Now your boss wants you to tweet three times a day, every day.
Something about building the newsroom’s brand and encouraging engagement with your audience.
Who has time for that these days? You’re already juggling three beats, taking your own photos and trying to learn the basics of smartphone video. Maybe, if there’s time, you can actually interview sources and put together a story.
Feeding the social media monster has replaced the newspaper challenge of yesteryear: filling the voluminous newshole. (To have “problems” like that again…)
Thankfully, several free and low-cost tools can help journalists find useful content to share on their social media channels. Investing a little time up front to set up a few search and curation services pays off every day — saving precious time to focus on reporting, writing and producing stories.
This chart summarizes tools that can help you find content, schedule posts and even automate some tasks. Descriptions follow of several key tools.
These tools have become our go-to services to find useful content based on key words and topics:
- Feedly: How did we live without these awesome service? You can customize the free version to search various topics and sites. It’s like setting up a wire service of customized news. The free version allows you to share stories via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. We sprung for the pro version ($65 annually) because it adds LinkedIn, keyword alerts, advanced filtering, and integration with Buffer, HootSuite, Evernote, Pocket, WordPress and Dropbox.
- Nuzzel: Once you connect your various social media accounts to it, Nuzzel searches across your friends and connections to see which stories they have shared most often on Facebook and Twitter. It’s easy to miss important news on your beat, on technology and in the journalism industry. Nuzzel is an effective backstop. You can set up a daily email that summarizes and links to those stories — fodder for your own social sharing.
- Dlvr.it: This service enables you to monitor RSS feeds and websites so that new stories appear in one curated feed. From there, you can decide which ones to share on your own social channels. The free version provides up to five RSS feeds or websites and links to three social networks. The pro version ($102 yearly) handles 50 feeds/sites and 10 social networks. It’s easy to set up automatic posting from particular feeds to your own social channels.
Once you find useful stories to share, several tools allow you to post them automatically to your own social media streams. Most allow you to create a customized schedule of times each day when your posts will be published. That way, you can spend 30 or 45 minutes scanning Feedly, Nuzzel, Dlvr.it and other curators and loading several posts to be published over the next few days.
For our needs, the pro version of Buffer ($102 annually) works best. It allows you to connect up to 10 social media platforms and schedule up to 100 posts at a time. Our Buffer service includes the Kiplinger Program’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as individual Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds for deputy director Kevin Z. Smith and me. A business version ($1,000 yearly) allows for larger teams and includes robust analytics.
With Buffer, you install an extension on your Web browser (laptop, tablet and smartphone). When you find a story you want to share, simply press the Buffer button and an easy-to-follow interface opens. Select the accounts where you want to share the story, rewrite/modify the descriptive text, add hashtags and then add it to your Buffer. You can set up a schedule on Buffer for each account: Post three times daily to Twitter, once a day to Facebook and so forth. As you load content into Buffer, it automatically posts items on the designated platform according to your schedule.
So when we find interesting stories via Feedly, Nuzzel, Dlvr.it or just from online reading, we can share those stories on any combination of the 10 social media accounts that we have linked to Buffer.
Automate social sharing
As noted, Dlvr.it can be set up to automatically share stories on social platforms. For some purposes, that works well — a repost of a relevant story without any explanation or hashtags.
However, we shy away from much auto-posting because we want to add our #kipcamp tag and explanation to many of our shares about social media and journalism. With Buffer, that customization is easy and intuitive.
Other automation tasks can be tackled with a free service called If This Then That (IFTTT). No programming skills are needed. Here’s the premise of the service: IF THIS happens on one platform, THEN do THAT. Simple “recipes” (prebuilt programs) make the magic.
IFTTT has suggested recipes to streamline social media. Here are some ways that IFTTT might save you time and help organize your work life:
- Post Instagram pictures as native Twitter pictures (rather than a link to the Instagram post).
- If you favorite a tweet, save it in your Evernote.
- Copy any Instagram photo you take to a Google Drive or Dropbox folder.
- Build a Twitter list from a specific hashtag (perfect for conferences and breaking news).
- Get a daily email digest of public tweets near an address (e.g. the Statehouse).
- Share your Instagram posts on Facebook.
- For every phone call you make, track it with information in a Google spreadsheet.
Most of the services provide different levels of customization and basic metrics to see which posts get the most traction.
So, tweak to your heart’s content until they work precisely for your needs.
We’ve found a silver lining in setting up a process to mine content and share it regularly: We feel more informed and smarter about the topics we care about the most.