New Tricks: Covering a storm with social media

March 31st, 2009

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!

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Entry Filed under: New Tricks,social media

  • http://realadvertising.cc Frymaster

    On behalf of all of us who have been using social media lo these many, many, many years, let me just say to the powers that be at the Statesman: DUH!

    You may want to look into this whole blogging thing, too. I understand it's starting to become popular.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Robert Quigley

    Frymaster,
    I realize it might be a “Duh!”-type entry for someone who has been using social media for many years. This entry (and blog) is aimed at the mainstream media, which has *not* been using social media for very long.
    Thanks for reading.
    – Robert

  • http://realadvertising.cc Frymaster

    It was a knee-jerk “duh”. I should have read your About page first. Given your experience, you'll know exactly for whom the following is intended.

    I am way sick of newspapers patting themselves on the back for finally doing things they should have done years ago. It's really reprehensible that the papers are dying financially at a time when NOTHING is more important to future business success than building community.

    And who is better positioned to build community than the newspapers?

    But it's not a business they've ever been in before, and they don't want to get into it now.

    So they'll get no sympathy from me. I started my insignificant local blog specifically because my even more insignificant local fishwrap is such a complete failure.

    The whole idea that newspapers have this super special thing called “information” that “consumers” have to pay for in some way – that's yesterday's news, so to say. I routinely scoop my fishwrap and almost always deliver far better, deeper, more meaningful coverage than those losers. They do the least because they care the least. (Did I mention that they suck? They suck.) I do what I can when I can, but at least I do it well.

    This post resulted in this major bridge restriction. I posted about this chunk of concrete falling and that day the inspectors were out. They have not left since.

    So more interactivity, more user-generated content, less blog-bashing, more local stories, less wire jive, more joint ventures with local bloggers, less tie-up with other major media, more discussion forums.

    Here's a concept: crowd-source stimulus spending compliance reporting. You have people EVERYWHERE. Use them. Duh.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Daniel

    It's not insignificant. Your blog is pretty good, and you actually get some comments on there. Kudos.

    BTW, I'm having problems logging in with Disqus on my own page. Is anyone else having this same problem?

  • http://www.nextedit.com Website Editor

    I agree with FryMaster

  • http://http://www.ptxmarketing.com/online-marketing/seo Best SEO Package

    For me..
    Computer softwares and applications are very useful for some activities
    the one given in the article..
    The temperature watcher via RSS feed.

  • http://www.synergybuzz.com/ internet marketing ideas

    i can't really understand what frymaster wants to point out,,, these blog you had posed will be a big help for some starters in this field social media tools are really a big help

  • http://www.felineparadise.com/ Cat Behavior

    I have an open kitchen/dining/living room area with 4/12 pitch ceiling. Theres a skylight in the ceiling that frosts on the edges and when it thaws, drips water..I wish to cover the skylight opening at ceiling level with a magnetic type storm so it can be removed/replaced as needed..Where can I purchase such a product?

  • http://epstein-barr.net/ Mononucleosis

    I have an open kitchen/dining/living room area with 4/12 pitch ceiling. Theres a skylight in the ceiling that frosts on the edges and when it thaws, drips water..I wish to cover the skylight opening at ceiling level with a magnetic type storm so it can be removed/replaced as needed..Where can I purchase such a product?

  • http://www.newmesotheliomapatient.com/ Mesotheliomapatient

    Yeah !
    Its really a great idea , keep up posting the good work .


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