By Brianny Aybar, UConn Journalism
May 6, 2019
Social media has become an essential part of many Americans daily lives. What once was waking up and reading the daily newspaper or watching TV has now become waking up and immediately checking Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Social media has changed the way readers find and consume news, the rate in which they do, and the filters they use to receive this information. It has not only changed the way people get their news, it also has altered the way journalists create news.
Within the field of journalism, a new job market has risen thanks to social media. Media outlets need to connect with their readers digitally and this can happen through social media. Social media jobs are now standard in media outlets of every niche. Some of the most common positions are Social Media Manager, Social Editor, Social Media Specialist, and Digital Media Manager. The main goal of these jobs is audience engagement. Companies want the journalists in these positions to engage their readers across many platforms, inform them what strategies work to enhance engagement, and to push content to readers through social media and beyond.
If it sounds a bit like marketing, that’s because there are similarities. Marketing through social media is used when a business is looking to increase website traffic, build conversions, raise brand awareness, create a brand identity and positive brand association and improve communication and interaction with key audiences. News organizations want to accomplish these goals with social media, too. But journalists are also using social media to take audience interactions a step further.
To understand the duties of a social media editors for a news outlet, I talked with Mandy Velez, Social Editor for The Daily Beast, and Adriana Lacey, Audience Engagement Editor for the Los Angeles Times. These women opened up about their responsibilities as social media editors and their beliefs about the intersection of social media and journalism.
Social Editor for The Daily Beast
Mandy Velez is a digital journalist, currently working as a Social Editor for The Daily Beast, a news and opinion website focused on politics and pop culture. Velez studied at the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated with a degree in English/Nonfiction writing and Communications. Velez’s social media work includes an email and social editor at Google’s publication, Think with Google, the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine as a freelance social media editor, and with Latinas.com as a digital editor as well as a reporter. Velez has also had experience editing and writing lifestyle, news, and women-centric pieces for A Plus, Ashton Kutcher’s startup media company, as well as Huffington Post. She also continues to dabble in investigative reporting for the Daily Beast while working in social media. The ability to write as well as strategize about sharing content, which Velez loves to do, is what attracted her to becoming a social media editor for the Daily Beast.
Velez handles all things social for the Daily Beast. Their Twitter account currently has 1.22 million followers and 2 million followers on Facebook. As a Social Media Editor, Velez is posting and strategizing how to make sure as many people see and interact with content posted on platforms. Although this is not all her job entails, as she is also responsible for diversifying traffic sources. This means she has to make sure the content is seen by people and figure out a way to push that content beyond social media. On a daily basis, Velez schedules and posts new stories on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She also sends out these stories to platforms like Apple News, Facebook groups, and influencers on Twitter that share that story.
“I like to think of our team as the front lines,” Velez said, “We are the ones in between our stories and the world.”
When it comes to audience engagement, the content audiences engage with the most vary across outlets. Velez has noticed that on Twitter, politics gain the most engagement, while on Facebook, weird stories or race-related stories do the best. To figure this out, she emphasizes the importance of looking at analytics. H. Mackay wrote for an article in the Journal of Information Ethics, Social media analytics provide media organizations and others with a new and greater knowledge of their audience. Knowing your audience enhances the way journalist are able to tell stories through social media. Velez mentioned sharing information with the world in different formats is the perfect intersection of social media and journalism. Baby boomers may enjoy reading text about the Parkland shooting through Facebook, while someone from Generation Z could find out about that story through Instagram Stories, Velez said.
In the field of Social editors, Velez said the most difficult part of her job is also the most fun, the unpredictability of it all.
“I stay updated on what’s happening, but also get to play a role in sharing what’s happening with the world and keeping people informed of the facts,” Velez said, “It’s a super rewarding feeling.”
As journalism is still a business that needs revenue, it is important that journalists make clear to their audience when certain content is a paid sponsorship. Velez says a way to do this is with one-liners in stories, tagging posts as sponsored, or having individual sections on their website that make clear sponsored content lives there. Things only get unethical when editors or writers try to pass of sponsored or paid content as a real story, Velez said. She emphasized that trust is vital in this business, and remaining authentic and upfront when sharing both regular and paid content stories is key.
For those who are interested in entering this emerging field of journalism, Velez suggests the first step is to understand the difference between the kinds of social media out there and know what kind you want to do. It is important to also gain any kind of experience in the the niche you see yourself working in. Velez’s key suggestion is to take a Google analytics class to really push your understanding of all aspects of Social editing.
Audience Engagement Editor for LA Times
The multi-talented Adriana Lacey is a journalist, photographer, and social strategist who currently works for the Los Angeles Times as the Audience Engagement Editor. Lacey earned a degree in Journalism and African American studies from Pennsylvania State University, with a special interest in sports journalism. Before she took her talents to Los Angeles, Lacey worked as a senior news assistant at the New York Times. While she was a student at Penn State, Lacey co-founded The Underground, a student-media site at Penn State dedicated to diverse voices and news. She was able to learn the ropes of the social media industry through creating the social accounts for the website, as well as through many social media internships.
As the Audience Engagement Editor for the LA Times, Lacey works with various desks across their newsroom to strategize the best way to share their content with their readers across platforms, as well as help the journalists interact with other people via these platforms. What attracted Lacey to this field of journalism was her passion for building communities and interacting with people. She finds that through audience engagement, she is able to connect readers to great journalism. The best part of her job, she brags, is interacting with their readers.
“We’re often on the front lines, so it’s important to really keep those connections,” she said.
With the growth of social media market, it is inevitable that journalism and social media would intersect. Lacey feels like the two go hand in hand and it is essential for journalist to meet readers where they are at, which are social platforms.
“It’s a digital industry now, and everyone’s on their phones. When you’re able to connect the two, it’s a great way to reach an audience you maybe never would have been able to,” Lacey said, “It’s important in journalism to meet readers where they’re at. Social media is one of those places, so it’s important to be there.”
Much like regular social media users, Lacey finds it hard to disconnect from social media outside of her job. She finds it difficult as an engagement editor to take a break when they are always connected online.
Aside from her job as an audience engagement editor, Lacey publishes her own weekly newsletter, The Social Status, about what is driving the day in digital media. She has been able to build up her subscribers organically. She consistently tweets about her newsletter to gain traffic, but mostly comes from word of mouth. Lacey’s advice to those seeking to boost their engagement is to make your content interesting.
“Make it interesting. You always have to ask yourself: Would I enjoy it? If not, others may not either,” she said.
Lacey’s advice to journalist looking to enter the field of social media is to really get familiar with and understand the platforms. She says it is important that those in audience engagement think like a reader and are ready to interact with readers. As a woman, and a woman of color, Lacey encourages other people of color to join groups such as the National Association of Black Journalist, which she finds really want their members to succeed. She encourages more people of color to enter these fields.
“There’s not many people around who look like me. What keeps me going though, is the fact that I can inspire more black women to pursue this field,” Lacey said.