While social media has become a tool and resource for consumers it has had a less than positive impact on the employment front for those who work in media.
Just as audiences have shifted their attention spans to the Internet and the immediate news it delivers, so too have jobs shifted if not disappeared from traditional news rooms. But this isn’t a doom and gloom story.
Sure social media has turned bloggers into celebrated writers and given audiences and unfathomable array of choices for their news and entertainment. But social media also offers some very special opportunities for the few journalists still working in understaffed newsrooms and communicators as a whole.
Leads and Social Media
If you’re employed at a media outlet now, social media is one of your most readily accessible sources for leads and ideas in your subject area. With less staff and resources to pull upon in the newsroom, one of the best ways to succeed at your job is to use your time efficiently and social media offers you the opportunity to do just that.
Social media websites like Twitter and Facebook are a hotbed for learning about the most current issues and ideas from just about every sector and every region imaginable.
For example, if you cover the education beat in your city, you’ll want to ensure that you’re following on Twitter all the profiles created for school boards, trustees, teacher unions and parent and student groups in your area.
Often times these groups are on opposite sides of the fence on any given issue, and by following the news each group or individual chooses to release on their profiles, you’re bound to get hints as to the percolating issues for that particular sector.
You can also use the powerful Twitter “Search” feature to find out who is saying what about particular topics in your niche at any point in time.
Facebook also offers the same kind of information. Status updates provided by organizations and individuals and the responses they receive from their respective audiences can provide you with a multifaceted snapshot of a particular hot issue.
It’s important to note that with Facebook and even with Twitter your research is made an awful lot easier if you are “following” the people from which you wish to learn. Relationships are key for getting an interview within short deadlines.
What about PR?
All of these research tactics apply equally to business communicators/public relations practitioners.
Before a communication strategy is developed to advance an opinion or promote a product/service, you’ve got to conduct research on your market. Social media networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and news sharing websites like Stumbleupon and Digg are gold mines for this kind of information.
The Act of Engagement
You can use social media to do your job more effectively but you can also use social media to network.
We’ve just covered how to use social media to support your research work, but if you are only using social media for research, you’re barely tapping into the power of this resource.
You may post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter from time to time, but if you don’t actually engage in conversation with some of the people you follow, you’ll be viewed as a pretty self-centred individual. That’s extremely counter-productive for an activity that is called “social” networking.
Some people will actually “un-follow” individuals that they know never engage in actual conversation and only seem to push their agenda or promotion one-way.
Social media is great for research and for connecting with others in the niche or marketplace where you do business. When you nurture relationships this way you are also setting the foundation for your career.
Given the uncertainty of jobs in this economy you never know when you’re going to have to job hunt or find a new client to keep your small business afloat. For that reason it’s important to keep in mind that your next potential employer or contractor could be that person with whom you’ve shared morning niceties on Twitter or debated with on Facebook.
Yes there’s a lot of change in the world of traditional media and public relations but never have the opportunities to connect with your target market and potential employers been so accessible.
It’s a good time to work in communications – your skills will take you far.
By Sharon McMillan
Public Relations Specialist and former CABJ Board Member