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How 2,400 Journalists Use Social Media for Reporting [And Why PR Should Get Serious about Social]

Journalists say Twitter is the most valuable social media platform and they spend a lot of time there; if you want to improve media relations you should invest more time there too

Business efforts on social media tends come in two flavors.

The first flavor rarely uses their social channels. These branded social accounts look something akin to a ragged and outdated billboard on a desolate highway that hasn’t been updated in years.

The second flavor is output-only-mode. These branded accounts furnish a steady stream of self-promotion. They also rarely acknowledge any other user – even when someone responds to that steady stream of self-promotion with a compliment.

There are all sorts of reasons this happens and some of them might even be valid. However, if PR is part of your communications or marketing strategy, then those businesses are missing an opportunity to tap social media for better exposure.

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6 Statistics on How Journalists use Social Media

Muck Rack teamed up with about 20 different associations – i.e. Society of Professional Journalists, MediaBistro, Foreign Press Association – to survey 2,482 journalists from January 11th to February 8th of 2021. Some of the findings around social media stood out:

1. Reporters look to Twitter for news

When asked where reporters go to get their news the top answers were online news (58%) and said Twitter (16%). While Twitter was a distant second place, it’s also a long way from the third place which was cable or TV news (7%).

It was also interesting to see that just 3% of reporters said they get their news from newsletters and just 1% from podcasts. This runs counter to current trends among the general public – but that’s a different blog post.

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2. Twitter is the most valuable network for journalists

About three-quarters (73%) of journalists that responded to this survey cited Twitter as the most valuable social network. That’s down a bit from the same survey last year, however, it’s still nearly double the number of votes awarded to the next closest platform, Facebook, with 38%.

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3. More reporters want to spend more time on Twitter

When this asked which social network they’d like to use more, Twitter was at the top of the list. Here’s how the answers stacked up:

  • 37% of reporters said they’d like to spend more time on Twitter
  • 28% of reporters said they’d like to spend more time on LinkedIn
  • 26% of reporters said they’d like to spend more time on Instagram
  • 23% of reporters said they’d like to spend more time on YouTube

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4. Reporters check company social sites when reporting

When reporting on a company, 86% of reporters say they consult the company’s social media channels at least some of the time. Further 58% “usually” or “always” check those sites in the course of developing coverage.

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5. Journalists track their social shares

One of the biggest changes in the media in my lifetime is self-promotion on social media. In the early days, around 2009, I saw many reporters struggled with this and disliked it.

Today, it’s almost just expected that reporters will promote their work, and some have grown to enjoy it (which is human) and even developed considerable followings of their own. According to this survey, 62% track how many times their stories have been shared on social media.

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6. Most reporters are not receptive to pitches on Twitter

The vast majority of journalists (94%) responding to this survey prefer pitches by old-fashioned email. Just 12% say they are open to receiving pitches on Twitter – and those that do typically make that clear in their Twitter biographies.

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5 Tips for Twitter Effectively in Media Relations

While most don’t want to be pitched on social media, it’s clear, in aggregate, that social media, especially Twitter is important to overall media relations efforts. Indeed, as I’ve said before, if you work in PR and have responsibility for media relations, then you have in a sense, a professional obligation to be on Twitter.

Here are a few tips for making the most of it:

  • Create a Twitter list of reporters that cover your industry. Tend to it diligently as reporters change beats and publications often.
  • Curate content from reporters that cover your space and tag them, so they know it. One share here and there isn’t a big deal, but do it consistently over time, and they will check you out. Here’s the catch, share stories you think will benefit your audience, don’t share merely to curry favor.
  • Curate content from other credible sources that is useful for your audience – and perhaps to reporters. The point is here is to be a good source of information – because good sources of information are worth following. Mix it up with your own content; a 3:1 ratio is a good rule of thumb.
  • Use paid social media to augment your media relations Twitter is a great place for this because all the reporters are there, and they all follow each other. This means you can create a “like” audience for targeting based on their handles. Create 4-5 different paid social posts aimed at reporters and let it run for a week. It’s a passive and unintrusive way to get in front of them. Businesses drop $1,200 for a press release that goes over a wire (to who knows where) but balk at spending $100-$200 on social ads promoting it, which defies logic.
  • Use paid social to promote your coverage. If you spend any time on Twitter today, you’ll notice top publishers, including The Wall Street Journal buy social ads on Twitter to promote their stories. If you earn a placement, this a smart option for you too. Why? Because media relations takes time and momentum to get going – media coverage builds media coverage. Paid social promotion is just one of 12 things you should do to amplify media coverage once you’ve earned it.

The full report covers much more than just how journalists use social media. A copy is freely available for download with registration here: The State of Journalism 2021.

[Need an extra pair of hands? More than a proactive partner: an extension of your marketing and PR team. Check out our services.]

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Media Relations Keeps Getting Harder; Here are 6 Dynamic Techniques to Adapt

Image credits: Photo by chase.wilson.photo on Unsplash and the cited Muck Rack study

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