Along with the new website and eAlert designs, communications for and among Guild members should also be improved by joining the social media community.
Freelance journalist and General Secretary Clemmie Gleeson has taken on the role of Guild ‘tweeter’ and she also looks after the new Facebook page. But how can members make best use of these new resources for getting information, views and comment on Guild activities?
Here, Clemmie describes how ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’ have entered our every day language and what role they can play for Guild members.
Social media has exploded in popularity in recent years. Twitter and Facebook lead the way in terms of popularity with 175 million and 500 million users respectively. They have a lot to offer agricultural journalists – and the best way to understand how they work is to get involved.
Visit www.facebook.com and sign up – it’s free – and start exploring. It’s very straight forward to set up your own profile complete with a photograph. Then it’s just a question of searching for your friends and contacts and sending them a ‘friend request’. Once they accept you as a ‘friend’ you will be able to see each other’s profile and start communicating.
Be sure to find the Guild’s Facebook page here and click ‘like’. Our updates and reminders will then appear as a newsfeed, which can be displayed in the toolbar at the top of the screen of your internet browser.
The Guild page carries snippets of information on upcoming awards and events to complement the main website. But it also provides an opportunity to strike up conversation or debate with colleagues on the ‘discussions’ tab. There are numerous other organisations with similar pages that you can join.
Twitter is quite different. It is basically a ‘micro-blogging’ site; so-called because each ‘Tweet’ is a maximum of 140 characters long. Again, the easiest way to understand how it all works is to get stuck in.
When you sign up you will need to choose a unique username by which others will know you. It could be your name, business name or a combination of the two. Search for people and organisations you know and click ‘follow’. Then whenever you log in to Twitter you will see their Tweets on your homepage.
Five reasons for using social media:
Farmers are using it. Farmers and others in the industry are increasingly using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other and others in the industry as well as consumers. See articles from Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian to find out more.
Up to the minute information. You can not only receive reminders about Guild events and awards via Twitter and Facebook. By following individual journalists and others in the industry on Twitter you can easily keep up to date with what is going on. For example, during the NFU Conference several agricultural journalists were live-tweeting quotes and observations. By inserting the ‘hashtag’ #nfu2011 into their tweets anyone could follow the tag to ensure they didn’t miss a thing.
Finding and sharing stories. As a source of leads and ideas for stories Twitter and Facebook can be invaluable. Twitter can provide information on virtually anything. Try searching for a keyword and just see what comes up. If your story is published online you could use Twitter to increase traffic to your website by tweeting an alluring headline and direct link.
Making contacts. Twitter can make it possible to reach people you might never otherwise have met – locally, nationally and even internationally – particularly those with niche interests. The opportunities to network within and outside the industry via both Facebook and Twitter is huge, but of course they can also be a valuable way of keeping in touch with ‘real life’ friends, family and colleagues too, and it’s a simple and free method of sharing photos and documents.
It is fun! There is a lot of fun and interesting banter in the Twitter and Facebook communities – as well as serious debate to join or just observe.
Tweet: A post or status update on Twitter; maximum of 140 characters
RT: Abbreviation of ‘re-tweet’ i.e. a tweet that has been forwarded on. It will name the original author as well as the person who re-tweets it.
# : A way of grouping tweets on a particular subject is to add a “hashtag” (ie a code word prefaced with a # symbol). That way, they are visible to all who search for that tag regardless of whether they are following you.
@ : To send a tweet to one person in particular include @ followed by their username in the message. The message will be seen by all who follow both you and the recipient.
DM : Abbreviation of Direct Message; in other words, a private message visible only to you and the recipient.
A few agricultural journalists/PR professionals who tweet:
@Gajinfo @tom_levitt @saralhawthorn @EmilyFarmers @lakesmarketing @FarmersWeekly @CarolineFW @johanntasker @AlistairDriver @FarmersGuardian @MikeFW @FGBen @VickieR14
A few Facebook pages that may be of interest:
Guild of Agricultural Journalists http://www.facebook.com/pages/Guild-of-Agricultural-Journalists/171896872840854
Farmers Guardian http://www.facebook.com/pages/Farmers-Guardian/45093379305
Farmers Weekly http://www.facebook.com/pages/Farmers-Weekly/17050705902
The Scottish Farmer http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Scottish-Farmer/342382261712