Audience engagement for journalists: How to slay social media

Social media is a must-do for journalists — it’s where news breaks and conversation happens. But just because you post on Facebook as a private individual doesn’t mean you know how to use it as a professional. MJR asked University of Montana School of Journalism graduate Ric Sanchez to share his expertise. Here are his tips, in 140-ish-character increments.


Your platform depends on your audience! Reporters like FB and Twitter. Photographers? Visual platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, maybe Snapchat.



You don’t have to be on every new app. If you’re interested in expanding your social presence, focus on one platform and make it your jam.


It’s important for publishers to meet their readers where they already are online. Not everything needs to drive traffic to your dot com.


Eh, not exactly. Twitter isn’t as important as we think it is. You know who uses Twitter to follow journalists? Mostly other journalists.


Well, no. It’s great for staying on top of breaking news, but if you want your big Sunday feature to reach as many readers as possible, post it to FB.


You are a human person, and you should have fun on your social networks. Appropriately. (Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to defend on TV.)


When I started at the Post, we had just started experimenting with Snapchat and Instagram as journalistic resources. Now, they’re essential.

@rcsanchez93 Wait, isn’t everything live video now?

@MJR (I mean, pretty much. People joke that every app eventually evolves into either live-streaming or texting. This is mostly true.)

@rcsanchez93 So what about that new Pew study that shows young people actually prefer text over video? Will social networks stop pushing video now?

@MJR  ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄


Your organization should definitely schedule posts on FB and Twitter throughout the day, barring any breaking news. Morning is best.


Swearing on social networks is between you, your organization and your god. Once again, nothing you wouldn’t defend on TV.


Hashtags are kind of passé for news, imo. If they happen organically, go for it, but I’d be wary of creating one. Users now know how to find and follow topics.


Tweets from the “brand” handle don’t need to go through copy editors, but whoever runs the account sure as hell better know the stylebook.



It’s common, but not ubiquitous, to see journalists with separate private- and public-facing Facebooks. Less so with Twitter. Personal preference.


Your follows should be a solid mix of other journalists, but also sources and influencers on the beat you cover. Avoid the echo chamber.


WaPo’s David @Fahrenthold has revolutionized social media reporting. His followers have helped him track leads and come up with new story angles. #SPONSORED


The trouble with advice about ~the web~ is that it changes quickly. I preface newsroom trainings by saying, “What I’m about to tell you might not be true in six months.”


Whatever you produce for a platform must feel native to that platform. Journalism is not one-size-fits-all. Respect your audience, and they’ll respect you.

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Ric Sanchez is an audience engagement editor at the Washington Post. Basically, he spends a lot of time thinking about how readers interact with journalism content on the internet and tries to make it better.