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How newspapers can use Facebook more effectively

The New York Times, which is conducting an experiment and no longer sends automated tweets, has admitted it has not yet “cracked the code” of using Facebook, according to Liz Heron, social media editor of the newspaper, speaking at the BBC Social Media Summit.

Our journalists have not figured out how to interact with it just yet. We’re working to bring Facebook journalism onto the main page.

The NY Times has started experimenting with “gamification”.

Facebook will give you a lot of info, so we were able to show what kind of person was going in for the Kings Speech, for example, so got some interesting visualisations. In a way we therefore used a form of gamification to engage users. We want to do more to build platforms around our journalism in this way and allow our content to not only get distributed further but get some interesting information back on our key readers from it.

So what else can the newspaper – and all brands – learn from Facebook success stories?

Mashable has published an article on “eight brands that have found success on Facebook and what we can learn”. Here are its eight lessons.

1. Ask your staff, customers, vendors, and partners — who already know you and like you — to “Like” your Facebook page first.

2. Ask a lot of questions. You’ll get valuable feedback, plus you’ll be more likely to appear in your fans’ newsfeeds.

Here’s another article from 10,000 Words to tell you how to use Facebook’s new questions feature to do just that.

3. Share lots of photos, and ask your fans to share photos. Facebook’s Photos remain the most viral feature of its platform.

4. Find the resources to respond to your fans questions and inquiries.

5. If you have a physical location, use Place Pages and Deals to drive traffic through your doors.

6. Know your audience well, and when you make a mistake, quickly own up, do right by your audience and fix the problem.

7. Integrate Facebook outside of your Fan Page, on your website, in as many places as you can. Create more compelling opportunities for people to buy your product based on their friends’ Likes.

8. Find synergy with other organizations and entities, and then work together to promote each other’s Facebook pages so that everyone benefits.

Mashable’s full post with examples is at this link.

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#bbcsms: A round-up of the best blogs on the BBC Social Media Summit

Various delegates from the BBC Social Media Summit last week have spent the weekend writing blog posts reflecting on the two-day event.

If you are looking for a concise round-up of the main points of the day, go to Martin Belam’s notes from the BBC Social Media Summit.

He explains Al Jazeera‘s defence of criticism it received for being part of the story of the Arab uprisings, not just reporting it. He also reports that the New York Times is to experiment with its Twitter feed so that it becomes “a fully human experience without the automated headlines being pumped through it”.

If you want more detail, see Adam Tinworth’s series of live blogs, like this one on the session on technology and innovation.

Dave Wyllie also provides a good session-by-session summary in his core values post. He also reflects:

I left with the feeling that journalism is moving at great speed with some promising entrepreneurs and future figures emerging in their own startups. The rest are working in established businesses or broadcasting.

It’s UK based print I’m worried about, many didn’t even turn up. Maybe they didn’t get the invite or maybe they thought we were full of shit.

The most thought-provoking blog is from Mary Hamilton in her blog #bbcsms: what I learned about ego, opinion, art and commerce. She takes up the repeated use of the term ‘mainstream’.

Perhaps a more honest hashtag would be #bbcmsmsms. But it’s also telling: those who were invited to participate, and thus set the agenda and drive change, were not social media people from the Sun, or from Archant’s local divisions, or from the Financial Times. Of course it’s easier for organisations working with likeminded people to reach a consensus, but in doing so we miss the chance to learn from people outside the echo chamber.

So, like Wyllie, Hamilton also notes the absence of the UK regional news organisations. She goes on to say that issues raised may have been different if they had been there.

Esra Dogramaci of Al Jazeera faced some very hostile questioning on the topic of training people to use citizen journalism tools. Will Perrin of Talk About Local did not. Of course there are hundreds of reasons why the responses were different – not least the potential harm that people in Arabic dictatorships can come to as a result of doing journalism – but one of them is territory. Al Jazeera is invading the “mainstream”. Talk About Local is invading the regional space. If there had been many Archant, Johnston or Trinity Mirror folks there, I think Will would have faced some tricky interrogation too.

She makes some interesting points on the ‘fight to be first’:

There’s still significant opposition to this notion from both individual journalists and news organisations. We fear being scooped. Outside the financial trade press, where being first by a few seconds can move markets, the business model of being first is largely an illusion. In fact, the business model is in being the most widely read, and being first is no longer a guarantee that you will gather the most eyeballs for your effort.

