Social media has really emerged as a craft in the last year, like writing great headlines in print ten years' ago.
Here are my list of 21 best writing styles for Twitter and Facebook posts to boost engagement and get your content read.
1. Question to engage:
Artist and human right activist Ai Weiwei believes tweeting is NOT a crime, do you? Join him and help change lives now
Like the women in this film, any one of the thousands of women marching in Dublin today could be made a criminal if she tries to have an abortion in Ireland. Tell Ireland that she is #notacriminal NOW: http://amn.st/6185BKLKN
3. Call to action:
Join our supporters across the globe writing millions of letters to change the lives of people whose rights have been attacked
4. Sell without revealing too much:
This powerful US newspaper front page has a stark message about gun control
Here's why Roghul Khairzad is the bravest woman in Afghanistan
How capitalism destroyed your family - and why it doesn't matter
Social media is a key tool in the exiled journalist's kit: they are operating outside of their country so need to connect digitally more than anyone. For the readers too, especially those still in country, accessing alternative news and information is risky. If you are caught seeking out alternative news to the government controlled media you could be in serious danger.
For many journalists in exile they are there because their presence is seen as a danger to the government or rulers. They have been exiled due to danger. They cannot report freely within the country for fear of being victimised, imprisoned or worse. How do you grow a social media audience without being noticed? Does this matter? Can it be done?
How do you do social without engagement?
Of the 20 or so exiled media I work with, very few of them engage with their communities directly using mentions, tags and notifications like the rest of us. It will be interested to assess whether this is deliberate or again part of being under the radar? How else can they grow audiences?
Partnership with other platforms?
Medium, LinkedinPulse, Huffington Post and more are platforms designed for collating and collaborating around journalism. Stringr, Demotix and Publish.org all do it in different guises. But how can these platforms be used for spreading the most harrowing content? Are there networks interested in reporting on the world's most shocking atrocities? Do we like hard news but only when it is sanitised.
Chat apps mean danger?
There is a growing trend for chat apps to be used to distribute news. Telegram and Whatsapp to name just two. What I need to find out is how traceable are the accounts? How can an account be set up without it being followed by governments or security agents? If you publicise the phone number on your other social media does this work for the users - or are they still scared and intimidated to risk it.
What exactly are the risks for people in country?
Is liking a Facebook page OK but following a Twitter account not? Is sharing to a # OK but reTweeting or reposting on Tumblr not? How do we know what is deemed to be dangerous activity on social media for readers and users?
Understanding cross overs and potential collaboration for economic benefit for media under threat. Photo: Lynn Liu
For media seeking to support the free flow of information in fragile environments, the issue of financial sustainability is complex. Both media in exile (out-of-country news outlets feeding independent information back in) and news outlets in restrictive news environments (in country providing counter information) exist in flawed market situations and often rely on grant funding.
Researchers have stopped short of exploring the revenue streams of these media. Empirical data is scarce and a corresponding understanding of the funding structure of these media is lacking.
I've been lucky enough to work to fil this gap by mapping three main revenue categories of media in exile or in restrictive news environments: grant funding, earned income and donations. The major factors influencing revenue streams compared to online media startups in open markets are discussed. The study found the need to identify collaborative approaches to promote economic resilience for media under threat.
Thanks to Nemode RCUK funding, the Media Innovation Studio has hosted a workshop on the potential for collaborative revenue capture for exiled media: looking at whether or not there are ways to pool content or work together that could emerge a new business model or new revenue potential.
It was nothing short of an honour to welcome journalists in exile from Syria, Iran, Sri Lanka and more from restricted news environments. We also invited digital creatives and experts from across the media business sector and grant organisations such as Open Society and Internews, as well as Index on Censorship and Diversity Ad.
Discussing how new revenue streams could emerge from collaborations. Photo: John Mills
The aim of the event was to unpick how a collaborative approach could assist revenue capture for exiled media. It was our intention to bring together a range of experts from the donor community and exiled media as well as in the field of editing, cooperative news, advertising networks and media innovation to explore how exiled media could benefit.
The result was a highly stimulating and innovative workshop which has emerged some interesting ideas worthy of development and testing.
To combine innovations with press freedoms is highly beneficial and impactful. A journal article and report are forthcoming.
Hyblab is a data journalism project that is pushing the boundaries of pedagogic delivery of data journalism: and emerging a great way for knowledge transfer for media organisations and councils.
It's the brainchild of Ouest Media Lab with Sciensecom, Polytch Nantes and Agrecole Image Nantes
The project is now in its third year - and this lates iteration has ironed out many teething problems. It now runs over more intensive periods, rather than half days over more weeks: so is an intersting model for those wanting to teach differently and across multiple teams.
It reminds me very much that the French university system is less afraid of making students do real world - rather than real classroom.
A few of the reasons it's got punch:
1) It's a collaboration between three schools: computing, web design and journalism. Students get a great way of working in multidisciplinary teams and sharing expertise. Different days are hosted by each institute to keep it fair!
2) The first 'meeting' is an ice breaker getting a good mix of students into ten coherent teams. Great buzz.
3) The second session is a lab style hack. But it starts with the media pitching their data sets and an overview of an issue (such as organic food production in France or risks of flooding). Three minute pitches to convince the teams to pick them! The delivery works for those needing to rethink student contact time.
4) The media organisation then hangs around for the lab - a great way to get editorial input into the production process and make it all feel more real world. The outputs are destined to be produced and published after all.
I've experimented this week with a new form of delivery for my seminar classes on Digital Journalism part of my teaching of post graduates on journalism courses at Uclan. We used Coveritlive which has recently joined paid-for solution Scribblelive
It is a tool that allows for real time enagement with a community: participants can log in with Twitter or Facebook, tweet with hashtags you determine or email comments direct.
