Tag Archives: Social network

Ivory tower dispatch: Social networks are personal

Get off my land

Over the last semester I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the use of social networks; how and why they might be useful/important/problematic to journalists. But over the months I’ve been hearing an increasingly common complaint from students. The gist of the complaints is something like this:

Stop telling us to use social networks. What we do with social networks is up to us.

The implication is that social networks are personal and not up for grabs as part of the syllabus. Us telling them what to do with their social network would be like us telling them who they could be friends with or what to where. Butt out of our personal lives!

I had to think a little about whether I actually was telling people to use social networks and, reflecting on it, I have to say that yes I was. A bit.

I was telling people that they should sign-up and explore things like Facebook and Twitter because I felt that they were important things to experience and understand as journalists and not just as users. But what I’ve never done is say that people must use their own social networks for that.

In fact I’ve made a lot this year of how you might separate the two things; How important it is that when you do use social networks as a journalist, you do think about how much of you (as your personal social networks represent you at least) you want to see. That might mean, for example, creating a new Gmail account and using that to build new accounts that are ‘work’ related.

The response to that is often, I don’t want another account to manage. Which I find quite an odd thing as it kind of suggest that because you use Facebook to manage your social life you’ll never be able to use it as a journalist  What a missed opportunity!

Person or professional? 

For me, understanding the line between personal and professional is really important when it comes to social media and journalism. There have been numerous examples of people falling foul of social media searching at job interview. And things don’t get easier once you have the job. Stories of journalists coming in to conflict with their masters over social media use are increasingly common. But, thinking about it, maybe there is a case for intruding a little on students personal social media habits.

It’s not just the old standard of employment if you saw you on Facebook, would you give you a job? I sense an increase in the numbers of people finding the content of their personal accounts putting them in a legal (and often moral) line of fire. So in this post-Leveson world where, journalists are having to aspire to higher moral and ethical standards than the audience, isn’t it fair to say that the personal is also up for scrutiny?

OK, in reality, that’s a line I wouldn’t cross. I’m not going to demand to see (and grade) students social media output to assess professionalism. What students do in the privacy of their own social media world is up to them – at least I hope they have thought about the distinction between private and public!  But the idea that this means I can’t talk to them about and yes, maybe make them, temporarily at least, sign-up for Twitter or Facebook is not something I can buy in to. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the developing norm is that social media isn’t where journalism should be. Maybe we should all just be people. Maybe social media is now ‘another country’ where different rules apply.

What do you think? Am I getting old? Just not getting it?

Picture: Nic Walker on Flickr

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Social media for journalists is like The Generation game

This week (as a earlier post suggests) I’ve been kicking off teaching with a look at social media and how journos can use it to create a presence. That presence isn’t just about promotion, it’s about connection. It’s about putting your virtual self in front of the audience and the stream of content they produce.

That got me thinking about The generation game.

For those who don’t know it, The Generation game was a UK game show that started in 1971 and ran, on and off, till 2002. It’s big finish was the conveyor belt game. The contestant would be sat in front of a conveyor belt loaded with consumer goods (and a cuddly toy) which they would have to remember. Then they would have a minute to try to recall all the items. Whatever they remembered they kept.

The whole thing struck me as an interesting analogy of the process of managing information for journalists and how it has changed.

In journalism terms the old solution to the game would be to take notes (in shorthand) of what went past. The digital solution would be to subscribe to the RSS feed of the conveyor belt and filter it later on. Job done. Walk away with the booty.

But now the whole thing is more like the end of the game.

When the contestant sits down they get a bit of time to consider the content but then the audience begins to shout. And shout. And shout. It’s noisy. Often helpful but more often than not the helpful stuff is drowned out by repetition and distraction.

The conveyor of news

The proliferation of places where you might find yourself in front of a virtual audience is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Social networks make it easy to build profiles – it’s easy to get yourself to these virtual places –  but managing the sheer amount of information/interaction that they demand is more challenging.

Information overload is nothing new to journalists on the web, which is why I used to spend  a bit of time looking at things like RSS as a means of controlling information. But RSS has, for many, been replaced by the stream  - the realtime flow of information from the connections we make on social networks.

RSS answered the challenge of how we manage information. That’s still the challenge, but now it starts with how we manage the interaction with people who find it for us. Filtering the filterers (maybe).

There is so much value in there, but the prize is for those who can handle the thousands shouting “cuddly toy!” to get to the detail.

 

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Pages of pages: Journalists and (self)promotion

promotion
Shouting about yourself on Wikipedia is not big or clever (Photo credit: Platform4)

I’ve been putting together some basic social media workshops to get my returning students back in to the swing of things. One of the areas I looked at was using social media (and social networks) as a base from which to promote themselves and their content.