The fight to be first stifles innovation, because it erases partner contributions. Traditional media have always done this with stories. Now we are seeing it with innovations, too – even with innovative ways of using familiar tools. The NYT can commit to their experiment of turning off the auto-feed on their Twitter account; this isn’t new, and it’s in part because other news organisations have succeeded that the NYT can experiment without too much fear of failure.

At the end of the day, Alan Rusbridger claimed that the Guardian invented live-blogging. That stakes a claim, draws a line around an innovation that is simply a new way of using a tool, that has existed for nearly as long as the tool has existed. And suddenly, we are fighting over the origin of the thing, rather than celebrating its existence and finding new ways to use it. Suddenly it’s all about the process, about who scooped who, not about the meaning of the events themselves.

Round and round we go.

In his post #bbcsms and the ethic of the link Joseph Stashko discusses circular arguments. He says that one of sessions adopted the wrong starting point:

So when the session titled ‘Can startups compete with mainstream media?’ began I was somewhat puzzled.

The discussion that followed was very good, but the question was framed in the wrong way. It attempted to compare two different things. They shouldn’t be looking to compete with each other, because it takes us back to a bloggers vs journalists style debate again – the two should look to complement each other rather than compete.

It’s a mindset which seemed to be uncomfortably pervasive throughout the day. As someone remarked to me afterwards “I thought we were over that sort of debate…apparently not”.

He goes on to say:

In 2011 I don’t think we should be asking the questions that are based around what the roles of startups and mainstream media are. Mainstream media have recognisable brands, huge manpower, contacts, prestige and reach. Startups are more nimble, can specialise easily and can get things done quicker.

When I want to start work on a new project, I don’t identify someone who can do things that I can’t and then try and learn all their skills myself – I ask them to come and help me. It’s madness that we’re still having to debate this, but possibly appropriate given that it was held at the BBC.

He asks three questions of the point of such conferences:

How many more case studies of Twitter do we really need?
How many more examples of how you can harness the wisdom of crowds?
And how many more discussions about the futility of mainstream media building their own versions of existing services rather than employing the ethic of the link to connect people to knowledge?

The Media Blog also asks a question in its post journalism, is it ever ‘just a numbers game’? Here it’s worth noting Wyllie’s summary of the session which explains that “the room seemed to divide into two camps: live by your stats to influence your content OR ignore stats for they are perverse and influence you in the wrong ways”.

The Media Blog takes the example of the Daily Mail’s website.

And while it is difficult to cast either extreme of the Mail’s split personality as quality journalism, it is clear that simply chasing clicks with pics and key words is not. For example, a Google search for US socialite and ‘home movie’ star “Kim Kardashian” on the Daily Mail website returns 186,000 results. A search for “Kim Kardashian”+”bikini” returns just 1,000 fewer – 185,000 results – which is still more than results for “David Cameron” and “Gordon Brown” put together.

But asking if journalism and web traffic is ‘just a numbers game’ the post acknowledges that not all stories generate hundreds – let alone hundreds of thousands – of clicks and questions the “business sense” of editorial decisions in only selecting stories which generate hits which “is to assume that all important news would also have the good grace to be popular news”.

Publishers just need to remember the subtle differences between getting more readers to their content and producing content purely to bring in more readers. Somewhere between the two lies a dividing line marked ‘quality journalism’.

So what about the future? Mary Hamilton suggests an opening up:

We need people who take elements not just from journalism but also from other areas: user experience design, anthropology, web culture, psychology, history, games, literature, art, statistics. We need to interrogate journalism with tools outside the journalistic sphere; we need not just to borrow from other disciplines but exchange with them.

And comment below Hamilton’s post expands this further:

Your last point is a valid, and reflects what I took out of the day; innovators and non-mainstream thinkers are looking to be involved, traditional outlets are sitting back and waiting for invites. They should be the ones sending out the innovations.

“With capability comes responsibility”, I believe was one of the finer quotes of the day.

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#bbcsms: Call for news organisations and journalists to contribute ideas to research

Dr Claire Wardle speaks to Journalism.co.uk at the end of the BBC‘s Social Media Summit today having called on those present to share their views for future research in the field.

I caught up with her at the end of the conference to discuss her dream for the short and long-term impact of the event.

Listen!

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#bbcsms: Risking failure – Mainstream media v start-ups

One of the afternoon panels at the BBC’s Social Media Summit today asked the question: Can mainstream media compete with start-ups in social media innovation?

The panel featured Mark Little of Storyful, which provides a platform for those in the centre of the action to build a story and have it published, and Mark Rock of Audioboo, which enables the recording and uploaded of audio which can then be widely shared and published.

