Up the Boro! Tapping into the fans’ mood on Twitter

This is my new favourite thing, courtesy of the @GazetteBoro team in Middlesbrough (disclosure: yep, they’re part of Trinity Mirror Regionals, like me).

The gif (you might need to click to activate) is a simple, neat idea, and really summed up the how fans feel about being up in the rarified atmosphere of the top of the table.

Lots of great engagement too. Just goes to show, you don’t need to break the internet to be awesome sometimes.

The how and why of Twitter lurking


It looks like there’s an interesting new paper out on social media use. I can’t be entirely sure because, y’know, academic paywalls, but when I saw this, I had to know a bit more…

The abstract is here, but on the whole it’s less exciting than the tweet: ‘TWEET OR BE SACKED’ is a good headline.

It struck a note with me as I spoke at the WAN IFRA International News Summit this week, about overcoming blockers in newsroom culture change. (My slides are at the end of this post and Julie Posetti‘s overview of the main takeaways is here)

I only touched briefly on the place social media has in changing newsroom culture, but two points seemed to strike a chord with the audience:

1. A strong social media presence for a journalist should be expected, not requested

2. Social media is our judge and jury and we should not only conduct ourselves accordingly, but be prepared for all outcomes.

With regards to point 1, the recent furore about whether NYT executives tweeted or not was valid – they should be tweeting; in my view they need to lead by example. Also if these people don’t have interesting news and views to discuss and share, the Times needs to take another look at its recruitment policy.

Point 2 was made for (hopefully) editorial leaders to take on board, because if you’re in charge of a mainstream media team you have to know what people are saying about you and your title. In fact, you should be a committed Twitter Lurker.

You might not always tweet a lot; there are times when newsroom managers would no doubt quite like to tweet about work-elated events but discretion proves the better part of valour. Nevertheless, even when you’re not active on Twitter, you should be actively consuming Twitter.

Editorial leaders really have be plugged into the conversation at a deep level, knowing what people are saying about them or their brand, and ready to respond or advise on a response, if need be.

My view is, if I heard someone in the pub sharing untrue information about a title I edited, I’d step in and correct them. It’s no different on Twitter – put people straight on inaccuracies, answer questions when they don’t expect an answer – and with a few straightforward tools you can make your brand the omnipotent voice you like to think it is.

It’s not hard to be a good Twitter Lurker, and you don’t need to be especially adept either. So, some things I’d say are useful for editorial leaders…

1. Be an admin: Your brand’s Twitter account is run by people you trust, obviously, and asking to be an admin isn’t undermining what they do. But social is a publishing platform with, ultimately, your name on the deeds if something goes terribly wrong. You should also be able to access the back end – although you may never need to. Know the Twitter login details so you can tweet as your brand if need be.

2. Put your brand’s tweets and @mentions in a Tweetdeck column, so you can see what people are responding to, or a-ing you about. Basic, but it’s very easy to quickly pick up on what story has really clicked with your audience, whether your account is more about broadcast than conversation, or how well it responds to a burgeoning Twitterstorm. A good social media editor can head a spat off with a few polite tweets and a 🙂 It’s an art form.

3. Set up and save Twitter searches around your brand, and your company. Not the @-names but the full text – ‘Nowhere Times’, not @nowwheretimes – and monitor it for conversations where you are being talked about but not talked to. I enjoy a good subtweet as much as the next person, but if you’re a councillor opting to sneakily spread misinformation, you shouldn’t get away with it. (This is the perfect riposte for a snarky mayor, btw)…

  4. Use private Twitter lists. You might not want to follow people who continually talk down you/your brand, but you do want to know what they are saying about it/you. So… set up a private Twitter list (call it something really satisfying too) and add them too it. They will have no idea and you can always keep on top of their misinformation. People who call the Liverpool Echo the Oldham Echo,  tend to get a tweet off me with its Old Hall Street address – anorak-y but hugely satisfying.

