Christian Gillinger: This is how Swedish Radio intends to get better at social media

SOCIAL MEDIA. Swedish Radio is taking aim at the future with social media as a key component to Journalism 3.0. Developments in this field are rapid and many traditionally educated journalists will need to learn the new tricks of trade.
   A social media handbook has therefore been written by a working group within Swedish Radio, led by interactivity and social media project manager Christian Gillinger who shares some of the underlying ideas below.

The first of twelve directives that Swedish Radio's management has outlined reads:
   "Develop Journalism 3.0 and the relationship with the audiences. Social media is here to help us strengthen our audience relationship. Two years ago, we started the online blog Journalism 3.0 – Media Ecology and the Future, which we have chosen to call a digital book. In it, we discuss which guidelines journalism will follow in the future. It's where the phrase Journalism 3.0 was born."

This directive means that we have to focus on working with the audience, the listeners, the visitors to our site and with social media users. There's party an instrumental and selfish motive for this, as we want people to share and spread our content so that as many people as possible can access what we do. Pure marketing, in other words. Then there is a journalistic motive because with ever more takes on a subject, new angles, pinpointing case studies and finding stories our work can get better.

This does, however, also place demands on us. Social media is called "social" for a reason. You can't just broadcast, you have to interact.
   We already have many employees who are active on social media and who don't just talk, but listen. We have competent and active editors in charge of looking at our audiences, social media, and dialogue – they have a lot of different job titles, but what they have in common is looking at how to involve our audience in our journalistic work (I don't really like the word "audience" in this context as it brings to mind an active broadcaster and a passive receiver, but given a lack of alternatives the word will have to do).

Like Gabriel Holmqvist on the programme Ring P1, where people are invited to call in and talk about any topic they want, told the newspaper Internet World: "Keeping a good tone online is something we work at all the time. A good discussion is, as we know, characterized by active participation and showing an interest. That means we have to participate and be interested too."

Yet it is not enough to heap all the responsibility onto a handful of editors specifically tasked at looking at these questions. If we are serious about our push then every single Swedish Radio employee needs to know what social media is. Maybe not everyone will work as intensively and broadly as our niche editors do, but knowledge about the topic can't be limited to isolated islands within the company.
   That's why I last year was assigned the task, alongside other employees from different parts of the company, to develop a social media handbook. It will be handed out to all employees and be used for training during 2013.

The working group looked at several things. What phrases mean people are most likely to spread news on Facebook, how do get people to retweet us, and how can you examine the credibility of your sources on social media? What makes a crowdsourcing project successful and why is Facebook's edge rank so important when measuring the popularity and reach of a page? (It's great if you have 2,000 people who like your page, but if no one shares, likes or comments on your posts your edge ranking will be invisible. It is important to know what to measure...) We also looked at the legal framework that dictates our work and what it means in practice.

Yet our discussions quite quickly ended up focusing on the dialogue, because it is the very foundation of all work on social media. Not just between us and the audience, but between members of the audience itself.
   I've addressed this issue previously on this blog and argued that we can't ask for people's time and participation without ourselves investing time and taking part in order to foster a good debate climate. But how? What must we do to get people interested in leaving comments on our work? And, not least, how do we manage a storm of comments?  I think Gabriel touched on several key points: really taking an interest, being present, and having a clear idea about what we want to talk about.

The handbook is a first step in getting better at this. It gives us tools to know when and why to take part on social media. The handbook helps us measure our work so we can put our weight behind the areas most in need of development, so we know when we are successful and when we fail. The goal is to work effectively, transparently and with clear guidelines. 
   Those of you who have found your way to this blog probably use social media in your work. I imagine that you will think the handbook is quite basic. It's meant to be, however, because our idea is to give all our employees basic knowledge in how to work journalistically on social media.

It is the foundation we will stand on, but we will of course aim even higher and want others to take part in that process. If you have ideas, thoughts or feedback – please share them with us.

If you want to read the handbook you can download it for free here 

Translation by Ann Törnkvist.

Christian Gillinger

Swedish Radio's interactivity and
social media project manager


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