How social media editors help news organizations engage audiences

How social media editors help news organizations engage audiences

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.

Mandy Velez
Social Edi­tor for The Dai­ly Beast

Mandy Velez
(Pho­to via Twitter)

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 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. 

Adri­ana Lacey
Audi­ence Engage­ment Edi­tor for LA Times

Adri­ana Lacey
(Pho­to via Twitter)

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.