My Picks for Poynter’s #P35: Influential People in Social Media

Poynter has asked readers to help “select 35 influential people in social media — both in and outside of journalism.”  Yesterday morning I read Craig Kanalley’s list (@ckanal), and I second all of his nominations.  Everyone Craig mentioned is someone whose expertise has influenced and inspired me in the world of social media.  And of course, Craig himself deserves more than a mention when it comes to social media influencers.  He is smart, thoughtful, and full of personality–he reaches out to people personally, and truly knows how to develop and maintain relationships online.

In addition to Craig and to the five folks he wrote about, I’d also like to mention the following five people, who deserve a mention in any conversation about social media innovators.

1. Andy Carvin (@acarvin)

Andy Carvin is Senior Strategist at NPR, and he has a long history of experimenting with ways social media can be used not just by news organizations, but by citizens wanting to improve the world.  A great example of that history can be viewed in Andy Carvin’s TED talk, The New Volunteers: Social Media, Disaster Response And You, in which he details–through his firsthand experiences–the evolution of online tools that help mobilize volunteers with a variety of skill sets take action during crisis situations.  After watching that video, even Malcolm Gladwell would be hard-pressed to continue to believe that social media tools have little effect in creating social change.  Carvin’s talk is inspiring, informative, engaging–all the characteristics one would expect from a bright mind like his.

2. Burt Herman (@burtherman)

In addition to being the CEO of Storify, a tool through which people turn the information they source from social media into a compelling piece of journalism that tells a complete story, Herman is also a founder of Hacks/Hackers, which brings journalists and technologists together to learn from one another.  Since its launch in the Bay Area, Hacks/Hackers has held meetups in cities across the U.S. and in the U.K., clearly demonstrating how hungry people are for the kinds of networking and learning opportunities that these meetups provide.  By providing the space–both virtual and physical–for journalists and techies to learn from one another, Herman’s Hacks/Hackers helps to empower those who want to learn more about the integration of these two enterprises.

3. P. Kim Bui (@kimbui) & 4. Robert Hernandez (@webjournalist)

Kim Bui is Social Media and Community Editor at KPCC; Robert Hernandez is Professor USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Together they founded #wjchat, a weekly Twitter chat focused on web journalism.  Because I am a career changer, I’m doing everything I can to learn more about community engagment, particularly how it manifests itself within news organizations.  #Wjchat has been invaluable to me, and both Kim and Robert are a big part of why I feel that way.  I have learned so much from both of them (and, frankly, everyone who participates in the chat), and therefore I can be nothing but grateful to them both for having started this group.  They do a fantastic job moderating the discussion and selecting excellent guest hosts to help help them with that task each week.  By providing this space for web journalists and those interested in web journalism to come together and share knowledge and ideas, Bui and Hernandez have helped everyone who participates in the chat learn more about the profession, build strong relationships with colleagues, and enjoy a good bit of lively discussion every Wednesday evening.

5. Mandy Jenkins (@mjenkins)

Many Jenkins is Social Media Producer for TBD.com, and writer of Zombie Journalism, where she provides insight, information, analysis and wit with regard to journalism innovation.  Readers of her website can learn about techniques for effective community management–not just in the realm of things like comment moderation or Facebook user interaction, but also in terms of tools newsrooms can use for crowdsourcing stories and culling real-time information during breaking news.  I appreciate her for her good sense of humor, her dedication to her craft, and the transparency she brings to what she’s learned about her job–and the ease with which she shares what she’s learned.

Each of these people has contributed to my own knowledge base, and I have no doubt that they have all done the same for everyone else who follows their work.  I’m glad to have this chance to say thank-you to them for allowing me to learn so much, every day.

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Our Individual News Stream: It’s always been personalized, it’s always been social, and it continues to depend on the quality of the news

I was born into a house full of newspaper readers–not just my parents, but each of my three sisters and my brother; all of us read the newspaper.  (In fact, for much of my youth, we were a two-paper household, subscribing to both the now-defunct San Diego Union as well as the Los Angeles Times.)

As a kid, I loved that the newspaper offered something for everyone: comics for my brother and me, sports for my sister Dina, national, international, and local news for my parents.  Every day there were new things to read about, and we could read as much as we liked of whatever was interesting to us.

I mention all this because it’s what went through my mind yesterday as I read Mashable’s post titled, “How News Consumption is Shifting to the Personalized Social News Stream.” In the post, Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik discusses how various news organizations are finding ways to get personalized content to audiences who increasingly turn to friends, family, and others in their social circle for news and information.

Such a phenomenon may be a little fear-inspiring: If we are demanding personalized, customized content, is that demand evidence of the fact that we are becoming ever more seduced by an echo chamber that only makes us more myopic, rather than more informed?

The answer to that question, I think, is: no–because as news consumers, we have always found a way to “personalize” our news consumption, in the manner that I mention at the beginning of this post–by selecting various parts of the paper to read, or which parts of the television newscast we most want to watch.  So while my sister Dina might have grabbed the sports page as soon as the paper arrived, I was busy reading the comics and my dad was making his way through the A section.

