Last week, NPR’s Tell Me More tried out a Facebook Q&A for the first time.
We thought we would write up pros and cons for each platform.
Facebook Q&A Pro:
1. The chat was very easy to set up. It involved pressing a button called Q&A, Event on our page and then waiting for the questions to roll in. We did this about 20 minutes before the chat was set to begin.
2. We have over 3 million fans of our Facebook page so we suspected involvement would be high. (As it turned out, only ~100,000 people saw the chat in their feeds while it was happening, less than we had anticipated.)
3. It was really easy to upload photos throughout the chat. We appreciated that only the page running the chat could do this.
4. It was easy to find afterward and the audience for it continued to grow. (Though individual comments of note could not be embedded on our website, like tweets can, for use in follow-up stories.)
Facebook Q&A Cons:
1. By far the biggest issue was the lack of live updating or auto-refresh of the tool. Having to manually reload the page really stood in the way of a smooth experience.
2. The structure, or lack of structure, in the format created some confusion. It was hard for our participants to focus, to know where they should be contributing. It was kind of a free-for-all. Maybe we’ll do better with this issue the next time we use the tool. But the first time out of the box it felt like a bit of a mess.
3. Facebook requires that participants have public Facebook pages (or follow turned on) in order to have their names highlighted. For people with both private and public FB pages, it wasn’t immediately obvious to them which they were participating as. This is sure to pop up for anyone who is juggling two profiles and participating in a chat.
4. There was a top-questions filter, but it seemed rudimentary, because it seemed to just looks at “likes.” This means that anyone’s post with a lot of likes — even off-topic — will float to the top.
Twitter Chat Pros:
1. Very easy to set up. Pick a hashtag. Set a time. Tell people about your chat. Answer questions that interest you.
2. Very easy to train staff on. We basically set up everyone with a Tweetdeck column monitoring that hashtag.
3. Very easy to engage community around hashtag.
4. Lots of engagement, lots of people participating. Very open.
Twitter Chat Cons:
1. Hard to follow for people watching, particularly without a dedicated Tweetdeck column.
2. Harder to archive (need Storify or something similar).
3. Trolls tend to latch onto popular hashtags. This happened during our NPR intern chat repeatedly.
4. Not easy to let people know what’s going on after initial tweet. (On Facebook and reddit, there’s an intro at the top.)
5. Conversation can move quickly. Hard to enter midstream.
Reddit AMA Pros:
1. Everyone on staff who has done one of these has been consistently impressed with the caliber of questions received. It seems like a great forum to meet folks who are interested in the topics we cover, in a forum that allows the exchange of ideas.
2. The community polices itself. Even though likes guide what questions float to the top, the community takes off-topic posts seriously — and makes sure they’re not seen.
3. Very easy to set up. Easy to archive afterwards. Easy to jump in mid-conversation. (Several of our reporters came back to answer more questions after their hour was up.)
Reddit AMA Cons:
1. The audiences were engaged, but not particularly big.
2. The same auto-refresh issue as Facebook. It’s be nice if users didn’t have to refresh manually to see new questions.
We’re going to experiment more with all of these platforms. Right now, we think reddit is the best platform for our needs — based on the high quality of the questions and the ability to follow/archive the conversation. But we expect to continue to experiment with all three platforms, and would love to see a platform that combines the best of these features.
I’ve been at NPR for four months now and wanted to highlight a couple of neat projects that I’ve worked on so far. I should say: my gig is not all lollipops and roses. Sometimes it’s quite stressful (which is the nature of this daily, deadline-driven business…), sometimes I’m completely overwhelmed (by requests, by keeping track of everything, by lots of meetings, by not knowing who to go to and emails coming in literally every minute….), and sometimes things fail.
