The debate over how news publishers should use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook continues to rage on and, knowing this industry, it will probably never die (seriously, if it were left to journalists, we’d still be debating the merits of the flat-earth theory).
The latest debate about news publishers on social media is all about who should get news first, Twitter or your editor. The clear answer? Both.
News organizations want to publish news on the website first and drive traffic back to the website. They want the information to go through a traditional editorial hierarchy before they hit publish on any information. We get that. JSB is, after all, nothing if not a pageview-hungry news blog.
Here’s the thing though: news organizations don’t control breaking news. The news is out there, and it’s going to spread through regular social media users. That’s just how it works.
Breaking news should be sent to any news publisher’s social media editor first and distributed from there. That means another set of eyeballs on any social media message, and the breaking news (with your news organization getting credit) gets out quickly.
But we have heard that social media shouldn’t get that breaking news first, the news needs to be on the news organization’s website before anything goes out on social media. More traffic = more advertising $$$, and you don’t get any money from having a billion social media followers. Except, of course, when you do.
But you get more new social media followers when you post exclusive news on those platforms than if you were to wait to publish on your site. And social media followers are worth a lot more than a lowly page view or unique visitor. A hell of a lot more.
The reason is simple: a social media user who follows you on Twitter or likes you on Facebook is making a commitment to your news organization. They don’t just come to your website to visit once and disappear into the dark void of the Internet. They will be back many times, and the more often you post interesting, relevant and exclusive information on your social media pages, the more often that user will be back to visit your actual site.
Even if they don’t go to the actual site this time, they might mention they saw some news on your social media page, retweet or share that information directly.
Most traffic any news site gets comes from someone who never visits that site again. You can see this with JSB’s stats. We have gotten nearly three thousand unique visitors in the last month, but 81 percent of them were only on the site once.
Yet we have a Twitter feed with more than 1,600 followers that gets retweeted and favorited and @ mentioned all the time. It even gets Maneater coverage! The Facebook page itself is good for almost another 600 fans.
We post stuff all the time on the Twitter feed in particular that never makes it onto the site because we want to be part of the conversation as often as possible. Even if we don’t have a link back to our site to offer, we still want you to see our content and have a chance to share that new information or insight.
Traditional news organizations seem to be going in the opposite direction, with Sky News going so far as to say its employees can’t tweet out links to its competitors. Slate’s Twitter may be the the perfect example of what works on Twitter, a mix of links to its own site and outside news organizations, all from that
knee-jerk distinctive contrarian insight we have come to expect from Slate.
Publish or perish, folks. Even if there’s no link back to your site, your news organization will benefit in the long run for dedicated, and more importantly, repeat readers.