You might be surprised that some newspaper reporters still resist using social media, even though tools like Twitter are so clearly a journalist’s dream come true. I find it odd that anyone in the news business wouldn’t want access to a constant stream of breaking news and potential sources. And, yet, I’ve heard reporters in my own news organization and alumni email list make disparaging remarks about Twitter being for twits within the past few weeks. If you’re unconvinced, this Steve Buttry blog post outlines the basic reasons why journalists should be using Twitter.

Recently, one of our readers named Julia Glenister wrote an interesting post on local newspapers engaging readers with social media. I’m not linking to it just because she gave me and my employer props for our breaking news coverage during an armed manhunt (scroll down for those), but because Julia raised some interesting points.

For one, she suggested in the comments section that neighborhood groups start using approved hashtags to spread information more quickly on Twitter. That strikes me as a good suggestion for us as a newspaper as well. Of course we already use hashtags regularly, but I do think it might help deliver information to the right people if we got more consistent with using the same hashtags for specific types of stories. Hashtags can look so spammy and unsexy, but they are functionally pretty amazing. When used consistently, maybe more local hashtags would catch on.

Julia also suggested that we put a Twitter feed related to the breaking news event alongside the article on our website. I do think that’s a great suggestion for a major story like the standoff last summer when an armed gunman shut down I-580, and it’s something we already do for election coverage and special sections. However, it’s probably not feasible for smaller events.

Mostly, it was just so great to read a thoughtful, well-written post from a reader who wasn’t slamming us. I think too often people forget that a newspaper isn’t some faceless entity. I read so many racist, angry messages on social media, on our website and in my inbox every day, which makes the notes from people who appreciate our coverage even more gratifying. Of course, social media made that interaction possible, and it’s also a great way we can show readers the “real, live” reporters and editors behind the news stories — hopefully fostering more positive interactions.

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Informative Ad Age story today about Facebook’s Timeline feature expanding to businesses later this month.
Ad Age points out that the changes could prompt brands to develop their own apps with verbs other than “like,” similar to what Spotify is doing with news feed updates stating that a user has “read” a Washington Post article or “listened” to a song. This could have obvious benefits for newspapers.
Also interesting was the idea that businesses could use the new format to display their unabridged history as a company since Timeline lets you fill in events for any year.

This is interesting: Matt Mullin, community relations manager for Digital Book World, tweeted today from the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, that Pinterest has driven more traffic to Chronicle Books’ site than Facebook since December.

Apparently, Guinevere de la Mare — the community manager at Chronicle Books — made the comments during a talk on “Building Local and Global Communities around Your Brand, Business and Properties” at the conference. The statement is curious given that Chronicle Books has about 2,800 followers on Pinterest and almost 20,600 Facebook fans.

But the company certainly has some cool boards on Pinterest. Their offerings go way beyond just book covers with boards like “Geek Chic,” “Pretty Parties” and “San Francisco Days.” De la Mare’s remarks also speak to higher levels of engagement on Pinterest. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising given the site’s recent rapid growth.

I started a Google+ page for our paper the first day Google launched business pages figuring it was a good move to get on the network early. But things have been rough-going so far.

Despite recent articles about “massive” membership growth on Google+, I’m finding not that many Marin residents or companies are using the site. There are tons of amazing photographers posting images of the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge and other gorgeous shots. But even our local cities and agencies don’t have pages, making it hard to connect with folks who would be interested in our coverage.

Far as I can tell, most folks on Google+ are interested in technology news but not so much local stories. Other smallish papers in our newspaper group seem to have launched pages on the network and just given up. I continue to post, but it’s really challenging to get the word out about our page since we can’t add regular people to our circles, only businesses. And, as I said, there aren’t even many Marin businesses there.

I saw this problem mentioned in a Mashable article in December on the Pros & Cons of Google+ for Small Business, but so far Google doesn’t seem to be changing the rules. Hoping that will happen soon.

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I finally got around to creating a Facebook landing page for our newspaper.
It took me a while digging around online to figure out how to do it, but once I found some decent guides it was quite easy.
I’ve seen a lot of marketing articles about the importance of having a welcome page as a “call-to-action” (blatant marketing term, heh) to get more fans and boost engagement.
There are also a number of neat “best Facebook landing pages” lists with images of effective designs. Arrows or provocative images pointing at the “like” button and a pitch on the benefits of joining seem to be a common theme among the most-admired designs.
I haven’t really seen any hard numbers or case studies on how much a small business could expect a welcome page to increase fans and participation, but hopefully our page will benefit.

