Five years ago, while drinking our morning cup of coffee, we use to read a newspaper or listen to the radio. We still do, but for many of us, we also read our friend’s status updates on Facebook.
Social networks changed our way to read news. Now, besides traditional news in newspapers, radio, television, or online news, there are social news.
Facebook is the third most visited website in the world. So, it is quite impossible to describe all its possibilities in one and only article. But, let’s try to have some ideas on how journalists can use social networks as tools.
First of all, we have to consider that the journalist himself is maybe a user of social network. His daily use will maybe influence his perception of some topics. He will read what his friends share, react, and share himself some news, to promote his work for example.
Facebook is a great tool to promote a blog, a magazine or a newspaper by providing news feeds to users via a fan page. Is the number of fans representative compared to the traditional readers of a newspaper? Apparently, not, say American and French studies.
For those newspapers Facebook is more a communication tool that brings readers, than an informational tool that provides news.
Facebook influences the way we read news; we read what our friends or our “like” pages show us. Is it that simple? Business Insider reveals how an algorithm sorts news feed on Facebook, and therefore decides what is important to you.
What about Twitter?
Twitter doesn’t decide what is important to you, all the “tweets” of people one is following appear listed on the same page. As Facebook, but on a bigger scale (most profiles on Twitter are public) Twitter allows to read what people are talking about. But is it representative of public opinion or what is going on around the world?
A French experiment shows that the hierarchy of information is completely different in newspapers. What people are tweeting are not the same topics in the agenda setting of journalists. And yes, journalists use Twitter too, but mainly for professional purposes.
Some use it as a media to provide instant news to their followers, and some to promote their work. But again, more than a news provider, Twitter is a platform of discussion that only reflects news in its links.
A love story between MySpace and music
MySpace was one of the first successful social networks that does not need any presentation. With its possibility to easily create a web page, musicians used it massively to promote their bands. Almost every band has a MySpace page where you can listen to music and find some information about the band. As a music journalist, this is one of the first tools I use to get an idea of a new album, or dates of tour. In this case, MySpace became more than a social network.
On the contrary of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are still young social networks. So, we cannot say how they are going to evolve. For sure, they have already changed our way to read news, and for journalists, the way to spread it. But isn’t it the proper of journalism to always have to redefine itself?
For now, social networks are great communication tools. And for us, apprentice or amateur journalists, social networks can bring us readers and the possibility to spread our work into the world. For the better or the worse?