Social Media

Tools for journalists: Using Yatterbox for a different view on Twitter

One of the best things about Twitter – and there are many – is that it can give anyone a voice. That’s huge for journalists, turning Tweetdeck into a modern-day radio scanner, only tailored to just the bits you’re interested in, and involving many more people.

However, the downside to that approach is that it can make verification very hard. If you’ve got a Tweetdeck column, then you know you can see every Tweet which includes an important phrase to you, eg a place, but you need to be looking at it all the time.

To conquer that, you might  use a tool like Twilert ($9 a month to have every tweet involving a keyword which is important to you feels like a bargain) which will ping you an email whenever a Tweet containing an important word or phrase crops up. That solves one problem, to a point, but what about verification?

That’s where Yatterbox comes in. Aimed at people who spend their lives managing the reputations of brands, Yatterbox works on the principle that the Tweets some people write about a brand or issue have more impact that those written by others.

So it set about creating comprehensive lists of the people it feels have the greatest impact with their Tweets, and created three lists: Journalists, UK policy and EU policy. I suspect more are on the way. The help video which launches when you first sign up makes it very clear the aim is to help PRs keep track of what people PRs probably consider important are saying.


Seen from afar: Tweets which made me think from #rethinkmedia

Birmingham at night….

Last week, Birmingham City University hosted ‘Rethink Media’. It’s always fascinating to follow conferences via Twitter, not least because it saves having to choose which sessions to follow if the organisers have gone for the many option approach.

Following the hashtag #rethinkmedia is never going to be as good as being in the room, although it does increase the chances of being closer to a power socket which you can call your own.

The upside of following a conference or event via Twitter is that you get to hear the opinions which often go through the heads of those in the audience but which don’t get shared during debates for many reasons. The downside is it can sometimes be hard to distinguish what is being said on the stage from the views of people in the audience.

Whether that’s too important, I’m not sure. However, I thought I’d try and stitch together some of the most interesting (to me) Tweets I saw from the event, most of which focus on social. The list isn’t meant to be a compilation of Tweets to document the whole day (you can find the live blog here), just some things which made me stop and think from afar:


Perhaps the most important piece of academic journalism research this year

Reading at the weekend, I stumbled across a piece of research being carried out by the University of Central Lancashire.

It is being led by Amy Binns, a former Yorkshire Post journalist who is now a senior lecturer at UCLAN (and a former colleague of mine, but more about that in a minute).

The research focuses on online abuse journalists suffer as a result of comment threads being open under stories, and in the often anonymous world of social media, particularly Twitter.

Frustratingly, the survey attached to the study was due to close on Friday (March 14) but at time of writing appears to still be open. I would urge any journalist who is serious about social media and uses it regularly to get involved.

To me, this is potentially the most important piece of academic journalism research this year. A big claim I know, but here’s why.


How Vincent Kompany, and a train of stranded passengers, demonstrated the need to be first, fast and accurate

I’m currently sat on a train on the way back from Birmingham. What should have been a 90 minute journey is coming in at just under three hours thanks to the gales currently battering Britain.

My train appears to be the last one running into Manchester tonight, with none coming out the other way, at least according to the very apologetic train manager on board our train.

There are lots of frustrated Manchester City fans on the train, having got on at Stoke and Macclesfield only to sit and wait, worrying they’ll miss the game.

Miss it, that is, until the rumour swept around the train that City’s game against Sunderland was being called off.


Why good news is really good news for regional news … thanks to social media

In a world where page views, unique users and audience engagement are increasingly the most important metrics to news brands, it could be easy to just go where the fish are most likely to bite.

Crime shifts page views. Football shifts page views. Stories about things happening on Twitter and Facebook shift page views. Same too with weather, traffic and travel, and stories which begin with the headline ‘The most remarkable/stunning/unbelievable XXXXXX ever?’ The ? normally signifies the answer is, at best, maybe.

On this blog, I’m just as guilty of that, and I have a blog post to that effect coming up shortly.

Audience analytics can bring us closer to the audience than ever before, enabling us to respond to what they like by doing more of it, and at the same time doing less of what they don’t like.


Is this now the most important button on any web page? Facebook thinks so

At the weekend, I blogged about how great images were vital if you wanted to stand out on Facebook. They don’t need to be photos which photographers have spent hours creating, just images which make you stop pressing the down cursor or make your finger hesitate on your mobile screen.

For a long time, any digital journalist worth his or her lunch has known that Facebook posts do much better with a strong image attached to them, and preferably some compelling text explaining why people should click a link or reply to you. Just posting links or – worse still – having some automated system set up which enables Tweets to be copied across to Facebook  whenever you use the #fb hashtag just don’t do anything anymore.

