I first learned about it, via my Social Media stream. All the Vancouver Media outlets were posting about the container fire at the Port of Metro Vancouver and to be wary of the possibly toxic smoke that it was creating.
The following day, while listening to comments on CKNW 980, I heard an interesting comment; “even with all the news coverage and posts on Social Media, people in the affected area were still wandering outside, wondering what was happening”. The commentator seemed genuinely surprised that people didn’t know what was happening. I mean, it was all over Social Media, right?
It is true. Pretty much every traditional news organization, from terrestrial to print, has adopted Social Media as another means to get their content out to the masses. This is fine, when it comes to getting the news out to a general audience, but what if you are trying to get news and information out to a specific audience? I am not talking about a specific demographic or specific region, as you might do with Facebook advertising. I am talking about getting the attention of a neighbourhood or even a very targeted group in that neighbourhood. How is a Media outlet to connect with something that specific? Simple, really; Remember the ‘Social’.
My Source is not The Source
Remember how I said I first learned about the Port of Vancouver fire, via Social Media? I did, but it wasn’t from any news agency. It was from a person I follow on Twitter, who has a view that looks out toward the Port of Vancouver. He posted a picture that said “Uhh, Big fire at Port, near downtown!“. The visual of smoke rising over the Port of Vancouver was enough for me to look further.
This is how people are finding out about news that is important to them. Not just by following a Media outlet. The learn it either first hand or from a share, from a friend. I have friends that are politically active, so that is where I feed my political needs. I have friends who are still in the military, so that is where I keep up to date on the Green Machine. I have friends that are very active local events or local hot button issues, so that is where I keep up to date on what is happening in my community. In short, I get the latest news via my Social connections rather than the Media outlets directly. So, what’s a Media outlet to do, if they want to get their story out ahead of all the others?
Find your Influencers
For those of us who remember the days before the Internet and those of us who grew up in small communities, keeping up to date on what was happening in your neighbourhood was as simple as asking your
neighbourhood busy body. There was always one or two people that had their ear to the ground or their nose over the fence and was always happy to share their knowledge. The same goes for today. Every community, every neighbourhood, every organization has at least one person whom other seek or follow, to hear the latest about what is going on.
While the Social Media Managers, reporters and on-air talents are quick to pull potential news stories from their news feeds, they are far less likely to target specific people or organizations to share those same stories. It is this lack of two way interaction that is missing from the Social Media presence of traditional media. If local or regional media were to spend some time finding and connecting with those people who have wide following in specific areas. I’m not talking about celebrities or local leaders. I am talking about your every day people who are active in the Social Media sphere.
The Vanity Card
I often say that Social Media plays to that one thing that we all have; Vanity. Not the Kim Kardashian “look how amazing I am” vanity, but rather the “hey! This well known media person is connecting with me” vanity. There is a lot to be said about an on-air personality or a well known reporter, reaching out to a specific person and saying “Hey, Joe. I think your peeps would be interested in this story” or “Jane, could you get this emergency info out to your followers? Thanks!” That kind of direct engagement encourages even wider sharing of content, based on the “Cool! They asked ME to help THEM out!”. It also encourages that same person to start sharing content, without being asked, simply because that connection was made and maintained.
Social Media is, first and foremost, a Social platform. While some of the smaller media outlets have made efforts to make the conversation more of a two way conversation, larger outlets are still struggling with the concept that Social Media must be more than just another means of feeding information to the masses.