But that’s okay. I’m acclimating. I get to work with literally everyone in the building — from VPs to interns to coders to editors to reporters to producers and back again — which I like quite a bit. (It’s never boring.) I’m learning to navigate NPR — and build support for projects and not just go about things willy-nilly. (Willy-nilly is sometimes okay and sometimes not, I’m realizing.) And failure is good — if we can learn and iterate from it. And we do, I think. I’m really proud of this work and NPR in general — and am excited to launch more projects throughout 2014. I deeply care about public radio and the medium and I love working in a place where people deeply care about public radio’s mission. (As for the social media squad, we do a lot for a current team of two full-timers and one intern. And we believe that because we work in public radio, we should be making this type of information public.) / melodykramer
1. #NPRBlacksInTech — For a month, Tell Me More reached out to listeners on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #NPRBlacksInTech to ask listeners what African American techies they thought were important enough to be recognized. The show then launched a hybrid radio/digital series which culminated in a Google hangout, several on-air radio pieces, 65 million impressions on Twitter, several new guests, and events around public radio.
2. nprmusic End of Year Coverage — I’ve been working with the Music squad a lot. They’re very digitally savvy and they’re small — so it’s easier to experiment and introduce new ideas. For their year-end 50 Favorite Albums of 2013, they illustrated each album with a photo — which essentially made the piece shareable in 50 different ways. In addition, the Music team — particularly totalvibration — did a wonderful job of seeding our various social platforms with the year-end coverage.
3. Quotable — You may have seen these great quotes that have been appearing on our social media sites. It’s no accident. This fall, we developed a tool to make it easier to socialize our audio-only content by allowing anyone at NPR to create a jpeg of a quote/fact from their pieces. Essentially this takes an audio-only bit and makes it visual. Thanks to the NPR Apps team for working with me on the tool — and for everyone across the building to help make it better.
4. nprchives — This, I admit, is a pet project for me. I worked at a rare books library in college and then at nprfreshair, where I fell in love with audio archives. My dream is to make our archive open and accessible — but also to add context and value to current reporting efforts. That’s hard to do and will take a lot of money. So for a start, right now I’m posting one piece a day from our audio archives — and trying to gage interest for other projects internally. The response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Stay tuned on this one….
5. Social Sandbox — This one isn’t visible here, but a lot of the information on it trickles out to this tumblr. We now have an internal listserv at NPR that shares social news, tips and tricks, and anything interesting that everyone else in the building should look at. There’s about 350 staffers on the listserv — a good size, for NPR — and every day people write and say how much they enjoy it and how much they’re learning from it. It could be better. I’m thinking about ways to do that.
So part of my job is to help people with social/digital tools, another part is to analyze what tools we have and what tools we could be using, and another is to come up with ideas to help the newsroom and then try to put them in place. (There are other parts — like brainstorming with shows and desks, teaching stuff, and writing humor pieces — which are somewhat irrelevant here.)
The Things We’re Thinking About and Working On and Championing This Year:
1. Improving the way breaking news is reported (both internally and externally.)
2. Improving the way we crowdsource sources and information externally
3. Improving our analytics so that we can learn as a newsroom
4. I’d like to work on something large and involving our audience and open source-y. Some ideas are percolating in this arena.
5. More archival ideas / More learning and iterating.
That’s the state of the social media desk. To 2014!
“Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”
Ev Williams, co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, Medium on how to be successful on the internet.
«Take out steps», that’s the key. Journalism has always been about informing people about things that are relevant to them. While that’s still true, journalism hasn’t been good at «taking out steps» lately while others (think: Facebook, Twitter) have.(via endofjournalism)
Monday starts a new road for me at NPR. After several great years, I’m leaving the Social Media Desk and moving on to work in Business Partnerships. I am proud to leave the social media desk in the more-than-capable hands of Wright Bryan and Melody Kramer, not to mention the hundreds of journalists that make social media at NPR a fantastic place to work.
As I make this shift, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the many things I’ve learned working in social media as it made a huge impact on journalism.
Social media is a Conversation, not a Broadcast Medium
People who are active in social media know that the value they get out of it comes from the people on the other end of the conversation. That you choose to follow topics, engage in conversation already going on, ask questions yourself, and something great comes out of it. The value comes not from putting a great joke out onto Twitter or Facebook, but the reply that comes back. And this holds true for news organizations as well - don’t just broadcast out your content, but really participate in the conversation because…
Great Things Come When You Tap into the Intelligence of your Audience
The community is POWERFUL.
