Archive for March, 2009

New Tricks: Covering a storm with social media

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. 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!

10 comments March 31st, 2009

Topify helps you save time on Twitter

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?

11 comments March 18th, 2009

Video of the Week: Daniel Honigman interviewed by SXTXState

SXSW Interactive was loads of fun, and I was blown away by the number of amazing, intelligent folks at the events.

In the midst of the chaos, I had some time to chat with some students from Texas State University for their project, SXTXState, as they chronicled SXSW. I spoke with graduate student Maira Garcia.

One warning, however: The interview volume is a bit low, so you may have to turn it up a bit.

1 comment March 18th, 2009

Austin newspaper honors Texas’ social media elite during SXSW

Sunday night, as South by Southwest Interactive hit its stride, the Austin American-Statesman honored the top social media users in Texas.

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.

Check out Michelle’s story here (which was centerpiece of both and the Life & Arts print edition today).

We also had two photographers and a digital journalist there to shoot video.

Check out the photos, and the video:

About 140 people attended the party, and everyone seemed to have a great time. The positive feedback from the party attendees was amazing. You can see the attendees’ Twitter stream here.

“Old” media can learn a few new tricks …

2 comments March 16th, 2009

BackTweets: My shiny new Twitter object

I must say, I’m a big fan of BackTweets. It’s a great way to track mentions of your site on Twitter.

Just type in the URL for your site (e.g., and, BackTweets will find folks who have linked to your page, and it even plows its way through shortened URLS, given its support.

I’m not sure it supports all URL shorteners just yet, but I’ve seen, TinyURL,,, budurl and a couple of others included.

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?

7 comments March 11th, 2009

Some journalism-related panels at SXSW

If you’re in the news business and you’re going to SXSW Interactive, there are plenty of panels you’ll want to check out.

To make things easier for you, we’ve mapped out a couple for you. Here they are:

Friday, 13 March 2009

02:00PM User Generated Content: State of the Union (C)
03:30PM The Ecosystem of News (12AB)
05:00PM Social Engineering: Scam Your Way Into Anything or From Anybody (18BCD)

Saturday, 14 March 2009

10:00AM Emerging From a Recession with Emerging Media Intact (10)
11:30AM Curating the Crowd-Sourced World (C)
11:30AM Microformats: A Quiet Revolution (10)
02:00PM Opening Remarks: Tony Hsieh (A)
03:30PM The Future Of Social Networks (A)
05:00PM Collaborative Filters: The Evolution of Recommendation Engines (B)
05:00PM Suxorz ’09: The Ten Worst Social Media Campaigns (12AB)
05:00PM Designing the Future of The New York Times (Hilton C)
06:30PM Friendship is Dead (Hilton E)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

10:00AM Is Spec Work Evil? The Online Creative Community Speaks (A)
03:30PM Old Media Finds New Voice Through Twitter (5B)
03:30PM From Flickr and Beyond: Lessons in Community Management (A)
05:00PM How Social Networks Are Killing the Revolution (8)

Monday, 16 March 2009

10:00AM Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content (Hilton A)
11:30AM Are Women Taken More Seriously On The Web? (C)
03:30PM Using the New Digital Social Media to Accelerate Sustainability (8)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

10:00AM Photojournalism in 2009 and The Big Picture (10)
11:30AM Building Strong Online Communities (A)

Add comment March 10th, 2009

Old Media, New Tricks at SXSW: What do YOU think we should talk about?

SXSW is almost here, and we’ve been honored with a chance to present as one of the Core Conversations.

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.

1 comment March 2nd, 2009


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