(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: Social Media Do's & Don't's

by - January 19, 2016

When I graduated high school, the only website I was a member of was Xanga, an online journal.

When I went to college, I joined the newly created Facebook and then Myspace.

I started blogging my senior year of college, joined Pinterest only a few years ago, have had my Twitter account for less than three years and joined Instagram less than two years ago.

Social media has changed so much over the last 10 years and continues to grow and expand at a huge rate. Frankly, I can't keep up with it all! But I must if I want to stay in this business. Social media is the future of news. And here's why:

There are 890 million people on Facebook any given day. Those people spend on average 40 minutes a day posting, liking and sharing content. Over on Twitter, users are tweeting 500 million times a day. Meanwhile, 70 million pictures are being posted on Instagram every 24 hours. (via LinkedIn)

But social media and journalism don't always mix nicely. And for those of you who've grown up with technology at your fingertips and social media connecting you to your friends 24/7/365, knowing where to draw the line between personal and professional online can be tough. So in this installment of (Not So) Basic Journalism Skills, I'll be offering some advice to help you establish a peaceful coexistence between your two worlds.

The first and probably most important piece of advice I can give you is this - keep your personal and your professional pages separate. You do this by creating an actual page on Facebook. Mine is Ashton Wright WTVY. This will allow you to interact with your viewers or readers without giving them a complete glimpse into your personal life. That doesn't mean they won't find your personal profiles, though, and you may end up doing what a majority of my coworkers have done - change your name. Many of them have replaced their last names with their middle names.

Now that you've created your professional page, you need to maintain it properly. At my station, our goal is for every reporter to post three times throughout the day on Facebook. (Twitter is a little different, and quite frankly not something we use abundantly because a majority of our viewers don't tweet.)

When posting, there are several things you should consider before hitting that send button. I like this checklist that Forbes put together. My top 3 favorite tips from there are:
  • Does anyone care about this other than me?
  • Will this offend anyone? If so, who? Does it matter?
  • Spell check!

Just because you have two separate pages doesn't mean who can just post any and everything on your personal page. Employers don't just search for your professional pages, fyi. They also search for your personal accounts so they can see what type of person they may potentially hire. So here are two rules of thumb to follow on your personal accounts courtesy of Business Know How:

  1. Don't put anything on the Internet that you don't want your future boss, current client or potential clients to read.
  2. Never post when you're overly-tired, jet lagged, intoxicated, angry or upset.

You should also be conscientious of the types of pictures you're posting and content you're sharing, as well as the things you're being tagged in. It's one thing to be in a picture holding a glass of wine and a whole other thing to be tagged in a picture falling-down drunk.

For more insider tips on how to survive your first years in the news business, check out my other (Not So) Basic Journalism Skills posts.

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