When it comes to social media, don’t just set it and forget it

During a recent presentation at the INK+BEYOND newspaper conference, social media expert Mandy Jenkins shared her tips for news organizations looking to connect and engage with readers online. The Newspapers Canada conference was presented in partnership with Canadian Association of Journalists’ CAJ2013 conference in Ottawa on May 1-3.

Throughout her presentation, Jenkins, who looks after social media for Digital First Media, highlighted five elements that should be part of every newsmedia’s social media strategy:

  1. Branding and marketing
  2. Distribution of content
  3. Audience engagement
  4. Customer service
  5. Monetization

Jenkins went on to offer a variety of guidelines for newspapers who are just starting out on social media or who are looking to amplify their online presence.

Start with research. Look to your competitors and similar brands to see what you like and don’t like and what can you tweak to make it work for your audience

Don’t just broadcast. Remember – Twitter and Facebook are not for an RSS feed. You are a news organization which means you’re good with words; don’t waste that talent by churning out a headline and a link. You want to people to know why what you’re sharing is important and worth caring about.

Think about the persona you’re putting out. The Chicago Tribune operates @coloneltribune, a unique character account with a very distinct voice while the Atlanta Journal Constitution @ajc in Georgia has a very specific tone, serious when they need to be but also very interactive. No matter what you’re doing, you’re setting the framework for what the audience is going to think of you so you should always aim to be consistent.

Jenkins recommended that newspapers ask questions to help define what type of “voice” is right for your organization:

  • How conversational should I be
  • What tone is right for my content
  • What tone is right for my audience
  • Am I a friend? Authority? In between?

Twitter and Facebook are not the same thing. Twitter and Facebook tend to be the cornerstones of most social media strategies, but remember that the two sites are very different. Users have different expectations on different platforms and you need to keep these in mind.


  • Users follow topics and interests first
  • Fast paced, frenetic updates expected
  • Great for quick hits and updates
  • Largely public, less expectation of privacy


  • Users follow pre-existing connections
  • Slower paced, fewer posts
  • Great for longer posts and conversation
  • Large expectation of privacy

Jenkins cautioned against linking Twitter and Facebook together and told delegates to avoid automating their posts. “Schedule your content but make sure people are manning the social media accounts to take responses and engage with users. Don’t set it and forget it – social media is not that kind of tool.”

Don’t just share something that’s already happened; start a new conversation. Jenkins encouraged newspapers to use social media to reach out to their readers. “What issues have people fired up? Ask questions of your followers and see how they respond. It doesn’t take a great deal of time and the worst thing that can happen is nothing. “

Newsrooms should be listening. Jenkins recommended that newspapers’ following number should be at least 50% o