Community management in journalism and beyond…

During a perusal of the internet for interesting articles on community management, I came across this excellent post, by Michael Brito, giving three tips for managing a social media community.

Though the post directly deals with commercial community management using social media, all three of its points are relevant to journalism, one way or another.

Obviously, check out the page yourself, but as an overview, the three tips are:

  1. Embed within your community.
  2. Don’t just focus on monetizing.
  3. Don’t just listen, get the community involved.

These three things are all core journalistic principles, and the more we rely on the internet to engage with our communities, the more we must remember not to forget about them.

As I wrote in an earlier post, we are at risk of disappearing behind our computer screens, and these examples, though they are referring to new, social, media, are nothing new. Brito even gives the example of journalists embedding themselves within the military during the Iraq war to illustrate how effective embedding is in getting the most out of your community.

The monetizing issue is important too. The newspaper industry is massively in decline, and as mentioned in my last post, we, as journalists, are increasingly reliant on involving our community in order to maintain an interest in what we write, and thus some kind of income. What is interesting about Brito’s advice, is that he outlines the importance of avoiding one-way marketing messages directed at the community, and the fact that a long-term community strategy that builds trust is a far better way to gain revenue. In this sense, was The Times right to put a ‘paywall’ over its online content? Will this reinforce the niche community or alienate it?

Finally, the listening/ involvement dichotomy, is quite the bone of contention among news organisations, and a whole new issue. Fellow City University student Emily Fairbairn wrote a great piece about the difference between The Guardian‘s web interactivity and the Daily Mail‘s, with the former using more involvement, and the latter simply allowing comments. Emily pointed out that both sites have their pros and cons, and therefore that it is hard to make a rule set in stone on how to involve your community on a newspaper website, as supposed to any other creative venture.

The overriding theme that runs through Brito’s advice is that of trust – again, one of journalism’s absolute core principles. The point of building a community in journalism is to create a trusting relationship with members in order to achieve a journalistic objective, which is most likely writing better stories.

Again, this is nothing new, and as long as we don’t forget this, social media can open a million doors for any budding journalist.

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