Communication facing outwards

The teens at my daughter’s high school know something that many communicators don’t seem to. They are very active content creators in multiple social media, both ephemeral (think SnapChat) and more permanent (think Tumblr). And they are intently focused on audience reaction, which they measure much as community managers do – impressions, engagements and the like. Furthermore, they expect that the creators of the content they consume, their peers, will engage with them about it.

There’s a lot to learn here about the way tomorrow’s audience (and even today’s) wants to be a part of the story.

Recently, I presented some research completed with my Elon colleague Max Negin and undergraduate Maggie Sloane about what readers want from journalists on social media. Almost 18 percent of readers stated they wanted interaction with the journalist. Thus far, the number of journalists who are on social media is growing, but still limited. The number who actually interact is smaller still. The great majority of journalists I follow use social media as a platform for communicating AT the audience, rather than WITH the audience. 

This is a wasted opportunity As Neal Schaffer notes in his book “Maximize Your Social,” engagement and listening are essential elements of a social media presence. This helps to build your online reputation, but even more, it tells you what is important to your audience. As a writer, you are nothing without your audience. 

If you make your listening public by highlighting and responding to what your audience is creating related to you, you can generate community among your readers/viewers. Ultimately, this helps you to do your job better, as you harness your followers to identify topics, leads, sources and angles for you. And it may help you to be relevant to your audience tomorrow.

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