Ask people what they’re doing with social media and they might say they’re having a laugh or making witty comments while watching telly but for most of us these are not our main activities.
Most of us are trying to make connections and build communities, which means we need to learn how to attract people.
For some this comes easy – the schmoozers can charm their new friends and the networkers can try to coral their acquaintances into a virtual room which they can work, but many of us get by simply by passing on interesting tidbits of gossip and information.
But what happens if you want to go a bit further and create something unique to your niche which will act like a magnet on all the people you are trying to attract? Blogs and community boards are hungry for content and you are not a newspaper editor – so what are you going to do?
My advice is to think like a radio journalist – which is handy because that was my job for 15 years.
When I worked at BBC 5 Live on the Breakfast Show we had to plan what was going to fill every second of each 3 hour show and it had to begin 24 hours in advance. You may imagine a news programme takes to the air without a plan, to report news as it breaks – but in the absence of major fires, earthquakes or unexpected deaths, you have to have a running order full of items.
In order to fill all your slots you need to have some source material and for us that was 1) the BBC forward planning news diary in which every launch, official visit and government announcement was recorded weeks in advance , 2) Press releases from people trying to flog us something and 3)the day’s newspapers, journals and magazines. Of course there is always 4) – original journalism – but you would be surprised how rare and how expensive that is – that is why that stuff wins prizes.
You may also be surprised by how many stories come from category 3. Day old newspapers were and still are the source material for a lot that you hear on the radio and see on television. Why haven’t you noticed? Because they spin and dress it up and turn it around until you don’t recognize it. Mainly though, what they do is add value.
You take a 2 line story in a national newspaper and ask – “but what does that really mean?” You talk to the people affected by the announcement, you set up a debate between two opposing sides, you find out further information that spins the story off in a new direction. In short you ask questions. You add value.
I reckon that if you apply these methods to stories in your niche you need never be without something interesting to say. You are not an award-winning reporter with endless resources, you can’t break news all the time – you are probably trying to run a business, but you can look at the daily papers and your own trade press for inspiration. Link two or three recent stories together to spot trends or organise 2 sides to debate in a series of posts on a hot topic. Encourage colleagues to comment and make sure you comment back yourself.
It’s not as hard as it looks and it could be good fun.