I used it to teach immersive storytelling and the class can be watched back live here and here
Giving a voice to otherwise shy students
One of the main advantages I felt was it gave a voice to students who otherwise would not talk in class. Students felt it was really interactive. I had more 'back' from them than I would normally get in a class where I talk at them (even when I am trying very hard not to). Moreover those especially with English as a second language seemed to like it more, as they could follow in their own time and respond in their own way without the pressure of speaking out. Indeed some of the most thought-provoking comments were from people I hadn't heard speak all term.
Live and remote
Without wanting to point out the obvious but it allowed for the class to be live and remote. Perfect for the students who had previously said they could not attend as they were sick: you can do this from your sick bed (which was equally the motivation I had for setting it up in the first place). Not least the novelty of a different style of delivery was a hit and the feedback was very positive.
Allow to repeat the session - and watch back
The great point in terms of delivery for a class was that you can repeat the event. This meant all the prep could be rolled on for a second seminar group. Equally, given that the class is logged and can be watched back it was a great way to showcase an example class to other students on our Facebook page and wider social channels.
Preparation is key
That goes for many things. Firstly, the students had been given at least a week's notice, and then sent reminders. It took a good few minutes for them to settle in and work out what was going on. But considering they managed this without any real intervention shows how simple it must have been. Equally the preparation of content was key: you can prepare polls, prewritten text and links as well as media which were essential. I was surprised how 'fast' the session and discussions rolled on so I was glad to have things in the bag to drop in, almost as a way to buy me time.
It goes without saying that this type of delivery would not be perfect for every class but this one seemed to work well. I wanted a certain level of discussion and debate, and to showcase/explore some tools and what they could be used for. That seemed like a nice balance.
Delay going out to the public
One lesson learnt was in structuring the session as a deliverer. The first time ended up a little jumbled as I put a shout out on Twitter. Such was my enthusiasm to show students we had wider interaction I dropped those Tweets in almost straight away but that meant the structure was blown apart. I should have stuck to my initial plan and just waited to drop in wider comments from the public. It also felt like a great 'soft' introduction to Twitter and live tweeting with wider audiences. We find it hard to get students to engage with Twitter (believe it or not) as they seem shy and overwhelmed by it as a professional tool.
It is also worth noting not to rush. It takes time for people to read and explore links if you post them. And if you ask people to find examples give them time to do so. It feels a bit strange when you sit there waiting for interaction but it is worth it. Also, the sessions lasted about an hour to an hour and a half - I felt this was ample as it is more intense than a traditional delivery.
New media services, platforms, producers are emerging all the time.
And there seems to be a particular interest around the all important horizontal - rather than vertical - media space. By that I mean the services which connect across different players and producers, offering joined up services to the consumer. Of course legacy media, startups and producers often focus themselves on the vertical.
The consumer loves the horizontal - they want everything in one place, to pay once, to subscribe once, to set things up once.
But producers love the horizontal too, as it can function at the 'back end' to connect people and be more resourceful.
The ideas have come about not least from delightful chats with James Neufeld from SAM social curation services.
Several examples of the horizontal at play in the back end have come onto my radar in the last few weeks:
Open reporterOpen reporter works by connecting journalists and citizens via precisely geotagging content, through an app (much like the winning app that came out of Media Lab Session at the Media Innovation Studio in May) and map. The focus is how do I find a story or expert or geo locations etc everything before the story. It is aimed at professional journalism so they have been at J school or been in the field for a substantial time with published work. Feeds can be filtered by time frames or geographic or topic. Detailed ot the street level. Stories by street and street. The community can also flag bogus content etc. 300 journalists at the moment. Email and password has been encrypted and data has been sanitised.
There are three main revenue streams. Fristly, for professionals and experts who want to boost their personal brand or profile. They charge experts to gain access. They pay to be there as it is cheaper than hiring a 400 an hour for PR. They charge 20 dollar for a months access... and the people who are interested in paying are thought leaders CEO brand recognition, professors, scientists,
Secondly the data api – because of the uniqueness. Because we have people recording stories as journalists that are precisely geotagged. Live crime data would want to know about feeds on crime etc. longditutional latitude. Data companies and data analytics, Bloomberg buys data feeds, political consulting firms they want data riven methodologies. In terms of bringing in the money, it is a bit longer than the sales cycle but quicker..
Finally the platform api: how do we integrate other platforms and organise piping on our systems as news worthy events or pr publishing more direct way they can connect with our community of journalists. Makes more money than trying to pitch to us newsroom to buy our platform – such as PR prfoessionals etc with a one to two week sales cycle
Storyhunter, which launched a year ago, aims to help freelance video journalists tell the world’s most important, untold stories. In addition to providing editorial support, Storyhunter handles sales and distribution, so journalists can focus on making videos. See also Newsflare, Citizenside and Demotix
Newsfixed focusses on the newsroom and teaming up freelancers for commissions. It is a network of professional journalists and the service works to combine the resources of individual pros to pitch together for larger commissions, or help connect freelancers between jobs.
Stringr A crowdsourced video platform which aims to enable newsrooms to source footage from anywhere in the world within an hour. Abigail Edge describes it better than I ever could.
So is the business of news. There are some pretty compelling introductory remarks in this special report on news and its revenue potential
But what if we added Internet of Things to the discussion?
I'm working at the Media Innovation Studio on a project to turn local news into something physical in order to capture revenues. We are not sure yet what form this will take but we have in our minds a line of research inquiry:
What happens to revenues if you make news physical? Does it change anything in the way people donate? Can it be a way for multiple news organisations to pool their content into one place? Can emerging mobile, text, swipe technologies be used more effectively if news is rendered into physical form?