How Journalists Use Social Media

Survey of Phoenix-area journalists reveals insights about using social media to interact with news organizations and generating local media attention.

Local journalists are a large part of the conversation in the social mediashpere, especially during breaking news; when major news happens they are both reporting information and watching for updates from other news organizations.

“Social media has drastically changed the way I get information as a reporter,” says Marc Martinez, anchor and reporter for FOX 10 in Phoenix. “During the Tucson shootings in January, Twitter became one of the main sources of updates from the scene. While traditional news outlets worked to verify the information before posting reports, Twitter was consistently first with instant updates.”

“The downside is that many of the early tweets were not completely accurate,” he added. “This is where, as a journalist I had to be careful what I would report, based purely on social media.”

12 News anchor and reporter Brahm Resnik says “I am now no different from the teletype machine that occupied a room at the first newspaper I worked at. I can and do deliver news (or what passes for it in 140 characters or a Facebook post) anytime, unedited, unfiltered straight to the consumer. It is a fearsome power that I worry about taking for granted.”

On a slow news day, Twitter could land you or your company in the news; a recent survey I conducted shows 80% of journalists local journalists have done a story based on a tip via Twitter, and 76% have found a source to interview. Using SurveyMonkey, I conducted an online survey of journalists in the Phoenix designated market area (DMA), specifically focused on social media; 120 responded.

Phoenix Media Survey: How do journalists use social media?
A majority of respondents (51%) work in television news, but all types of Phoenix media are represented. The most common respondents are general assignment reporters/staff writers, but the survey included news management as well.

Type of news organization respondents work for:

  • Television (51%)
  • Print (35%)
  • Online Only (5%)
  • Radio (4%)
  • Other: (less than 1%)

Key Findings

Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are the primary social media platforms used by local journalists.

  • 99% have aFacebook profile
  • 92% have used Facebook while working on a story
  • 92% characterize Facebook as a useful media resource
  •  99% have a Twitter feed
  • 80% have used Twitter while working on a story
  • 82% characterize Twitter as a useful media resource

Twitter is more likely to generate news coverage than Facebook
Although only 80% have used Twitter specifically for a story compared to 92% who said they have used Facebook, Twitter is much more likely to generate story ideas:

  • 80% said they have received a story tip from the general public on Twitter compared to only 31% on Facebook
  • 75% said a PR pitch via Twitter turned into a story, compared to only 25% on Facebook
  • 76% said they have found a source to interview via Twitter, compared to 43% on Facebook

Want to get local media attention? Be active on Twitter
Interaction with media on Facebook might increase the likelihood of getting on the news, but interaction on Twitter is much more potent:

  • 41% said they are more likely to read an unsolicited email after interacting with a business owner or company leader on Facebook
  • 56% said they are more likely to contact as potential source after interaction on Facebook
  • 70% said they are more likely to read an unsolicited email after interacting with a business owner or company leader on Twitter
  • 88% said they are more likely to contact as potential source after interaction on Twitter 

The survey findings indicate Twitter is much more effective when it comes to proactively getting local media attention, but that doesn’t mean you should create a Twitter account and immediately start bombarding reporters. If you have not been using Twitter as part of your P.R. strategy, take time to educate yourself about the “rules of engagement” before you start firing off Tweets to every media outlet (see list of suggested reading at the end of this blog).

Some advice from local TV anchors & reporters on using Twitter:  

“I check my Twitter stream all the time to see what people are saying. I’ve picked up dozens of stories off Twitter based on tweets that catch my interest and I want to know more about.  Since I cover the consumer beat, I look for money or housing related issues and a lot of folks tweet about those topics,” Carey Pena, Ch 3 Reporter and Anchor. “I don’t like to block or unfollow unless I am forced to do so. Typically I will unfollow people who obsessively self promote.  As far as blocking people, if someone is crude or inappropriate with their tweets – block. My advice is to be genuine, don’t try to oversell and please… don’t waste my time.” (follow @careypena).

“I follow relatively few people — specifically those who give me information/insight I can use in my job. I tend that list carefully. But I do get responses to my tweets. My rule: One F-bomb or insult and you’re gone, no questions asked. I enjoy debate and discussion, but don’t make it personal.” — Brahm Resnik, 12 News anchor and reporter (follow @brahmresnik

“The only time I will block or unfollow people is if they are constantly trying to sell a product or service. I don’t mind it occasionally, but if the only thing they are tweeting is a pitch, I don’t find it useful.” —Marc Martinez, FOX 10 anchor and reporter. He adds that “for businesses using Twitter to get media coverage, I would advise them to look for timely news stories they can somehow tie-in to their product or service. If they can get ahead of the game and send out a tweet showing how their business is relevant to (or involved in) the story, it would be a good way to catch a reporter’s attention.”  (follow @marcfox10)

You’ll find more comments from local journalists in the full survey report. There are some great blogs about getting started on social media (see recommended reading and resources below). Take the time to educate yourself with expert advice and practice interacting before you try to engage reporters; learn how to swim before you jump in the water. Not sure who to follow? Check out this directory of Phoenix media on Twitter and Facebook.

For detailed survey results download this PDF or click through the presentation below (click on the lower right button of viewer to see full screen).

Additional Resources and Suggested Reading:

Tweet to reporter turns into story seen across the U.S.
A directory of Phoenix-area journalists on Facebook and Twitter
Marketing Small Businesses With Twitter (New York Times) by Claire Cain Miller
How To Get Started on Twitter in 10 Easy Steps by Natascha Thomson
Twitter 101 – 8 tips to get started on Twitter by Gopal Shenoy
News in the age of Twitter: lessons from Bin Laden and beyond by Peter Shankman
Why Social Media Reinvigorates the Market for Quality Journalism by Vadim Lavrusik
This just in… News no longer breaks, it Tweets by Brian Solis

If you are simply overwhelmed by social media (especially Twitter) and need a pro to show you how it’s done, contact me; I host regular social media workshops, so ask me how you can attend one. I also provide expert guidance to larger organizations that need to implement a successful social media strategy.