News

The science of social media

The Sun in the U.K. recently announced that it will soon open up a new social media department, with six staff positions dedicated to the upkeep of all media updates.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | November 18, 2013

Journalism.co.uk reports that according to Editor David Dinsmore, The Sun will also add a social media editor position to “develop and implement a social media strategy… and ensure that as a brand we are the best in class in the social space.”

This announcement coincides with a recent study published on the NiemanLab website by Sonya Song that delves into the world of social media journalism and uncovers what makes or breaks a post.

Song, a Knight-Mozilla Fellow at The Boston Globe, found that most people on social media are thinking in their “fast mode” — quickly scanning through posts without analyzing at any profound level. In this state of mind, social media experts can catch their attention with big pictures and caps lock headlines.

Writers should also keep it short and simple when appealing to this mentality since these readers are turned off by dense materials.

Song tells journalists not to fear, however, “Here comes the exciting news for journalists. More complex text was correlated with more comments.”

While big flashy headlines may get more immediate superficial attention, more in-depth articles tend to get the best feedback, in terms of commenting. By combining both, newspapers can use social media to reach a vast amount of people, and get them engaged in the discussion.

Social media clearly has evolved and Song shows that news organisations can no longer effectively run their social media outlets simply by tweeting a link to every story. It will be interesting to watch how social media use by publishers will continue to evolve as more publishers create teams dedicated to working with these platforms as The Sun is doing.