This human practice of taking the paper apart and divvying it up amongst ourselves is what led media analysts Neil Postman and Steve Powers to note that, “No one reads the same newspaper,” because the content we choose–and the order in which we choose to read the content we’ve selected–is different for every person.  The same holds true today–it’s just that the selection of what is available to me is wider–I can turn to KQED and SF Public Press for in-depth, investigative reporting, SF Appeal and a variety of local blogs for Bay Area news, then read Farhad Manjoo‘s column in Slate for information about innovations in technology, and then check out the food section of the L. A. Times for great recipes.  In other words, I may not get all of my information from only one source.  And of course,  the way in which I share this information with others has also changed.  We may have all had our different favorite sections of the paper, but when my mom read a story she thought we all needed to read, she would cut it out and put it on the refrigerator to ensure that we saw it (incidentally, she still does this).  Now most of us do the virtual equivalent of that same practice, sharing “must-reads” through email, through Facebook, through Twitter and StumbleUpon.

But as much as my friends and family (and the folks I follow on Twitter) are “sources” to whom I turn for information, what matters the most is the quality of the information they are sharing.  Many news outlets are still squeamish about using social media to distribute their reporting and engage with their audience, even as they recognize the necessity and the usefulness of doing so.  But they shouldn’t be squeamish.  KQED, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, SF Public Press and scores of other news outlets are doing phenomenal reporting in the public interest that deserves to be heard, read, and seen by a wide audience.  So while our method of distribution may change (I may not subscribe to one paper, but I may read articles from several different media outlets shared on Facebook), the content still matters, and great content will get shared–and read–widely.

My point, then, is that people are as hungry as ever for great reporting, and they love sharing what they read, see, and hear with others.  And what is exciting about living in this age is that there are so many ways that we can easily share this great reporting.  I didn’t used to read Slate, but as my friend Jackie (who reads it every day) started sharing more and more stories from the site, I started reading it, too.  And I’ve kept reading it because the quality is good.  By the same token, I am friends with some of my former students through Facebook, and they have become fans of KQED and NPR because they have found that they are frequently interested in the stories I have shared from those sources.

In his post, Lavrusik paraphrases Jay Rosen, making the point that “prior to the evolution of the web to its current social state, people who you know couldn’t be news sources the same way that big media companies could. But now in a sense they are able to.”  But I’m not sure I would consider myself–or any of my friends–a “source” for news; instead I think we are more of a delivery service for one another.  Yes, I’m more likely to read something that a friend shares with me, but what makes me read a story is not simply who among my friends “shared” it, but rather what the content appears to be, and who the actual source of the information is; there are some media outlets that I find absolutely dreadful, so when someone I know shares a story from one of those outlets, I rarely click the link.

So, yes, our social interaction today includes (as it always has) the sharing of news and information, but that sharing is entirely dependent on having stories to pass along in the first place.  As news organizations reconfigure both their newsrooms and the methods by which they deliver their content, what has not changed–and what will not change–is the desire people have for quality news they can trust.  My friends can tell me about a great story that I should read, but they don’t have the training or the resources to create those stories in the first place; we need journalists and news outlets to do the work of reporting and give us the information we need.  And when they do, we are excited to share that information with the people we know.  Outlets that have a strong presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter make that sharing easier, but what determines their success in the long-run is, as always, the quality of what they produce.

Sharing is caring: Promoting your contemporaries while promoting yourself on social media

Earlier this week, I Twitter-stalked D.C.’s latest Social Media Breakfast, listening in (or, reading in, as it were) to the great ideas being presented by speakers and attendees alike.

One of the awesome things about Twitter, of course, is that it allows me, a woman in San Francisco, to eavesdrop on a conversation happening some 2500 miles away.  And, with the incorporation of hashtags, I can even participate in the event myself, if I see a tweeted comment to which I feel compelled to respond.

One of my favorite tweets from that discussion came from Mandy Jenkins. I have mentioned Jenkins before for the insight she has provided Re: how blogs, news sites, and any other spot on the Internet that allows for reader input can have a robust comment section without getting overrun by abusive trolls. But the discussion for the most recent Social Media Breakfast centered around collaboration within organizations, a topic that spurred this tweet from Jenkins:

Her comment here underscores the idea that social media is social first: it’s about people connecting with one another through the sharing of information, ideas, and experiences.  Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Loopt are obviously powerful tools for connecting with an audience, but if businesses, marketers, non-profits, and others treat these tools as media through which they announce only their own great qualities, the message will sound to audiences like the obnoxious person at a party who talks only about herself–and I think we all go out of our way to avoid getting caught between that person and the hors d’oeuvres table. Continue reading

Great Advice for Non-profits and Small Businesses Using Facebook

If you are just getting started with setting up social media platforms for your non-profit organization or small business, DIOSA Communications has a great resource page, “Facebook Best Practices,” with suggestions for getting the most out of your Facebook page.  Along with the suggestions, the folks at DIOSA also have (and link to) step-by-step “how-tos,” so that even those unfamiliar with how Facebook works for organizations can implement these best practices and reap the rewards. Continue reading

Community Engagement, Best Practices: How to make your comments section feel more like Cheers and less like a bar fight

The other day, I was talking with a friend of mine who is working on launching a neighborhood blog; as we discussed his vision for the site, he admitted that probably the scariest aspect of the whole launch for him involves decisions Re: how to handle reader comments.  Like any blogger, news publisher, or other online community director, my friend’s ultimate goal is to encourage animated discussion among readers without also inviting trolls who hang around mainly to abuse other users.  Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on SFGate’s news portal will understand why my friend might have cause for concern–such is SFGate’s reputation for having a comments section overrun by people who are prone to name-calling, prejudice, and just basic idiocy. Continue reading