The use of mobile devices and social media for reporting is no longer a novelty. Some journalism educators teach mobile reporting skills by integrating them into existing courses. A few, including myself, have developed courses dedicated solely to this topic.
At the 2015 Broadcast Education Association convention in Las Vegas, I discussed my experience creating Mobile and Social Media Journalism at Ithaca College. During the panel, 10 Things You Should Teach About Mobile, I shared three tips. View slides and other information from the panel.
My Tips for Teaching Mobile Journalism
The Digital-First Story Pitch: “Digital first” used to mean “website first.” A digital-first approach nowadays requires journalists to share information to social and mobile platforms first, particularly during breaking news situations. A news outlet’s website is important, of course, but it is increasingly becoming the secondary spot to publish information.
How do you capture this in the classroom? During story pitch meetings, encourage students to explain how they will use social media in three main ways: newsgathering, disseminating information, and engaging the audience. Since leaving the TV news business, I have spent time back in newsroom as part of my research on social media and journalism. My study, A Digital Juggling Act, found that these are the three areas in which social media is impacting journalists’ job responsibilities.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: Any journalist will tell you that honing reporting skills comes from years of practice. Repetition is key in the classroom as well. In my class, students produce bi-weekly stories using iPad minis. Each story must contain a 550-600 written portion, a photo gallery, and a 1-1:30 minute video (using the iMovie app). While covering a story, students must complete a to-do list of social media tasks. A typical to-do list contains video teases and a certain number of engaging tweets. We experiment with the Videolicious and Vine apps for teases.
Even though students are digital natives, I’ve found many do not yet know how to use social media in journalistic ways. The to-do lists give them an organized and strategic approach to using social media while reporting. I introduce them early in the semester to Social Media Optimization (SMO), which is showing up more and more in job descriptions. A tweet that is properly social media optimized, for example, will include @mentions, hashtags, and visuals — items that will lead to increased engagement.
Is It Working? Analytics: At the end of the semester, my students give short presentations analyzing their social media activity throughout the course. Students must include a discussion of their analytics from Twitter, Facebook Insights, and WordPress. I provide them with a weekly guide that helps them keep track of key metrics. The goal is for them to learn how to use analytics tools to monitor and analyze the effectiveness of social media activity, and determine the type of content that leads to increased engagement.
The main questions: Which posts received the most engagement (retweets, favorites, clicks, and replies)? What’s unique about those particular tweets? In addition, I have students analyze where traffic to their WordPress websites comes from. Students notice that when their social media activity is consistent and SMO tactics are used, they receive the most traffic to the stories posted on their websites. Just as new outlets are learning, social media activity is a key driver to websites and the overall brand.