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Q & A with a burgeoning social media guru

May 6: Social media boomed in 2009 as the media truly began to embrace Twitter, Facebook and the variety of platforms that now exist. Not only can readers now follow the hottest gossip in the news in real-time, but PR professionals can easily connect and build relationships with the media.

Newsrooms across the country are increasingly adding social media directors to their list of titles. Kris Scott of Texas-based Advocate Magazines is a former reporter who found herself a job doing just that. In an interview with inVocus, Scott talks about how she became a social media guru and the significance it has in present-day media.

KMM: When did you take on the role of social media director? What was the planning behind it?

KS: I took the role on in November 2009. I had worked for Advocate Magazines previously as managing editor and then Web editor. I’d quit to become a stay-at-home mom to two boys, now 4 and 2, and had kept doing some contract work for them, mostly writing for the e-newsletter and editorial design work. I could see the writing on the wall as far as print media is concerned — I’d previously worked for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and had a lot of friends out of work when it was shut down last year. I knew that if I wanted to try to stay marketable, especially given my now-limited role, I’d have to reinvent myself. I approached the Advocate’s publisher about doing some social media stuff for them, and they asked me to put together a proposal. I did that in November and we’ve been testing the social media waters ever since.

KMM: Why did the magazine decide to create this position?

KS: Well, I think for this particular group of five community-based magazines, it was a natural fit. Our readers already feel that we’re very accessible, and this was one way to build on that. Just a few years ago, the magazine was delivered to our readers’ door once a month, and now we can stay in touch with them daily through our blogs, weekly e-newsletters, and our Facebook page and five Twitter accounts. I recently did a podcast with our editors explaining what we’re doing with social media.

KMM: What are your job responsibilities?

KS: I think, like a lot of small companies jumping into the social media ring, we’re still figuring out the best way to use social media and what everyone’s role is. We have a bunch of admins (moderators) on our Facebook page, from our publisher to editors to our advertising sales director (who’s very into social media herself). I do more posting on Facebook than on Twitter, and I do more of the long-term vision kind of stuff, such as trying to figure out how to continue to build our number of fans and followers, how to monetize these platforms, how to do new and interesting things to build our brand and spread our mission of community involvement and story gathering. As a former designer, I also work with our design team to explore what we can do with apps like FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and have recently completed a print house ad campaign that I’m really proud of. Most recently I held Twitter training sessions with our entire ad sales team to familiarize them more with the technology and, really, the whole point of Twitter. We are going to try to involve our print ad clients in Twitter somehow, and I wanted to lessen the unfamiliarity so that the reps would feel comfortable pitching the idea to our clients. In the future, I believe I’ll be working more with our new marketing person on things like contests (we’re doing a Friday Date Night giveaway each week), sweepstakes, etc. We’ll be doing Wine Wednesdays here soon, too, because we have a wine writer with a ton of wine he’s willing to part with. My job can be a lot of fun!

KMM: As print media struggles, do you think social media opens a few more doors for jobs?

KS: Definitely. It will be interesting to see how former journalists reinvent themselves as social media peeps. I’ve already been approached by two other small companies (not media companies) about helping out with their social media. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to do a lot of other projects. But what’s great, I think, is that my potential employer pool has really opened up. I can apply at non-media companies that are recognizing the value of social media, and I think journalists are uniquely equipped at figuring out what works for each company. We are content people, after all.

KMM: How necessary do you think it is for media to start incorporating social media directors into their newsrooms?

KS: Well, based on my limited experience, very necessary. I think it’s a great way to engage your readers/site users on a daily basis. And the great thing about social media is that you really can ENGAGE them. I think all media should be moving toward incorporating some sort of hyperlocal content, and you can’t get more in touch in that sense than by talking to your readers and asking them questions on a regular basis. The parameters and dynamics of the media-to-reader relationship are changing quite dramatically, and social media is an easy and cheap way to explore that relationship.

Kris Scott is the social media director/Web curator for Advocate Magazines, a group of hyperlocal publications covering five distinct Dallas neighborhoods. Previously, she worked at the Advocate as managing editor and Web editor, and was a designer for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. She lives in Dallas with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Betty.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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