By David Earl
What’s it all about?
Social media brings people into the process.
Google+ Hangouts allow viewers a behind-the-scenes look at a live TV news broadcast. Viewers can share thoughts, tips and learn why some things get reported and others don’t.
“At this point in history, the news industry is under more attack than ever before for bias and laziness. Showing the viewers how the process happens is a defensive mechanism.” – Stacey Woelfel, KOMU-TV News Director
Social media creates humanization, deeper connections, and brand loyalty.
The Taylor Swift example: Why does Taylor Swift take time to pull a small number of fans up on stage with her at every concert while she already sells hundreds of thousands of tickets? Those fans become super fans and brand ambassadors to the world.
“In my interactions with people online, I can tell you the face-to-face connections I’m making on the Google+ hangout platform are far more meaningful that the text interactions. It’s truly a conversation.” –Sarah Hill, KOMU-TV U_News Anchor
Social media provides immediacy for newsrooms.
If talent holds a Hangout while they are live on air, the Hangout can serve as an immediate focus group, providing feedback and corrections.
Why does it work?
Google+ Hangouts work for newsrooms because they’re face-to-face.
The anonymity of text-based interactions is eliminated. Viewers or readers become accountable for their opinions, and meet the people disseminating news, as well as other news consumers.
Social media works for newsrooms because it’s efficient.
Newsrooms can offer explanations to viewers and readers on multiple, easily accessed platforms reaching a mass audience with the click of a button.
Viewers or readers don’t need to wait for their message to be received by voicemail or buried in a private email inbox – these interactions are immediate and public.
“It’s a way to monitor the pulse of the community. Newsrooms already have police scanners … social media is our people scanner.” –Jen Reeves, KOMU-TV Interactive Director and 2008-2009 Reynolds Fellow
Social media works for newsrooms because it’s effective at branding.
When viewers get to know the talent, they become loyal, they don’t see “news robots,” they see friends, and then they make it a point to tune in.
“We hope people – especially younger people – who have chosen to come interact with us through social media, when they get older or when they turn to more traditional TV news sources that they will automatically come to us, because we are familiar to them.” –Tshaka Armstrong
Newsrooms are struggling with finding the right balance
Focus groups say viewers don’t want to see social media comments on their traditional broadcast screens. You can’t please the TV audience and the online audience at the same time. The challenge exists on how to manage two simultaneous audiences on two different screens, and how to get them to use both at the same time.
For some stations, the crossover from online to broadcast won’t happen until the audio and video quality get better. Quality is good for online, not for HD broadcasts.
Watchers vs. Participators
Actual participators are still a fraction of online users. Most consumers of online content or social media watch/read postings, rather than actually getting involved themselves.
From Sarah Hill: When the bombings in Norway happened, KOMU-TV was able to report immediately from the tragedy, pulling in people who were affected to have a conversation about what was happening and the impact. The mid-Missouri NBC station didn’t have to wait for network video and sound, it already had a “satellite truck in a crowdsourcing tool” to bring people the latest information.
From Amy Wood: When a hostage situation happened in a public place, a social media follower alerted Wood’s station that her mother was inside the building. Because this person was loyal to Wood’s social media brand, her TV station had exclusive information that helped them get the first confirmations from authorities.