After spending years in newsrooms, press boxes, and campaign trails as an editor, reporter, and whatever-you’ll-pay-me-for, I left for a more glamorous career in marketing.
Now, social media inhabits my days and my dreams, but I haven’t completely left the news world behind.
There are plenty of lessons I’ve taken from my reporting days that help me in the social media world. Here are five:
1. Good writing is good writing.
It all starts with the fundamentals. Put your commas in the right places, and use periods (or, dammit, emoticons if you must). Capitalize the beginning of your sentences, and use proper grammar (or at least understand why you aren’t). With very few exceptions, you can still speak in a brand’s “voice” without eschewing good writing tenets.
2. Start your morning with a budget (planning) meeting.
At a daily newspaper, the day starts with a budget meeting to run down the potential stories for the next edition. These meetings allow everyone to check in and discuss all angles of a story.
The way I’ve seen social content work best is when it can adapt quickly. Some brands need long lead time for legal approval, but when you’re able to work on a daily, ad hoc basis, social content can gain more attraction.
Optimize your content on a daily basis through a social budget meeting. It doesn’t have to be a drawn-out thing. Limit it to a 15-minute stand-up meeting to run through your content with anyone who will listen. Something you wrote two weeks ago might not be as relevant now as it was then. That’s why you and your brand have to stay flexible.
3. Know your audience.
When I worked at ESPN, it was a foregone conclusion that I wouldn’t be pitching stories about the symphony (unless they featured a 300-lb. lineman playing piccolo or a Gold Glove second baseman on contrabassoon). The same goes for social media.
Keep the content relevant to your audience, and always look for ways to optimize it. This is where your metrics team members become your best friends. When you understand, based on metrics, what’s working and what’s not, you’re better able to optimize your content to fit their preferences.
4. Be first, be right, be credible.
The fickle world of memes and trending topics has made it tough to keep your content relevant in social spaces. Could you imagine if your brand made a “Call Me Maybe” parody video now? Or put out a bunch of “planking” photos? You’d be laughed at, and rightfully so.
The newspaper notion of scooping may not directly translate in social, but brands that can be prescient and sport an opportunity to join a conversation will serve themselves well.
In social media, the idea of credibility can also translate to authenticity. Your audience will know when a brand is trying to hard, and they won’t appreciate it. If you can speak to your audience members in the same fashion they speak about you—and without anyone’s noticing that it’s a brand doing the talking—you’ve done your job.
5. Don’t ignore the old-timers.
There will (almost) always be someone more experienced than you in a given work setting. There’s a tendency that I’ve seen—especially when you’re dealing with emerging or evolving technology—to write off more experienced co-workers because they “don’t get it.”
When I worked in newsrooms, there was a reluctance from some more tenured reporters to go digital-first. And don’t even mention the world “blog” to a grizzled old beat guy. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s nothing to learn from the coffee-and-cigarette-for-breakfast enthusiasts. They have plenty to teach about what makes a great story. They’re tenured for a reason—more often than not, that reason is worth knowing.
The same goes in the social media marketing world.
There’s a tendency for social media marketers to celebrate posts with skyrocketing engagement, but if you ask them about the return on investment of said post, they’ll look at you dumbfounded. There’s much that social media marketers can learn from industry veterans that will inform the why behind what they’re doing. You can’t be successful without it.