The technology to improve our social media ways is out there — it’s just a matter of knowing what it is and how to use it, said Banjo‘s director of media innovation Victor Hernandez during a breakout session on Thursday. Joined by Carrie Brown, the social journalism director at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the duo discussed the ins and outs of social discovery and the importance of being audience-centric.
“So much happens in an Internet minute,” Hernandez said. “Using the right tools, social discovery allows you to specify the information you’re looking for on social media and uncover things you might not be able to do otherwise.”
What is social discovery?
Social discovery is like finding the important needles in giant digital haystacks, Hernandez said. From tweets to Facebook posts to photos people post online, there’s more content to sift through online than ever before, he added.
“This is why social discovery is so important. You have to be able to filter through it all and find exactly what you’re looking for,” Hernandez said. “It’s something everyone in the newsroom can do — it shouldn’t just be a couple people at the digital desk.”
Numerous tools to assist with social discovery are available, including Banjo, Tweetdeck, Tweeten and CrowdTangle.
‘Give me an example’
During the 2016 Presidential Election, newsrooms across the country — including the student newsroom at CUNY — participated in the Electionland Project, which tracked and covered voting problems across the country in real time.
— Carrie Brown (@Brizzyc) September 7, 2017
Brown, who assisted students with the project, said the team used social media to find instances of problems at voting stations. By using keywords and focused searches within social media feeds, reporters were able to identify potential issues and further verify what they found.
“It was a great collaborative effort between newsrooms across the country, but it was also a great example of what can be done with social discovery tools,” Brown said.
What about smaller newsrooms?
Time is always a challenge for social discovery projects, Brown said, but reporters should be able to monitor social media related to their beat on a daily basis: “It’s not easy for smaller newsrooms, but it can be done.”
Collaborative projects between newsrooms can also be helpful, she said. By combining forces between smaller staffs, specific stories or audience engagement goals can be easier accomplished.
“There’s always going to be a lot of customization to this,” Brown said. “It takes time, and that’s important to keep in mind.”
Brown added that journalism schools need to spend more time focusing on social media methods in the classroom so early career journalists are better-equipped to to utilize social discovery techniques in their work.
Using the comment sections
In addition to strategically navigating social media threads for specific pieces of information, Brown said it’s important that journalists also keep in mind that social media is a place for interacting with audiences.
Comment sections today are filled with hateful rhetoric and negativity, Brown said: “I think the reason they started getting so terrible is because for years, we were ignoring them.”
— NAHJ (@NAHJ) September 7, 2017
By participating in the comment sections and answering questions raised by audience members on stories, Brown said it’s more likely that journalists can gain more public trust and identify other potential stories in their communities.
Getting the most out of what you’re doing
In addition to using digital tools like Tweetdeck or Banjo, newsrooms should also consider interacting with their audiences outside of the digital realm, Hernandez said.
By attending community events, setting up listening posts and holding public forums, journalists can identify stories that they wouldn’t otherwise have been aware of.
“Listening to audiences offline will help you navigate social media better online,” Hernandez said. “Social discovery helps you tailor your approach to the community you hope to reach, and getting to know your audiences better helps this process to be even more effective.”
To learn more about the social discovery, view the conference presentation here.