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Want to Engage Reporters? Understand How They Use Social

This post is an excerpt from our State of the Media Report 2014.

As social media becomes more and more ubiquitous, the way reporters and journalists use it evolves. The key to driving publicity results is to stay ahead of the trends.

In our Vocus State of the Media Survey, we asked journalists across media about how they use social media. In a random sampling of media professionals working at magazines, newspapers, online outlets, television, radio or blogs, 256 responded. Out of that number, 53.4 percent cover local/community news, 39.4 percent cover regional news, and 43 percent cover national news.

State of the Media - Reporters and Social

Journalists tend to use social media for all tasks, including promotion, research and engaging with their audience; some use it solely for content promotion.

There’s a lot of bang for a TV journalist’s buck by interacting on social media. It makes viewers feel they are part of the process and in turn, makes them more likely to watch or at least turn to that outlet for information,” said Julie Holley, the Vocus Media Research Team’s TV expert. “By promoting themselves and their station, journalists are gaining further access to stories, people and ideas.”

Social media is highly relevant to journalists when reporting, with 50 percent saying they use it very frequently and 26.7 percent saying they use it frequently. Only a small percentage—1.9 percent—claimed to never use social media for reporting at all.

State of the Media - Social Media and Reporting

As in 2012, Twitter and Facebook are the top networks used by media professionals for content promotion, with 87.3 percent using Twitter and 78.5 percent saying they use Facebook. The two networks were followed by LinkedIn at 25.8 percent and Google+ with 18.5 percent. In 2012, YouTube came in third, but is now fifth.

State of the Media - Social Media Platforms UsedWhen it comes to using social media for research only 21.7 percent found it extremely useful, while 24.3 percent found it very useful. On the flip side, only 8 percent found it not useful at all.

“Research probably explains why LinkedIn is so popular as a social network for journalists,” said Tayne Kim, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “It ranks just behind Twitter and Facebook. Of the big three, only LinkedIn can claim that it is the social network for professionals. Those who may operate under a clever pseudonym on Twitter or even Facebook will likely have more straightforward content posted to LinkedIn.”

When it comes to how useful journalists found social media for content promotion, 42.6 percent said it was extremely useful, while 27.2 percent said they found it very useful.

 “The general consensus is that social media can be a useful tool, but it’s still too early to say because there are no standards, and the credibility of what’s there can be dubious,” said Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. “It depends on the audience you’re trying to reach, but it can be good for promotion and discussion. It’s all in how you use it.”

State of the Media - Social Media for Promotion

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The survey indicated journalists believe information found on social media somewhat trustworthy. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least trustworthy and 10 being very trustworthy, the plurality of respondents—27.2 percent—gave information they got from social media a rating of 5, followed by 18.7 percent, who gave it a rating of 7. 

State of the Media - Social Media Trustworthiness

Some reporters call social media ‘essential to the job’ and others call it ‘a must,’” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content for the Vocus Media Research Group. “And yet some still call it useless. The opinions vary on where social media stands in the newspaper business, but one thing is certain: It is changing the way things are looked at.”

Respondents found the most frequent way they received social media pitches was through Facebook (77 percent), with Twitter a close second (73 percent), and 34.7 percent of respondents said they had been pitched through LinkedIn.

The survey found that the plurality of respondents—45.3 percent—preferred not to be pitched through social media. Of the reporters who would receive pitches via social media, 37.1 preferred Facebook, and 30.6 percent preferred Twitter.

It’s clear social media is increasingly being embraced by journalists, although email is still the preferred method to receive pitches. Similar to last year’s response of 89 percent, 90.7 percent of respondents said they still prefer to be pitched by email, while only 2.7 percent chose social media as their top preference.

State of the Media - Prefered pitches

“Although journalists across the board overwhelmingly say they’d rather be pitched by email, they are becoming increasingly open to receiving pitches through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter,” Holley said. “But tread carefully, because email is still the preferred method.”

Image: Kathleen Deggelman (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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