CAMP 2017: Social Media for Newsrooms: Not as easy as it sounds

Story by Nesima Aberra, 2017 JAWS Fellow | Photo by Andrea Crowley-Hughes, JAWS Communication Manager

For anyone who thinks managing social media in a newsroom simply entails tweeting or posting a story link on Facebook, think again. According to Renee Ernst, producer of social publishing at CNN, it means being a gatekeeper of breaking news with an extreme amount of responsibility.

Renee got her start with social media as a web producer at the Bergen Record in New Jersey. She was instrumental in convincing the Record to break the “Bridgegate” story on Facebook. The decision earned them millions of views on the video. In her session on Social Media for Daily Newsrooms at Journalism and Women Symposium’s CAMP 2017, she gave a behind-the-scenes look at how social media works at CNN, best practices for engaging posts and how to measure success.

Her top takeways:
Social Media Platforms to Use

  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat are the most important platforms, because they are most commonly used and also provide analytics of your performance
  • Facebook Messenger, Line, Kik and Whatsapp can be used to reach specific audiences and share personalized story roundups through messenger apps. Renee said readers will read the stories on CNN’s Messenger chatbot because “When you get a Facebook message you feel like you’re in the know.”

Analytics Tools

  • Chartbeat and are dashboards that show how well stories are doing on your website and on social media with real-time data on engagement, page views and read time.
  • Crowdtangle is a tool that shows real-time performance on website and social media against your competitive outlets
  • Native is an A/B testing tool that allows you to test out different headlines and images to a select audience to see what’s most engaging before publishing the final version

Best Practices

  • CNN’s social team asks these questions to determine what’s good enough to share:
    • Is this news?
    • Is this informing my audience?
    • Is it something they need to know?
    • Does it follow the rules of objectivity?
    • Is it balanced?

Key elements of a good post

  • The most important part is a strong headline.
  • A subheading should support the headline with a statistic or pull quote.
  • Use a high-resolution image that fits 16 x 9 dimensions, so there are no black bars on the side.
  • Get rid of the link description because most mobile users don’t even see it.
  • Videos should be squared, with short and clean captions because most listen without audio.
  • It’s a good practice to respond to reader comments if you have the capacity.

Getting your content read

  • Facebook algorithms change all the time, but most content gets buried in people’s news feed.  Paying to boost posts will increase their reach.
  • On Twitter, use hashtags and trending topics to generate discussions.The best times generally are middle of the day, middle of the week, Monday and Friday.