After all, would you respond to an advert if it was abundantly clear the advertiser couldn’t be bothered trying to talk directly to you? D

Anyway, Facebook clearly agrees as it announced in a recent post that it was changing the way it weighted posts from Facebook pages in favour of those which had more than just text:

As a result, the latest update to News Feed ranking treats text status updates from Pages as a different category to text status updates from friends. We are learning that posts from Pages behave differently to posts from friends and we are working to improve our ranking algorithms so that we do a better job of differentiating between the two types.

This will help us show people more content they want to see. Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types.

Facebook’s advice on the best sort of status update is typically vague, although it does throw out this nugget of advice:

The best way to share a link after this update will be to use a link-share, so it looks like the one below. We’ve found that, as compared to sharing links by embedding in status updates, these posts get more engagement (more likes, comments, shares and clicks) and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds.

Facebook, in my experience, talks a good fight about wanting to work with publishers but then tends to keep its best advice under lock and key, so this is actually unusually candid for them …. and potentially huge news for publishers.

It means, to start, that this button becomes the most important button on your page:


(I’m hoping the advert above the headline isn’t a targetted campaign aimed at 30-something men!).

Anyway, notice the Facebook button. Facebook is saying click the share button, and then add your message to readers on Facebook, and you should see better results. That makes sense to me, but in my experience, goes against the way many journalists post links – with many preferring instead to take the link and insert it manually on a Facebook page.

It also places an incredible importance on strong images within your article, as Facebook tends to pull those in and gives a choice of which one to highlight.

For me, one of the biggest weaknesses many publishers have is around images. When looking for great images of the storms for a recent blog post, it took me much longer than a thought. Images, it would seem, are still treated as an afterthought by many. Since the websites I work with moved to a new design, created by a brilliant designer called Chris Lam, the emphasis has very much been on strong images.

Thanks to Facebook, getting images right on your web page is now utterly essential if you are to improve your chances of getting your content in front of your Facebook fans.

That’s no bad thing. Unintentionally, Facebook may have just forced us all to make web pages brilliant.

Why the right image is more important than ever to regional journalism … thanks to Facebook

Last week, Facebook announced a new change to the way it will treat posts to Facebook pages. Based on its research of millions of users, it’s discovered that people are more likely to respond to text updates from their friends, but are less likely to respond to text-only updates from pages they’ve chosen to follow.

For journalists who monitor what works and what doesn’t on social media, this will hardly be news – it’s all about capturing the attention of someone as they skim through their Facebook newsfeed, hopefully enough to they’ll click a link, or comment, which in turn increases the chance of it appearing in other peoples’ newsfeeds more prominently too.

The fact that Facebook is responding to that user behaviour is very important though – and is another example of why photography is so important to online journalism.


When a flower shop breaks the news to you that Nelson Mandela has died, it’s time for journalism to have a think

I found out of Nelson Mandela’s death not from Sky News, not from BBC News, not a national newspaper’s Twitter feed … but from an online flower shop.

I’ve written about Prestige Flowers before, because they struggle to actually deliver flowers on time and their appalling customer service, both rather basic requirement for an online flower company.

However, where they fail on the flower delivery front, they certainly succeed on the news delivery front:

Nelson Mandela as he appeared on the Prestige Flowers Facebook page

Nelson Mandela as he appeared on the Prestige Flowers Facebook page


How social changed journalism for the better (a presentation I gave to BeyondSocial)

Last week, I was asked to speak at an event called Beyond Social, organised by CrowdCrontolHQ, at the brilliant Electric Cinema in Birmingham. It was, I was told, to a room largely of marketing professionals. I was asked to talk about how digital had changed publishing, but as I pulled it together, it became clear this should really about what social did to journalism…


Why manners make a difference when reporting from social media

Social media has transformed the reporter’s ability to find out what is happening in real-time – but it’s also an information source which is prone to misuse.

One of my biggest irritations in stories which are, at least in part, sourced from social media, is the tendency to just lift a Tweet or Facebook comment and pack it into a story in place of a regular quote.

The result is often a story which doesn’t read as well because, bluntly, the comments were designed to be quotes – they were conversational (Twitter) or statements (Facebook) – and generally not intended for use in news articles. Then, of course, there is the increasingly regular flow of complaints from people who didn’t expect to see their social media thoughts turning up in ‘news.’

There are two sides to this – one being that if something is said in public, you can’t be too irritated if it turns up somewhere else in public. But on the other hand, would you regularly jot down quotes you overheard in the street and then serve them up as a regular quotes in print?

Which is why I wanted to flag up a story in Huddersfield on Saturday where Hull City fans protested at a West Yorkshire Police policy of making them travel in a formal convoy – something called a ‘bubble match’ policy.

It’s caused – understandably – quite a stir, and the Huddersfield Examiner covered the story both live via Twitter and through the website and print edition.

I was particularly impressed when I saw this: