How to organize & promote your news organization’s social networks

Social networks present new tools for exchanging information with your audience. But how can you help your audience know where to find you? Rather than rely on search, many news organizations are now using public directories to list their social media accounts. It’s a must-have if your news organization is going social (and it should be).

The point of a social media directory is to make information more accessible. Having one means users can easily find, friend and/or follow any or all of your accounts, but creating and maintaining a directory comes with challenges and commitment.

Major publications such as The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune have accounts for dozens of topics. Even my employer, a smaller organization that serves northeast Kansas, has more than 100 active social media accounts for news brands, beats, reporters and editors on networks that include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr and YouTube.

Kurt Kloeblen, managing Web editor at KCTV5 in Kansas City, told me via e-mail that the process of assembling the station’s directory has been beneficial for social media growth, but also requires regular attention. The page features a widget showing tweets from the station’s staffers.

“The hardest part about that is adding the new people as they come,” Kloeblen said. “It’s also been difficult to keep up with their tweeting, at times.”

Kloeblen is right. Speaking from experience, it’s a big task to keep that list of Twitter users, which is constantly changing, accurate and organized. The Chicago Tribune’s Twitter directory tackles the organization issue with a funnel approach. The Tribune lists its managers at the top of the page, followed by widgets displaying tweets in four major categories:

Below the widgets, you get more details, such as A-Z Twitter accounts and instructions on how to follow the Tribune’s lists. Scroll down more and you’ll find a breakdown of accounts by category. To help users find its Facebook pages, the Tribune links users to Facebook, where they can find a list of the Tribune’s favorite pages. Breaking the directory into major categories makes it easier for the user to locate and follow accounts that share information relevant to their interests.

The New York Times takes a slightly different approach, with separate URLs for Twitter and Facebook. The Twitter page has separate tabs for accounts and for lists, which Twitter users can subscribe to. (Learn more about lists here.)

The Times’ Facebook directory has columns for recent activity and popular stories, but you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to find a link to the Facebook page.

What I don’t like about The New York Times’ approach is that not only are the directories on different pages, they aren’t even linked to one another. Also, it takes some digging to locate these online communities on the Times and Tribune’s websites. That is no fun for the user, and it defeats the purpose of making the information accessible.

KCTV5 has added a prominent link to its homepage to publicize the page where the station links to all of its social media accounts. “We just wanted an easy way for our viewers to find out who was on Twitter,” Kloblen said.

Publicizing your directory can help users find it — and know that it exists. At the Journal-World, we send out a tweet and a Facebook update once or twice a week reminding people that it exists. If I know I’m going to be busy, I can pre-schedule these tweets using a third-party client such as HootSuite.

Integrating mentions of your directory into traditional media is important, too. We’ve added some accounts to our print product, and it’s not uncommon to hear them mentioned during newscasts as well. Using the resources you use to promote other station projects is perfectly acceptable when promoting your social media presence.

If you’re in the process of creating your organization’s social media directory, keep these pointers in mind:

  • List brands and individuals.
  • Clearly label and organize the accounts.
  • Don’t publicize inactive accounts (e.g. an account that hasn’t been used in a few weeks or months).
  • Encourage accounts holders to update their accounts on a regular basis.
  • Set reminders to update the directory for accuracy.
  • Publicize the directory often.

Leave any questions or comments below, or feel free to e-mail me at wmathews@ljworld.com.

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