The New York Times held a live chat on college admissions on Facebook earlier this week.
Facebook seems like an unusual platform for a live chat because the comments string makes the conversation somewhat unwieldy. On the other hand, most people have an account and are used to commenting there.
The expert, Marie Bigham, director of college counseling at the Greenhill School in Addison, Tex., was quite diligent responding to question after question in the thread. There were 108 comments total, including Bigham’s responses.
Wonder if this would be a successful format for a local paper as well or if attracting a large enough audience to make the conversation interesting would prove challenging.

Someone from work forwarded me this link about responding to every comment on your business Facebook page.
It’s an interesting post, but I think things are a bit more complicated when your business is a newspaper. We’re walking a fine line between interacting with our readers and still remaining neutral.
On our Facebook page, I try to acknowledge every comment, but I also don’t want to annoy people by barging into the conversations that we started. For example, if we post a story about medical marijuana and ask our readers’ views, it kind of kills the conversation if we’re commenting on every response.
Also, I can’t really tip my hat in either direction when responding to comments on a topic like that. It even makes me nervous to “like” comments that fall on one side or another of a given issue.
As journalists, we’re lucky that we have lots of interesting content to post to social media. We’re not just creating stuff FOR Twitter or Facebook — writing is already our job.
But the “thou shalt not reveal thy opinion” edict of journalism (excluding editorials of course) limits how we can interact on social media and in some ways makes us seem more boring than we actually are.

I do most of our most of Facebook posts by hand, but some of our overnight posts come from RSS Graffiti.

We also have dlvr.it posting our “Daily Deal.”

Ever since Facebook made major changes to news feed last month, impressions are WAY down for any kind of automated post.

We’re getting maybe one tenth of what we used to get, presumably because anything from an RSS feeder doesn’t get marked as a “Top Story” even if people comment on it or like it.

Apparently, other news organizations (and I assume anyone with a fan page) are having the same problems.

I turned off the RSS Graffiti on the site because what’s the point if no one is seeing the posts, and it was behaving somewhat unpredictably anyway.

The deals are more complicated because they come from some kind of corporate entity in our newspaper group, so it’s somewhat difficult to get them in advance and hand post them.

When I first took over our newspaper’s Facebook and Twitter accounts a few months ago, posting was fully automated and it was kind of a mess.

No one was commenting on our Facebook posts and very few people were “liking” them. We were basically spamming our fans, who were very kindly putting up with us.

Since then, I’ve turned off most of the automation on Facebook although there still is a bit via RSS Graffiti. That app works in mysterious ways. It’s often unclear to me exactly what stories it will post, but it’s functioning well enough with the changed settings for now.

I’ve been concentrating on trying to put up images with every story and asking questions in a lot of the posts. Things are going well: Post feedback is up 416 percent in the last five months, and post views are up 134 percent. Likes are also up quite a bit, but I care more about the feedback because I think it’s a positive thing for historically one-sided media to be interacting with readers. It might bring us into the 20th century at least and hopefully give people warmer and fuzzier feelings about the paper.

Twitter is another story. It’s quite hard to break down the automation vs. hand-Tweeting thing well for a newspaper. I would love to hand-Tweet every story, but a) I have a full-time job as a reporter for the newspaper and things get super busy even in mellow Marin and b) I’m (thankfully!) not working every second of the week. I sometimes go to the movies or to a museum or open-water swimming and breaking news may happen then.

So I switched from Twitterfeed to dlvr.it for our main RSS feed because dlvr.it has better controls for WHEN you want it to grab stories for your site, i.e. you can specify the hours and days.

However, I keep running into a problem when there’s breaking news or another reason to hand post something while the automated Twitter feed is active. I basically have to turn it off and then re-start it later so there aren’t duplicate posts, but that leaves the problem of stories that are not breaking news not getting posted.

Ugh, maybe some day there’ll be an app designed specially for smallish newspapers with one measly, part-time social media person. Until then…