5. If someone does want to get into it online, ask yourself a few questions before responding. Are they simply grandstanding? (Generally, they don’t want a response, they want a reaction) What are their follower numbers like? Are they an egg? If they don’t even have an avatar, they aren’t usually that active or followed.   Does their tweet make any sense or are they swearing? (I won’t talk to you on the phone if you swear at me, I’m not making an exception in digital life) Are they agent provocateurs? (if their Twitter stream comprises complaints, whinges and attacks then there’s a good chance they just enjoy annoying people)

There are, of course, lots of options for monitoring conversations – IFTTT.com is one of my favourite online helpers, and a host of new Twitter trackers have recently been created.

My WAN-IFRA slides from the Changing Newsroom Culture session

Social media is humanising – it’s how we use it that can dehumanise

Discussions of what is and isn’t acceptable for publishing on social media (specifically Twitter and YouTube in current debates) are occupying much of my timeline.

Articles written around the role social media played in disseminating images and messages following journalist James Foley‘s murder will abound and I wasn’t intending to add to the noise, but then a couple of things happened: First, Mathew Ingram’s tweeted question made me consider my personal view, and where that view fitted in the expanding horizon of content publishing and distribution.

Most respondents indicated these platforms shouldn’t remove it (Mathew’s conclusions from the debate are here). I suspect our views are actually moot; removing such content from the internet is an exercise in futility – these images aren’t expunged, they simply slide down through the strata of the web to darker layers, or become downloaded shared content, and so viewers gain an extra frisson and the pedlars weird exclusivity-linked kudos.

When Ken Bigley was beheaded in 2004, the videos were removed by YouTube but you could buy a DVD  of the killing – should your tastes run that way – at a Liverpool street market. So YouTube did revoke publication rights but a secondary distribution market had already sprung up.  Ten years on, the options for alternative online distribution platforms are far greater, and harder to control.

The ability to view something isn’t really the same as wanting to view it. I know I could find and footage of James Foley kneeling and dying alone in the desert but I don’t intend to seek it out. I haven’t clicked any links that looked likely to lead to it, and although I believe there were gifs they weren’t in my Twitter feed or in my hashtag columns. Twitter is considering removing the images in deference to his family’s wishes, although I imagine that won’t stop them being searchable and shareable elsewhere.

The second thing that happened was a world away from the horrors of a young man’s murder, although it was a photo someone retweeted into my timeline. It was utterly innocuous but made me consider how censorship via the removal of content had influenced me.  It was a photo of Gerry Adams and a goat.

When I was a child, Gerry Adams was judged to be allied with a cause so dangerous UK TV viewers and radio listeners could not even hear his own voice being broadcast, thanks to a government ban. Instead, an actor spoke his words. Today he publishes selfies and uses myriad broadcast and distribution channels (not least an autobiography). The internet would never suffer such a restriction to hold  now and, that is a positive development.

Media companies make daily decisions around in-house and external codes of ethics and conduct, not to mention legal restraints and what the audience reaction might be. Twitter and YouTube are platforms that host content; they don’t create, own and distribute that content, users self-publish. Journalists rail at Google when it removes articles in accordance with the Right To be Forgotten ruling but I can see parallels with YouTube withdrawing a user’s content that is being re-published and distributed across myriad networks.

Taking away someone’s actual voice is a powerful insinuation that we need protection from them, and it made a powerful impression on me as a child. Skip forward a few decades and the world is quite a different place –  I know Adams doesn’t speak with Received Pronunciation, for a start, and he is considered the architect of the Peace Process. But until today I had never thought of him as a man likely to take a selfie with a goat.  Social media is actually very humanising; it’s how we use it that can dehumanise.

Later… 

The Guardian’s James Ball sums it up better than me: “Before clicking, serious self-examination is required: why do you want to see this? Do you need to see it to understand something important? Still deeper self-examination should certainly be engaged before even contemplating sharing such material.” I recommennd reading his article in full