Report: How journalists use social media in 2017

As online platforms’ reach increases, a new study from Cision shows many media pros are wary of networks’ impact on journalism and mixed about how to use them for gathering content.

Reporters see social media as essential to their work; they’re just cautious about trusting it.

In a recent survey of U.S. journalists and other media professionals, 42 percent report using five or more types of social media regularly. Still, more than half are concerned about fake news and social media’s influence on journalism.

The report identified six categories of social media users: architects, promoters, hunters, messengers, observers and skeptics. Each group had its own preferences for social media use, often influenced by professional and demographic needs.

Although social media use has risen since 2012, some journalists still refuse to use any platform. Also, many journalists view PR pros negatively. Still, opportunities exist for savvy communicators to engage reporters and build relationships for better coverage, both online and off.

Social networks do better than ‘microblogs’

Though noting that overall use has risen since 2012, the report says “microblog” use (Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) has fallen among reporters.

The data suggest that networks such as Facebook and Google+ are preferred tools for journalists, though only 5 percent of respondents use only one social media channel. Whether tailoring content for a media package or honing a pitch, discerning PR professionals should keep this multi-platform approach in mind.

Audience interaction is crucial

The percentage of respondents who use social media for audience engagement has grown every year. About one-fifth (19 percent) of journalists report hourly audience interaction.

This means the audience angle has never been more important for all journalists, no matter what industry they cover. Over half of all respondents report some audience interaction daily, regardless of field or specialty.

Reporters are ‘ambivalent’ about PR pros

When asked whether they found PR professionals to be reliable sources of content, most respondents chose “neither agree nor disagree,” and large groups said PR professionals could not always be trusted.

This skepticism aligns with the widespread sentiment that “fake news” is a problem for news media outlets and is eroding the state of journalism nationally.

The report stated:

Journalists’ views about the impact of social media on their profession have been mixed, similarly to their views about the impact on their work and daily practices. Less than half of the respondents agreed that overall social media has had a positive impact on journalism (42 percent agreed, 26 percent disagreed and a relatively high 31 percent was undecided).

The survey asked whether social media was responsible for the spread of fake news and the decline of some journalistic norms.

[Thirty] percent of respondents strongly agreed, and an additional 21 percent agreed that fake news was a serious problem in their area of journalism and only 10 percent strongly disagreed. Another area of concern was the impact of social media on traditional journalistic values. 57 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that social media was undermining traditional values such as objectivity.

The data suggest that social media may be a poor avenue for offering expert commentary or industry insight. Though experts remain “preferred” sources of information, journalists said they balk at conversing with them via social media.

It concluded:

Unsurprisingly more than half (57 percent) stated that social media was the first choice of communication with the public – it affords journalists a unique method of communication with their audience. But it is equally evident that social media plays a minor role in communicating with other stakeholder groups, and here journalists resort to other established forms of communication such as email, telephone or face to face communication.

Key distinctions, important overlaps

The report again divided respondents into archetypes of social media users, with one addition for the 2017 report: the messenger.

At the heart of this delineation is the acknowledgement that every reporter or media outlet has specific and varied needs which might drive them to particular social media platforms and activities.

When analyzing how to pitch a reporter, a PR professional can use these categories to help determine which social media options could help them—and which might be a waste of time.

The report did note that most journalists are represented by the “observer” and “skeptic” groups. The main takeaway? It will take more than a tweet to get most journalists’ attention.

Communicators, how are you using social media to converse with journalists? Is there one platform that works best for your industry?

You can read the full report here.

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