By: Heidi Kulicke
Q: Should newspapers maintain the firm line between editorial and advertising content between their social media accounts? That is, is it OK to tweet promotional messages for your advertisers from the same account that you tweet links to your news coverage?
Dana Kandic, senior, Rutgers-Newark University, N.J.
Kandic is studying journalism at Rutgers and interning at Cosmopolitan magazine for photography research. She is multimedia editor and staff writer for the Rutgers Observer. After she graduates she plans to pursue a career in photography.
Remember when Twitter was new to the Internet and was a social networking tool that was only used by your friends? It was a convenient way to find out where your friends were and what they were doing. Now newspapers have joined Twitter, along with popular and local companies, verified celebrity accounts, clothing stores, and restaurants.
Following a newspaper on Twitter used to be a way to find out about breaking news quickly, but now feeds are becoming polluted with advertisements. It’s like the new version of pop-up Web ads, but is it right? Some might argue that if news organizations can do it in print or on a website, then they have the right to tweet advertisements too.
But are newspapers making any revenue by selling their tweets to advertisers? Twitter’s own support section states that, “promotional tweets are ordinary tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider group of users to spark engagement from their existing followers.”
Spark engagement? Maybe, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. Every time a newspaper tweets a promotional message from its advertisers, readers notice the paper’s logo or profile picture and assume that what they’re about to read is news.
The reason people are on Twitter is because of what the social media network was used for in the first place: to see what’s going on in the world around them. If tweeters are reading promotional messages from news organizations that have no relation to current news, then the reason for those news organizations to be on Twitter has lost its purpose.
Dianne Provenzano, retail sales and marketing manager, Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, Calif.)
Provenzano has been with the Marin Independent Journal for the past 15 years. She began her career as an entry-level classified rep. She currently oversees a staff of eight outside reps and manages the paper’s local marketing efforts.
Our newspaper has been grappling with this dilemma for a while now. We currently post and tweet selected news links to our Facebook and Twitter accounts and our only regular promotional message is for our daily deal, which goes out once a day. We ran our first “fan-gated” contest on our Facebook page as a separate “tab,” and it generated about 80 new fans in a week for us. If it were part of the live stream I think it would have done better. Now we are thinking about using our social media to rally charitable donations as part of our community outreach strategy. But there is some concern in the newsroom as to how we present those messages without editorial appearing to endorse any one organization over another.
This is a slippery slope if you think of our Facebook and Twitter accounts as wholly represented by the editorial side. But it’s my opinion that Facebook and Twitter are brand engagement tools — not just an RSS feed. People “like” and “follow” companies on social media looking for useful information. Our print edition contains lots of useful information including advertising and promotions along with the news. Why shouldn’t our social media do the same? I would like to see our paper use our social accounts to post local events, seasonal items, contests, and promotions. This would be in addition to our editorial content. That way the information we present is a better reflection of the content in our print edition. The more variety, the more chances people will engage with us. Which is good for our brand, our readers, and our advertisers.