Stop. Look and Read: Sensitivity in Social Media

By Steve Schwaid, VP Digital Strategies

We’ve mentioned it before, but in light of recent events, it bears repeating. We’re talking about the social media being posted by folks in your newsroom under your station brand.

Insensitive posts are damaging. They reflect poorly upon your brand. Especially on twitter where the message is short… often too short.

Stations want to use social media – Twitter and Facebook – to drive web monetization. The goal is for people to click through. That’s a positive goal. What’s not positive is some of the copy used. Often, in an effort to tease to get click-throughs or on-air viewing, posts are insensitive. Social media posts should be written differently than on-air topical promos, although sensitivity should apply to both media.

Here’s a recent Twitter post from CNN.

ScreenHunter_346 Feb. 10, 2014 12.52

The reason why will shock you. Seriously? The fact that a 14-year-old stabbed her sister shocks me. Simply saying click here for the full story would have worked just fine. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. We see something like this almost daily as we review station Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It’s important for news managers to spend time each day watching the station’s feeds and user responses. You watch and critique your shows, the same should be done with your digital platforms.

Newsroom folks often develop the ability to separate their jobs of covering murder and mayhem from their personal lives and emotions. It’s part of the “objectivity” training. However, sometimes a reminder may be in order to be much more sensitive when posting on social media. When it comes to death and destruction straightforward reporting with sensitivity is better.

Then there are times when a station may see post by a user about a breaking news event and the station retweets with a comment that comes across very poorly. Editorial comments from news organizations are dangerous, snarky or humorous comments at another person’s expense are worse.

Leadership and feedback is equally critical for social media posts as it is for your on-air product.

Sure, if you want to have funny with Miley’s twerking, go for it. But when it comes to the hard news stories of the day, sensitivity on social media is really important. Put yourselves in the mind of the user. How would you feel or react when you see your posts? Are you even reading the posts from your newsroom? If not, you may want to start.

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