If you pay attention to your news organization’s Web site numbers, you know that very few things are as popular with your audience than a severe weather event. It doesn’t have to be a hurricane to draw a lot of interest – sometimes just a good thunderstorm can do the trick.
To fully capture that active Web audience during a weather event, you can use social media tools to help report the story. Your news staff can’t be everywhere, but your readers can help.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Start a Twitter weather feed. At the Statesman, we have one that automatically posts the temperature and conditions every six hours (thanks to an RSS feed). During a storm event, an editor can hop on there and start reporting what he or she knows – and ask for reader pictures and reports, through @replies and direct messages. Retweet the good Twitpics and reports from your followers. Even better: use the readers’ Twitpics on your home page. Statesman.com has posted reader photos from Twitter in the centerpiece of the home page several times.
Be sure to get permission and credit (we say “@robquig via Twitter”). If you have reporters using Twitter out in the field during the storm, be sure to retweet their reports or at least let your followers know they’re there and Tweeting. Don’t do that and ignore the readers, though. Retweeting readers is one of the best ways to easily get user-generated content.
2. Build a Google mashup to give readers a way to report conditions in their area.Here’s the one we built a while back that we use for just about any newsworthy weather event. It worked great during a recent hail storm. They’re relatively simple to build (we use Caspio), and people enjoy using it.
3. Have a way for people to share their videos. A few years ago, this would not draw much interest. Now that most digital cameras have pretty good video capabilities, you’re much more likely to get some usable reader videos. If your video player allows for reader uploads, that’s great. Otherwise, have them update to YouTube or Vimeo and e-mail you when they’re uploaded with a link. You can then embed their videos in a blog or on your page.
4. Promote your efforts. If you have a TV station or partner, mention the social media components during that wall-to-wall weather coverage. Tell people how to contribute with reports on Twitter and the mashup. If you have a newspaper or newspaper partner, tease heavily to the Google Mashup in the next day’s paper (include an image of the map with the pins all over it, if possible).
Take advantage of all the tools you have your disposal … and stay dry!
You have a stack of new Twitter followers, but not a lot of time. But you have to:
- open the e-mail
- click on the link that takes you to the person’s profile
- decide whether you want to follow them or not
- DM them, perhaps, to thank them
Over the weekend, I signed up for a service called Topify. You can get a beta invite here, but spots are limited. It’s a special SXSW offer. (If you want an invite after the SXSW window closes, go here for an invite.)
Once you sign up, you’ll be assigned a Topify e-mail address. Each new follower notification is routed through Topify, which then scrapes that person’s page, and then another e-mail is sent to your inbox. It not only tells you the person’s name, but:
- where they’re from
- the number of followers they have, along with the number of people they’re following
- their avatar, so if you don’t like following folks with MySpace kissy faces, you don’t have to
- the person’s most recent Tweets
Topify has saved me a bit of time, especially if I Tweet something that gets me a lot of new followers.
Have you discovered any other Twitter time-savers?
I came up with this idea as a way to show off all the good work that Texans are doing, and to strengthen the newspaper’s relationship with the community. The Statesman, mainly through Twitter, has built a good reputation in the social media community.
We asked for nominations from the public (through Twitter), which brought in 125 nominees. The 25 winners were chosen by me, @omarg and @broylesa.
Be sure to check out the list of winners and their social media efforts. There’s no question that there are some real social media rock stars in Texas.
The awards show, which was at the new Ballet Austin building in downtown Austin, included a cocktail party with a pianist (so we could hear each other talk) and was catered & sponsored by Opal Divine’s restaurant and Sweet Leaf Tea. We then moved into the ballet’s performance area where we had an auditorium and stage to hand out trophies and say a little about each winner.
We named an overall winner during Sunday’s event. The big winner is Michelle Greer, who is a tireless proponent of using social media for social good.
Use this to:
- Check to see who’s linking to you; it couldn’t hurt to drop them a quick thank-you Tweet. Also, if you re-Tweet them, it won’t look like you’re pushing out content all the time. After all, they are linking to you, so it’s good to RT anyway.
- See who’s linking to your competition. Now steal them away.
What other uses do you see for BackTweets? Have you found anything better?
So, seeing as the second word of that is “conversation,” we figured we’d ask what you think we should talk about. Please feel free to post your ideas as comments, or you can e-mail/Tweet/etc. us as well.