetown will be discussing social media the next two weeks. Of course, you could do a whole course on social media, which offer some of the most important tools an entrepreneurial journalist will use, so this will be an overview more than a deep dive.
Social media can be part of the solution for all three of the key challenges an entrepreneurial journalist faces: content, distribution and monetization.
The community is creating content in a variety of ways using social media. An entrepreneurial journalist may use social media content as large or small parts of the content plan. Some ways we have used social media content recently at TBD:
Twitter. Tweets from Metro riders supplemented staff reports when TBD checked out all of the 588 escalators in the Washington Metro system. Note that we pulled tweets with the #wmata hashtag (abbreviation for Washington Metro Area Transit Authority) into a window in the blog post. Click on the map and check Eastern Market and Union Station for a couple of examples of reports that used tweets. The photo on the top of the blog came from Twitpic, Twitter’s photo application.
Flickr. We frequently pull in community photos from Flickr, most recently these parody ads for Metro.
Storify. Storify is a new tool that can pull in content from various social media, tying it together story-style in a narrative framework. TBD has used Storify recently for stories on the arrest of Jack Johnson, election night and the Rally to Restore Sanity.
Crowdmap. Crowdmap helps you map content from tweets, texts, emails and reports directly to your website. TBD used it to show problems on Election Day.
Social media are important avenues for distribution of content. Some ways that a journalism entrepreneur might use social media to distribute content:
Facebook. NPR, with more than 1 million fans and 2.5 million visits a month from Facebook, provides perhaps the best example of how a media site can use Facebook to distribute content to its audience. Lots of people spend lots of time on Facebook. You want Facebook to be a place where they share links to your content.
Twitter. While Twitter is an excellent distribution channel for journalistic content, if you treat it as just a distribution channel, you aren’t using it fully. Join the community conversation. Crowdsource stories. Answer question. Address complaints and criticism. A conversational, interactive presence on Twitter is helpful in building your brand (and building Twitter as a more effective distribution vehicle). TBD shows how you can use Twitter for a conversational distribution channel, a conversational niche channel and a headline feed.
YouTube. For video content, YouTube is an effective delivery channel, not just for viewing on YouTube, but for embedding in other blogs and sites, as I have done below.
SlideShare. You may develop content in slideshows (for promotional presentations in the community or for professional workshops telling other journalists about your operation). Upload those slides to a SlideShare account (then share links to the slides on social tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), and you can extend your reach to other users. My presentations on SlideShare have had more than 35,000 views, with views for individual presentations going higher than 4,000.
Journalism entrepreneurs have not done as well at directly making money from social media. Certainly, with advertising based on traffic, successful distribution will help you make money. But I strongly believe that social media present many more opportunities to make money.
An entrepreneur that can build a significant local audience on Twitter will have a valuable advertising platform for spreading word swiftly about deals. The Detroit Free Press has just started such a feed, FreepDeals. I’ll be watching to see how it works out.
I think Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and, no doubt, other social tools also have revenue possibilities that will help some entrepreneurs succeed. And when entrepreneurs develop effective direct sales channels related to news products, social tools could help users tell friends about the deals they find online.
Of course, making money with social media is not strictly a hypothetical opportunity. Dell has shown the potential for multi-million-dollar opportunities using Twitter. Real estate agents, a traditional but declining source of revenue for news organizations, are exploring the possibilities with listings and other marketing efforts on Twitter. Journalism entrepreneurs who develop effective social media services for businesses will diversify their revenue streams.
Develop the right formula
You can’t simply spend all your time on social media, even if your venture is based in social media or focused there. So you don’t necessarily have to master all of these tools. But study them to determine the right mix for your venture. It would be a rare journalism venture that would not find at least Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to be worth some investment of your time. Learn enough about the social tools to decide how important (if at all) each is to meeting the goals of your venture.
Other social media resources for entrepreneurs
An important aspect of social media is reputation management, the opportunity to I’ll tell the class about two examples of established companies using social media. Though these are long-recognized brands, both stories offer lessons for entrepreneurs.
And I’ll repeat one of my favorite examples of the power of social media to cause a problem for a business: United Breaks Guitars:
Of course, Maytag and United are giants, but social media can present huge problems or opportunities for the small entrepreneur, too (think Cooks Source; unfortunately, the original Facebook page has come down, but the new Cooks Sours Mag Facebook page is pretty snarky, too.)
I’ll also share with the class some of my advice from my earlier class, Using Social Media for Business: