The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, which is the primary newspaper that serves Livingston County (and is my hometown newspaper!), has limited social media presence.
The social media profiles that it operates include:
- Its website, which includes comments and forum space on each article.
- Its Facebook profile.
- Its Facebook page (also known as a fan page or business page).
- Its Twitter account.
Even though these profiles exist, they are not being put to optimal use.
For one, the Facebook profile violates Facebook’s Terms of Service – businesses are not permitted to have personal profiles, though they are permitted to have pages (which the LCP does have). The profile should be used to invite LCP’s “friends” to the LCP page and then be immediately deleted.
The company has put its Facebook page to fairly good use – it is used to post descriptions and links to many of the stories posted on the website. Many of these posts include questions to fans/readers as they pertain to the articles. The company also posts notices like tornado watches or asks users to post or email photos of storm damage.
Only a few people “like” the posts and the posts tend to get only 0-2 comments; typically, they get no comments.
There is no dialogue on the Facebook page; when the LCP poses questions, they are posed blindly as if to a faceless audience. There is no evidence (that I can see) of the LCP responding to users’ comments or answering questions (and because of this, no questions are asked of the LCP in return).
I understand that social media can be a tricky arena for newspapers – they’re supposed to be objective, and they don’t exist to “win” people over to buy a product or give a positive review of a product. I understand that the social media strategies between regular businesses and newspaper publications differ in some ways.
However, it would benefit the LCP tremendously if it were to show its audience that it IS listening to their views and comments. All it has to do is respond back.
Right now, its audience can see in an instant that it’s still propagating the one-to-many broadcast model of mass communication. The LCP is not utilizing the unique property of social media that differentiates it between old media like print newspaper, TV and radio. The value of social media are that they give others the ability to talk back with businesses, brands and similar entities.
Why should the LCP – as a newspaper whose main purpose is to provide information, not kowtow to others’ egos – care about responding to its audience?
Sources, of course!
People know a lot. People like to talk. That’s not new. People also like to talk online – a lot. That’s a given. But the thing is, many newspapers, the LCP included, may not be doing enough to take advantage of the overwhelming amount of information and sources that exist online.
The LCP just needs to filter them.
Monitor their conversations for what they’re interested in, what events are happening in the community that (so far) have been unreported, and use social media to look for sources in their audience or ask them if they know any sources on a particular issue or event. And don’t just wait for them to come find you to give you a tip – for God’s sake, just ask them!
Regularly ask them about what news is happening in the community and what they’re wondering about and want answers to. Ask about their lives, their neighbors, schools, places of worship. Ask them who is doing amazing things in the community – the LCP could find great people to profile this way.
I did notice the the LCP’s Facebook profile (the one that is violating Facebook’s TOS) has been used (inconsistently) to send out requests for sources. This is a great start! Now they just need to do this on the proper Facebook page – and do it more often.
Once their audience realizes that the LCP is actually listening to what they say, people will trust the LCP more as a news source and as someone that will pick up on their news tips – and they’ll come to the LCP for these things more often.
In addition to monitoring its audience on its “own” turf, the LCP needs to monitor them on other turfs.
In HootSuite, the LCP should set up several streams to monitor news in the community. The streams should include the search terms:
- livingstondaily, Livingston Daily, Livingston Press
- Howell, Brighton, Hartland, Hamburg, Hell, Pinckney, Fowlerville, Cohoctah, Unadilla, Deerfield, Marion, Tyrone, etc. [the cities and townships in the county]
(NOTE: Some streams, such as Howell and Brighton, will be very difficult to monitor, as “Howell” is a common city name and last name and “Brighton” is also a large city in the U.K. The LCP might do well to search for more specific phrases, such as “Howell Highlanders, “Howell High School,” “Howell Schools,” “Howell, MI” and “Brighton Bulldogs,” etc.)
It should also follow:
- @Michigannews, @MLive, @Freep, @LSJNews, etc.
- @DownTownHowell, @LivingstonTalk, @CityofHowell, @HowellRecAuth, @HowellLibrary, @HowellChamber, @AHARHowell, @LivCountySports, etc.
Those on the last list should not only be followed, but should also be entered as search terms in streams so the LCP will not only see what these entities are saying, but also what is being said by others about these entities.
The LCP should also set up Google Alerts for some of its cities and townships so that news about these communities from other media outlets, forums, etc. may be found.
It would also be a great idea to choose (and promote) the use of a specific hashtag for those who live in the county. For example, something like: #livingstonlife, #inlivingston, #livingstonMI, #lovelivingston, etc. – or even just #livingstondaily.
The idea is to promote something that will be widely-used in the community, like the successful #lovelansing hashtag for Lansing, Mich. If the hashtag is promoted well enough, it will make it much easier for the LCP to monitor its audience.