Most of the stuff around this tends to settle on the old favorites – Twitter and Facebook. Recent banter also pulls in Reddit (Don’t know why. Anybody would think the President of the United states used it or something). But it was whilst pondering the idea of personal and professional identity that I found myself thinking of Wikipedia.

Multiple pages

Making a distinction between your personal and professional life online is key as a journalist. Platforms like Facebook make that easy – you can have more than one profile. You can also create a little public place for your ‘journo identity’ in the shape of a Facebook page.  A great way to gather and promote content under your chosen ‘brand’.

You can also set up a page on Google+. Now I know that there isn’t very much love for Google+ but hey, if there is a chance to get some of your information in to the biggest search engine in the world, why not!

Connect them all together with something whizzy like if this then that and you have a veritable multichannel-brandgasm of content.

Wikipedia

Of course the grandaddy of all sites with pages about people and things is Wikipedia. So it occurred to me that  a page about ‘journo you’ on Wikipedia might be an interesting thing to have.

The general feeling (when I did a quick twitter-pop) was ‘don’t do it’

@ because 1) it is against site terms and 2) you’ll look like an egotistical fool if you get caught.
@currybet
Martin Belam

But the whole T&C’s thing was a a bit grey.

@ If the subject of page definitely meets WP's notability guidelines, asking an existing member to create a page is allowed.
@JonathanDeamer
Jonathan Deamer

And not everyone thought it was a problem.

@ - if wikipedia is truly a content-neutral platform then so long as the content is true and the individual 'notable', why not?
@simonjgray
simon gray
@ I think if it for transparency re their journalism and what they bring to it, fair enough. If just self-promotion then crass
@BrunelJourSarah
Prof Sarah Niblock

But there was also some good advice for career progression.

@ but they should probably create one for their boss ;)
@paulbradshaw
Paul Bradshaw

So in general the advice was to avoid it:

  • It’s against the terms and conditions (as well as the spirit) of Wikipedia
  • It’s a bit sad

I can say from a quick tootle round Wikipedia it hasn’t stopped some from trying (the history tab in Wikipedia is great)

 Know who you are

I’d be interested in what people think about the whole wikipedia thing. But in general the exercise has just underlined a few things for me:

  • If you don’t know who you are why should your audience – having a clear idea in your head of the kind of content/journalist you want people to see online is key.
  • Be consistent – people will find you in the oddest places so make sure you as consistent a message across as much as you can control
  • Control is not the same as hiding stuff - The ability to control your profiles is not a reason to make stuff up or hide things just as transparency is not a requirement to lay your whole life bare.

 

 

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If you saw you on facebook would you give you a job?

Superman, Clarke Kent or drunk traffic cone molester - what does your facebook profile
Superman, Clarke Kent or drunk traffic cone molester - what does your facebook profile. Picture by shaun wong (flickr)

Okay, that has to be the worst English I have written (even by my standards) but think about it.

This post may appear more relevent to the students who occasionally look at my blog or who will find their way to this post via Twitter. In fact it was a chat with some first-year students that prompted the post and this link to a guide for setting your profile on Facebook, which I thought would be useful. But I think there is a broader issue.

My point to them was that their Facebook profiles where often not the best advert for them. That wasn’t a reflection on them at all. Just that some people don’t use Facebook as a social network. They use it as a way to ‘use’ those social networks and the information they generate. That could be a prospective employer or, to be honest, a journalist stacking up a story.

One student said they planned to delete their profile before they began applying for jobs, whilst others claimed that their profiles where already secure. But many were unaware that Google can search Facebook (and does a pretty good job of it) and that the privacy settings could be tweaked to the level they could.  This is before you get in to a discussion about whether you really can delete anything on the web.

But the point, and here’s the wider issue, was not the appropriateness of the profile. It was  that Facebook is a public facing service and as someone who plans to be in the public eye as a journalist, you should exercise some control over your professional image online just as you would offline.

Work/life balance.

The idea of public/private persona is not just limited to Facebook. Dilyan Damyanov asks a similar question in his post “Should professionals have separate work accounts on Twitter?” which replays a twitter debate about the much mentioned Twitter outburst by David George-Cosh. Like Dilyan, I’m looking forward to Mark Comerford’s take on this.

Update: Just caught up with Mathew Ingram’s take on this

My first years are setting out on the what I call the change from “poacher to gamekeeper”. They know how to take what they want from the web as consumers but now they are working to another standard (I’ll avoid the word ethic there).  Alf Hermida’s recent article underlines why this is important.

But they are not alone. There are hundreds of journalists moving online and whilst we explore this new media (or whatever we end up calling it) we all need to think  about what trail we leave.

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