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22. Building your social network presence

Web media can’t afford to do without social networks, as they’re the sharing platforms web users spend the most time on. How should your build your presence on your networks? Should you moderate them ? Should you define an editorial line ?

Which networks ?

If you’re asking yourself about social networks presence, you’ve already got the answer. It’s just not possible these days for a media not to be on Facebook or Twitter. That’s the place where you meet your audience. Even better: the place where you get close to web users that constitute your community. In the USA, some media such as Rockvillecentral.com have tried completely moving to Facebook, because most of their readers where coming from this website. An inconvenient : you lose control of content produced in such a space as all data (text, pictures, videos, photos) belong to Facebook. Therefore the newspaper went back in time, because it didn’t validate a proper business model.

At the very least a media should :

  • Have an official Facebook page and a Twitter account
  • Publish on this page its relevant content
  • Publish online large extracts of this content

The key is to publish content on networks at regular intervals (watch out for overcrowding) and without being omnipresent, because you’re invading the web users’ semi-personal space. They’ve accepted to “follow” you or to “friend” you – they might as well defriend or unfollow you.

Defining an editorial line

After ignoring them for quite a while, major media are nowadays writing guidelines, directives, or even guides, such as the AFP’s. Some forbid journalists from twitting news, others recommend being wary or distanciation, thanks to the formula “I am the only person accountable for these tweets”. Anyway this awareness has given birth to a true debate about the use of social networks by media aiming to gain recognition. That’s good news.

Moderation

Unlike for the comments written on your websites, editors are not accountable for those written on social networks. In the law, social networks are regarded as phone cords: there is no way to take them to court. But French law recognizes editor responsibility if he has gotten involved. For example if he has answered comments falling under the law.

In a nutshell, it’s better not to moderate comment threads on social networks. However it’s a good idea to answer questions or criticisms by your readers. This is part of social networks communication, of the emotional link between a media and its audience.

 Managing streams

Ideally any intervention on social network should be manual and personalized. In reality it’s not always possible : lack of time, of inspiration, of know-how… Articles republications can be automated. However it’s capital to keep an eye on these places, as the web’s viral capacity is as useful a lever as it is fast.