Digital Strategy

Five Key Social Media Trends in Journalism

Cision – a global communications software company – recently hosted a webinar with the BBC’s assistant editor of social news Mark Frankel. Mark oversees the BBC’s most high-profile Twitter accounts and consequently, it was interesting to listen to his thoughts and opinions on the latest trends.

The webinar aligned with Cision’s latest ‘Social Journalism Study‘ –  conducted in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University. This report is based on 466 responses from journalists and media professionals collected during July – September 2014.

As a public relations officer at an SME, I have regular contact with local journalists and therefore, the study was of relevance to my work and professional development. Moreover, the report is of wider relevance to other small businesses looking to nurture relationships with their target media outlets. With this in mind, I have selected five key trends from the report:

1. Over half (53.5%) of UK journalists said they cannot carry out their work without social media.

Two thirds of respondents use social media tools regularly and over half perceive the tools to be indispensable to their work.

2. Twitter (75.1%) continues to be the most popular social networking channel for journalists.

Three quarters of respondents regularly use Twitter and just over half regularly use Facebook. Furthermore, the rate of increase is highest for the use of microblogs like Twitter and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

3. Publishing and promoting content and sourcing information are the two most important reasons for social media use for journalists.

While these are the two most important reasons for journalists using social media, respondents reported that they also use social media tools for a plethora of professional purposes. Over a third regularly use social tools to read blogs, to reply to comments received in relation to their work and to generally monitor discussion surrounding their own content on social media.

4. PR professionals are the most important sources for journalists but there are reliability concerns.

Public relations professionals (PRs) are considered to be the most important sources but there are concerns about the reliability of PR stories. Only 45% of journalists consider PRs to be a reliable source of stories.

Email is the most prevalent communication method between journalists and PRs; telephone use is decreasing, while social media use is increasing. When journalists were asked how they like to be contacted, email was the preferred choice and social media came second. 16% requested less contact by phone: this indicates it is a source of irritation or distraction.

5. Many respondents are concerned by the impact of social media on journalistic values.

Almost half believe that traditional journalistic values, such as objectivity and fairness, are being undermined. 80% of respondents thought that social media is changing the profession of journalism through encouraging opinion related articles.

Concluding thoughts

The report is intended to enhance the media industry’s understanding of social media use, while also enlightening professionals on the impact of technology on journalists’ work. The results will help PRs remain up to date with best practice in the industry and spur them on to consider new ways of utilising social media, given the evolving role of social media tools in the arsenal of a journalist.

A key action point for myself was the need to further develop relationships with journalists on social media. The report confirmed my pre-existing beliefs on the optimal methods of contacting journalists; it was particularly useful to note that I shouldn’t be wary of messaging a journalist on social media.

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