There overall message was that the difference between mainstream media and start-ups is the ability to fail and as a result mainstream media is still in the “electrical age” while start-ups have stepped into the digital.

The BBC itself came in for some criticism. Rock said Audioboo was not allowed to be embedded on BBC website, which he called”ludicrous”.

Individuals are the ones pushing innovation. At some point you will lose them. I don’t think you’ve got the right mindset.

Audioboo

“The BBC should be leading innovation in the UK and it’s not,” he later said. Little added that on this side of the Atlantic he feels there is a different attitude to innovation.

I get the sense that if some test product comes out that doesn’t work it’s destined for the bin. We need to try things all the time.

The other issue he added, is the focus on the word “compete”. It is about collaboration instead, he said, with both sides having valuable lessons to learn from the other.

We’ve worked with YouTube and US organisations and learnt a lot about verification and discovery. I don’t care who’s first to break news, it’s the opposite of what it’s all about, collaboration. On social media you need to learn and move forward. I’m still a little disappointed we’re being asked to choose between gurus … For us it is about seeing the problem with mainstream media and finding the solution.

Experimentation is on the cards at the New York Times, fellow panelist Liz Heron from the New York Times said.

We don’t really have any social media guidelines – use common sense and just don’t be stupid. We don’t want to scare people into not using social media to it’s full potential.

Part of the Times’ focus in the near future in this area is to bring social media into the high-impact projects the newsroom is working on, such as it did in the run-up to the Oscars.

New York Times awards season

By collaborating with the Times’ developers it enabled users to personalise the story by voting for their favourites and sharing that information with their ‘friends’ using Facebook.

Facebook will give you a lot of info, so we were able to show what kind of person was going in for the Kings Speech, for example, so got some interesting visualisations. In a way we therefore used a form of gamification to engage users. We want to do more to build platforms around our journalism in this way and allow our content to not only  get distributed further but get some interesting information back on our key readers from it.

She added that Facebook, having “cracked the code” of Twitter, was now the focus for experimentation and innovation.

Our journalists have not figured out how to interact with it just yet. We’re working to bring Facebook journalism onto the main page.

Twitter is not being ignored though, with the New York Times’ “ciborg” account having its autofeed turned off next week as an experiment to take the Times’ participation on the platform “to the next level”.

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#bbcsms: Storify summary of the BBC Social Media Summit

Here is a summary of today’s BBC Social Media Summit told through Storify, a free tool allowing you to use links, tweets, Flickr photos, YouTube videos and Facebook posts to tell the story.


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#bbcsms: Use data to inform newsroom decisions, says panel

May 20th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Online Journalism

“Numbers are everything to our business” – this was the message from Washington Post‘s Raju Narisetti, speaking today at the BBC’s social media summit.

Narisetti outlined the “simple mission” for news organisations to have more people to engage with more of its content, and this is achieved through data – both numbers and importantly, context.

We’ve moved from our anecdotal newsroom to a newsroom where there’s a lot more data, a lot more measurement. Initial measurement was page views, but we very quicky realised we need to move to a world of context.

Data is not just about measuring eyeballs – it is a valuable resource in making decisions. You’re able to show with some data things we can stop doing, Narisetti said, without making an impact on the readership. This he said makes an “accountable newsroom” and creates an environment which is a lot more encouraging for digital journalists where they know the impact of their work.

Also speaking on the panel, which covered the cultural challenges for newsrooms trying to encourage the effective use of social media, was the Guardian‘s Meg Pickard.

She revealed that research by the Guardian has shown that when a journalist gets involved in the conversation online it halves the moderation need and the tone of the conversation “goes up”. This is a key example of such data being used to support proposals and ideas.

As for the culture of the newsroom the Guardian wants to focus on people and skills, she said, to “create a fertile medium” across the organisation and then trusting staff to “act as the intelligent adults that they are” and apply their best knowledge and judgement to the situation.

But, she added, there’s no point in forcing anyone to be active on Twitter from the get-go.

We should not be forcing someone to Tweet, it will be obvious, they will be grumpy and won’t know what they’re doing. So I don’t think on your first day when you’re handed an email address they should be told that you’re free to say anything you like about our brand to the world.

Within the first few months I would try and encourage them to do so, but by demonstrating opportunities to build the community and relationship with audience.

Journalism.co.uk’s own digital journalism event news:rewired – noise to signal, which takes place on Friday next week at Thomson Reuters, will dedicate an entire session to the issue of audience data in informing editorial and business decisions for news organisations. You can find out more and buy tickets at this link.

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