One area that I have noticed where social media has had a very surprising impact is on the news business. More and more journalists are using twitter in particular, to move a story forward or to get those involved or impacted by a story, to respond. That response is coming in the form of twitter and Facebook and it usually involved information updates or interview requests. News and current affairs programs are using twitter and Facebook to promo upcoming, to get viewer comments, to open up dialogues, and to use as a follow-up once a story or item has aired.
A few weeks ago when the television program where I am currently employed, was not covering luggage delays by Porter Airlines, (a story which was not published in any daily papers), a viewer sent us a message on Facebook and suggested we look into the matter. As a result we went to the Porter Airlines Facebook page and saw over 800 comments within a 24 hour period by travelers expressing outrage over delayed and lost luggage as well as delayed and cancelled passenger flights. We immediately followed up with this story and interviewed a spokesperson from Porter Airlines about holiday travel which included information that was of particular interest to our viewers. This is a classic example of how social media led traditional media to a story and once the interview aired on television it was posted back on the Facebook page where the initial advisory was launched. A couple of years ago this would not have occurred, however it is becoming more and more common. Social media is being used for solicitations for news stories, contests, audience participation and in turn, stories are posted to online sites in the hopes of attracting more viewers or at the very least, more buzz about the show.
Social media is also used as a selling point when trying to attract potential investment in the product. Sales representatives are using the companies social media activity as a way to get a client to invest with their company by putting a value on the number of followers who will be reached through investments. This social media includes tweets, Facebook and links to the home web page. As well more traditional media are constantly asking their viewers to tweet or respond via the media outlets homepage to questions about a particular story as a way of engaging the audience during the newscast. And when possible, these same outlets are reading tweets if their on air broadcasts allow for this immediate viewer engagement. The kind of viewer engagement is a direct response to the role of social media in the traditional media platform.
Journalists and presenters are being asked to tweet regularly depending on their story and on air reporting requirements. These tweets are to both promo their story/interview and use pictures when possible. In turn the broadcast will re-tweet this activity to broaden the reach of the original tweet. Producers are asked to do the same and links to stories are posted on twitter, Facebook and you tube accounts to attract as many hits as possible.
I think the question now is how to continue with this trend of social media in terms of its impact on traditional news media. Will social media have more input in terms of the kinds of stories traditional media covers and how will this role evolve during big news events such as election campaigns and natural disasters in terms of where the audience ultimately will find the most engagement and spend more of their time. How will traditional media best respond to the potential impact social media will have on news coverage as that response may very will impact on any potential audience growth and revenue source for the traditional media outlet.