Perhaps I was spoiled at NPR with a very intelligent listening public, but I don’t believe this is unique. The audience that we have know just as much, and in many cases more than we do on certain topics. Bringing that audience into the content in a meaningful way both makes our content a hell of a lot better than it would be and keeps our audience coming back for more.
Because many parts of our audience would love to be part of what we do here - and when we can tap into their knowledge and ask them to create certain things for us (or give their time, talents, sweat, creativity, etc) they give in abundance. From translations to photography, from obscure sources to actual written contributions, our audience really steps up to the plate when we ask them to do so. And we should do so even more often.
Be Real, Authentic, and There
Social Media is one of those things that scares the inexperienced because they fear the time suck that it can become. If I start a social media account, do I have to be “there” all the time? How much time will that take? These were questions I answered for a lot of people as I started. What I told them is that when you’re there, be there — be real, you, and engage. But I’d rather see you there for an hour every few days than let your stuff be automatically fed out and you never be there to engage. Even if you do (and you should) use automation to get some things out there that you would otherwise, it should be aimed at easing the process, not automating your presence. You’ll want to engage in conversations that are going on, both sparked by your posts and that you can add your expertise to.
Also, your voice on social media, as an individual, should be the voice in which you are most comfortable.
Your voice on social media as a news organization doesn’t have to be exactly the same as your voice on the air. But it should be human. And authentic. Own up to mistakes, own up to typos, and watch the reaction. We can’t do it 100% of the time on 100% of the channels, but when we are there, we are there.
Watch your numbers!
I don’t mean you need to sell your soul for page views, but you should know how things should perform. Numbers without context are almost useless, but you can at least watch trends - as you change your approach, see what numbers it affects, week over week. I dug deeply info Facebook metrics while I was here in order to crack the code (since it was such a traffic driver for us) and found myself able to identify algorithm changes before they announced them. It told me about what topics were going to do well on different platforms. A quick experiment told us that retweeting worked, even on an account with 2 million followers. And it meant that when we had an effort start (a new tumblr, a new account) that we could guess as to what the followers / traffic / engagement might be after a few weeks. And those numbers didn’t stop us from doing journalism that we thought was necessary, but it did allow us to start to quantify our impact — and that is spreading outside the social media desk.
Pay Attention to Innovation, but Don’t Jump on Every Bandwagon
I had originally put the subhead on this of “Experiment, Fail Fast, and Learn” which comes more from my product background. Social Media has even more innovations than you can shake a stick at, and every one could potentially be a great opportunity for you. Hell, NPRNews is on Snapchat, and even used it to illustrate an article. However, you want to experiment in ways that allow you to not go all in at the front, and to remember that you should be deliberate about the investments you make. Moving early can help you garner an audience you may not otherwise, but moving early and abandoning the effort because you don’t actually have the resources to maintain it is worse.
Something new comes up that you want to dip into? Try it for a specific event, or one particular news story and see if you like it. Then, if you find yourself liking things about it, then you can tell others about it. Eventually, once you have a group of people using it, then you can talk about it as a best practice or figure out how it may need to come into your workflow. But definitely experiment first before you start institutionalizing it!
Forgive Yourself for That Which You Don’t Have Time of Which to Take Advantage
There will be bandwagons that you miss (like Medium, where this is crossposted as my first post). There will be places you move to very late. And there will be awesome trends that you dismiss. And it is ok. You don’t need to justify every opportunity you miss — but you do need to not beat yourself up over them. Focused investment will win over distracted toe-dipping every time. And that means you may miss the best article or conversation to happen that week / day / year — and it is ok. You have to forgive yourself for the things that you don’t have time to do,
And have fun!
Social Media provides powerful tools for journalism (and there are many aspects of what I’ve learned that aren’t reflected here) but at its most atomic level, social media is a forum for people to connect with other people. All human interactions can certainly be fun, and I hope that everyone who engages in this for a career never loses sight of that fun — or the real human beings at the other end of the feed.
Thanks to everyone in this community for working with me over the last several years. I look forward to even more great stuff coming out of this team in the years ahead.