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You’re probably involved with social media in ways you don’t even know

Just because you don’t tweet doesn’t mean social media is not for you

I hear it all the time: “I don’t know if social media is for me.” Or “I really like traditional media. I love picking up my newspaper on a Sunday morning.” Maybe it’s about Twitter: “That just seems useless and overwhelming. I don’t have the time to keep up with it all.”

I get it: Many people are intimidated by social media. We hear about social networks in the news all the time and the investment to understand and participate seems daunting.

The good news is that you don’t have to be everything to everyone – especially not at first. I was reminded of that just last week…

Social Media Club Chicago panelists Howard Wolinsky, Wailin Wong, Andrew Gill, Dan Honigman & David Viggiano

SMC Chicago panelists Howard Wolinsky, Wailin Wong, Andrew Gill, Dan Honigman & David Viggiano

Last Thursday, Cision sponsored the Social Media Club of Chicago February event. The panel included members of Chicago media who discussed how traditional media is working with social media. Social media heavyweights included panelists Andrew Gill, producer of interactive media for radio station WBEZ, Daniel Honigman, social media strategist for Tribune Interactive, Wailin Wong, technology reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Howard Wolinsky, former Chicago Sun-Times writer and adjunct faculty member at the Medill School of Journalism.

Despite the cumulative decades of social media expertise that these panelists brought to the event, it was social media newbie David Viggiano, entertainment reporter for Fox News Chicago, that really got me thinking.

You see, David wasn’t really sure why he was asked to speak at the event. “When I was asked to be on this panel, I thought to myself, ‘I am the absolute wrong person’ because I am one of those people that has resisted any kind of technology since the PC was first invented. I just signed up for Facebook about 6 months ago,” David explained as he began his portion of the panel. 

Talking to David Viggiano before the Social Media Club Chicago panel

Talking to David Viggiano before the Social Media Club Chicago panel

But as he continued to talk about his experiences with social media, it became apparent that his participation in social media was crucial to not only his own success, but the success of his entire station. “As people probably know, TV news is really suffering right now because people aren’t getting their news from TV; they’re getting it from the Internet. It’s freaking out all of the TV stations across the country and they are trying to find new ways of keeping their viewers,” said David. 

He also outlines one current solution: “Probably you’ve noticed that if you have tuned into a news show recently that you can count numerous times they guide you to their website. I remember about a year and a half ago when they called all the reporters into a meeting and said, ‘Okay, you have to blog.’ Back then it was nothing: we couldn’t put video on, it was just writing.”

Today, there’s been more social media growth at Fox News Chicago. “It’s amazing how far it’s come. Not only have we finally got an up-to-date website, but we have all these offshoots of websites that all of our reporters are a part of. They created one for me called Good Day Extra that we’re still in the process of tweaking. The Good Day Extra website was originally just an entertainment site where I would blog and they would post some of my segments from the show. Now, it’s so important that we get everybody to all of our sites, eventually you’re going to see that my entertainment segment is no longer going to be my entertainment segment, it’s going to be, ‘It’s time for Good Day Extra, with David Viggiano.’ Viewers will be drawn from my segment to the website and to my blog.”

Like so many of us, David is using his blog and site to draw people to his product or service and vis-a-versa.

But his social media involvement doesn’t stop there: “You’ll also notice a lot of the TV reporters and anchors are on Facebook all day long. They are always interactive – they are probably out there right now. I couldn’t believe I got over 600 friends in a month! That’s because there’s a lot of viewers out there. Every single reporter I know is talking to their viewers through Facebook and saying, ‘Hey, watch tonight at nine o’clock. I’m going to be doing this.’ It’s really been an incredible outreach to our viewers and I think meeting that way is really, really important.”

So what’s my point? My point is that David thinks he’s not involved in social media because he is new to it and he’s not on Twitter or some of the other hip sites for social media mavens. I would argue just the opposite: David is a case study of how social media should be used to enhance your outreach to your audience.

My fellow bloggers and I are another example of this. CisionBlog blogger Jay Krall isn’t as involved as I am with LinkedIn, but he has much more experience with social bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious. Our third blogger, Matt Merlin, just started actively tweeting last week, but he monitors dozens of blogs and is active on Facebook. We may not all participate or engage in the same activities, but social media has become a part of each our our everyday lives.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by Twitter, nervous about signing up for Digg or just generally intimated by the social media revolution, never fear. Social media is not some big secret that only a few privilaged gurus truly understand. It’s just a new channel of communication.

So dive in, the water’s warm.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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