Examples of Social Media for a College Journalism Class

My friend Zeninjor Enwemeka, the homepage producer at Boston.com, is now teaching a journalism class at Boston University. Professor Enwemeka recently invited me to speak to her class about social media.

Here’s the collection of links and examples I used in class. (And here’s another collection of links from a two week high school workshop I did in Singapore).

I started my talk by asking students who checked Facebook this morning. All of them raised their hands.

Most college students today will sooner check their Facebook page than visit a news website. News organizations care about social media because that’s where people get their information. A huge percentage of web traffic to news websites comes through social media. That’s why you see the Huffington Post plastered with share tools, @ColonelTribune delivering the news straight into your feed, or Newsweek leading the charge on Tumblr.

Now let’s jump into the examples I used:

News Organizations Using Social Media To Gather Sources and Get Feedback

RedEye’s Tracy Swartz is one of the most social media savvy reporters I know — she covers the Chicago CTA and has established her Twitter feed as a place for folks to tweet in CTA news. She leverages Twitter to help find out information from her followers (really necessary when you’re covering an entire transit system), but that doesn’t mean she’s not on the ground doing solid reporting, either.

If you follow NPR’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that they frequently seek out sources and encourage participation from the community.

I love Slate’s Political Gabfest and the gabbers actually hop on the Facebook page to post every once in a while. And they’ll refer to what the Facebook commenters are saying during the podcast. The one time I emailed John Dickerson, he actually wrote me back (I was shocked). I’ve rarely seen this engagement with a community so I give them mad props for caring about their readers.

News Organizations Using Social Media To Tell The Story

One of the most powerful displays of crowd-sourcing I have ever seen, the NYT asks its readers, “Where were you on Sept. 11, 2011?” Zooming in on Manhattan, you can hover over the dots and read each 1 sentence quote. The immense quantity of stories and emotion is what makes this powerful, and this could not have been replicated with traditional reporting.

I use this following example in every talk I give because I found it so incredibly inspirational. From 2005, before YouTube, before Twitter, before Facebook is what it is today, Jonathan Harris took the temperature of the blogosphere and told the story of what people were feeling by seeking out the word, “I feel,” and visualizing it in We Feel Fine.

Without having to wait for agents or PR flaks to get back to them, the NYT was able to report on celebs’ reactions to Whitney’s death through Twitter.

And, here’s a hilarious example — The Onion using Twitter to capture the “breaking news” of a high schooler who will “begin putting out.” They sent out tweets throughout the day, and then captured the unfolding of events on Storify (scroll to the bottom).

Brands Using Social Media As Marketing

I’ve been very impressed with the work of Helen Cho, the social media brains behind No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. They not only plaster their Twitter handle all over the TV show, so that you’ll live tweet with them @NoReservations, but they’ve also done things like host live webcasts on Facebook with Mr. Bourdain. It’s smart, real, and different. And, it doesn’t come off as marketing because they’re hawking what people want — access to celebrity.

The Super Bowl Ads. I used this adorable Super Bowl ad to point out that marketers are throwing their weight behind social media. Because in this ad, instead of closing with the URL of their website, it closes with facebook.com/budlight. The folks at Bud Light don’t want you to visit their URL, because, what good do they get out of that? They want you to visit their Facebook page, click “like,” and tell all your friends that you drink Bud Light.

Another TV show that has been absolutely plastered with hashtags is NBC’s new TV show, The Voice. They encourage their viewers to live tweet the show like a live event, and to follow their social media correspondent. Why? Because the more you interact with the show, the more your broadcast to your friends that you’re watching it.

Tools to Check Out

Mashable — Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they cover social media
Google Alerts — Track what people are saying about you.
Hootsuite — Schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts.
Google Analytics — See who is visiting your website, and where they’re coming from. Storify — Build a story using social media.
Instagram — The hottest photo app on the iPhone, built to share.
Pinterest — The fast-rising social media darling startup.
MailChimp — Capture your readers for good, ping ‘em when you have new posts up.
OfferPop — Host social media campaigns at an affordable price.
Ifttt — One of the most powerful cross-platform tools I’ve used.

Thinking Ahead: Interesting Concepts

Rapportive — Useful stalking without needing to stalk.
Indoor Google Maps — If you think location-based reporting is important now, think again.
Museum of Me — Intel used Facebook to generate a story about YOU. Now think about how news sites can use this.
Manifest AR, Augmented Reality — Think about how this stuff can change sports reporting in the future.

I hope you find these helpful. Feel free to share any other examples you think could be illustrative for college students.