Muck Rack, the startup that aggregates media tweets, hosted its first New York meetup at 30 Rock on Tuesday night with a little help from the social media department at NBC News. During a brief talk between bouts of networking over beer, organizers spoke about best practices for using social media in newsrooms.
Editors devoted to social have to be enablers and educators, said Social Media Editor Lou Dubois. “We’re a small group, so we all do a bit of everything,” he said of the NBC News social media team. “In a large organization like this one, it’s about empowering people to do the work themselves and letting people feel ownership of it.”
Dubois said his coworkers brought a wide set of skills to the job. Social Media Assistant Sarah Coffey has a background in design that has come in handy for making NBC News journalists’ Twitter profiles look uniform, for example, while Anthony Quintano, a community manager, has a background in photography and video.
Ryan Osborn, the first social media director for NBC News, stressed that journalists’ work continues beyond producing their reporting. “The job doesn’t end when you finish your story,” he said. Each platform, he added, was suitable for different types of material—Osborn recommended keeping tweets short and trying to find emotional content to resonate with people on Facebook, like images and video. “But be wary of presenting a voice of authority when so many people in your audience will know more than you,” he said.
On a projector screen behind the speakers, a rolling feed of Twitter posts tagged #MuckedUp descended. As if to demonstrate that his job never ends, Dubois snapped a photo of Coffey while Osborn was speaking and sent it to the stream. But he would later make two points that became the most tweeted of the evening.
“Be authentic,” Dubois said. “That’s one of the most important points. Clarify initiatives, answer questions, provide real-time feedback.” The board lit up with a host of “be authentic” tweets. Then he noted how important it is to maintain perspective. “Social is huge, but it’s not everybody,” Dubois said.
Osborn agreed. “One thing I’ve tried to keep in my head surrounding election coverage is the buzz versus the reality,” he said. “Most people still get their election news from local TV news—social ranks relatively low there.” Nonetheless, during the conventions, NBC News fanatics could track the team’s every move (even down to what they were eating for breakfast) across FourSquare, Instagram, and Twitter.
“The personal and the professional are really mixing,” Osborn continued. “We’ve openly embraced our reporters as their own little brands.” Topping the pile is David Gregory, the host of NBC’s Meet The Press, who appears on the NBC News Muck Rack page as its most popular account, with 1.5 million followers and a little NBC peacock on his avatar to signal his allegiance.
Muck Rack has been featuring tweets by reporters like Gregory since 2009, “after 60 journalists showed up in our press room at the Shorty Awards, which was meant for about 20,” founder Greg Galant told the crowd, referring to his media startup’s annual Twitter awards event. “When we realized how much journalists like to drink, and how many there are on Twitter, we created Muck Rack.” The site now hosts new profile pages for some 10,000 journalists since it relaunched last September.
At Galant’s bidding, the organized talk soon ended, and the Muck Rack faithful in the room went back to their own mixture of the personal and professional: drinking their beers and exchanging business cards, in between an enthusiastic amount of tweeting.