How to use social media to find and promote your stories

Credit: Chandni Sembhi on Instagram

When Chandni Sembhi joined the LGBTQIA+ outlet PinkNews as a senior producer, she already had a track record of professional success in social media. His previous role as Content Editor at Channel 5 saw her producing viral tweets on their official account. She also runs the So You Want To Be A Journalist Instagram account, where she posts tips for breaking into the media.

“More and more newsrooms are putting resources behind social media content,” she said in conversation at a Journo Resources event.

“Until there is another platform, social media will continue to be on the rise. Over the past year, many more journalists have gained reputation through social media.”

There are no official rules for featuring news or features on social media sites, but Sembhi shared his top tips for using social media effectively to share and promote articles.

present stories

Stories are presented differently on a publication’s website and social media. On most platforms, articles need to be condensed or reduced to fit publication specifications, but that shouldn’t change the takeaway message of the story.

“Be sure to include all the key facts,” Sembhi explained. “You don’t want people to feel misinformed.”

Due to shorter and faster content presentation, you only have between one and three seconds to grab people’s attention, so start with the most interesting, interesting or shocking information. It is a question of identifying the “social line” of the play. If the article is about a sensitive topic, be sure not to sensationalize it just to get clicks.

[Read more: Is Snapchat still worth publishers’ attention?]

“You don’t want to be judgmental or opinionated as a journalist. Using a quote could work really well – an expert or someone who has that lived experience,” says Sembhi.

Social media is largely visual, so once you’ve perfected the text, it’s on the graphics, images, and videos. A rule of thumb is to always make sure your content is in the right style – social media algorithms won’t push it if it doesn’t look right or fit the platform.

For images and videos, using the right image format is a basic first step, especially if you’re posting the same content on multiple social media platforms. Using a square aspect ratio can help if you’re short on time, as it’s suitable for most platforms; Creator sites like Canva offer a range of templates if you’re not sure where to start. Sometimes you’ll need to “re-version” the post: for example, make sure you’re not posting an Instagram reel with a TikTok video watermark still visible.

Thinking “natively” is another of Sembhi’s key tips; Depending on the platforms you publish on, the different features of each app can help a story come to life, drive engagement, and create discussions with readers. On Instagram, this includes the use of reels and stories, as well as “stickers” such as polls or questions to get answers. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook also allow you to ask questions using polls.

Target the right demographic

“Audiences are very different from platform to platform. While all social media apps have a wide range of people, their primary demographics can vary wildly and that can change the tone of the stories you tell,” said she explained. The way your story is presented does not have to be the same on all platforms.

Facebook is a long-established platform with loyal users. According to Sembhi, that means it’s “targeted at a slightly older demographic that won’t be into the quick, fast-paced video you’d use for Instagram or TikTok.” Facebook users are also spending more time looking at single posts.

“The algorithm here is really interesting – it’s a lot of links, long videos and captions, and groups.”

Meanwhile, new apps like Snapchat and TikTok have attracted a younger crowd, mostly Gen Z (under 24), and you need to get their attention fast. At PinkNews’ A Snapchat account, Sembhi covers stories from a “more dramatic” angle to grab viewers’ attention faster.

[Read more: How freelance journalists can make the most out of social media]

Snapchat and TikTok both rely on video formats. For pitching an article or story, quick news summaries and presenter-driven content perform best.

It’s important to remember how the app will serve your content. On Snapchat, you can upload a three-minute video, but it will be split into parts posted as stories. You must be a Partner to download Story content on the app’s Explore page. So this platform might be better for established organizations that can produce branded content.

On Twitter, users aged 18-29 are the largest group; rapid real-time updates (known as live-tweeting) catch their attention.

While it’s essential to keep the general demographics of the platform in mind, it’s best to determine the demographics of your own audience as well.

Measure performance

Publishing your content is not the end of the process. A lot of important insights can be gained from your story’s performance on social media, “making sure what you post actually resonates with people.”

Sembhi recommends using any analytics tools provided by the social media platform you are posting on. These will help you identify the types of content that are performing well, so you can repeat that success. Analytics can provide crucial insights like which groups of people you attract, how much time they spend with your content, and whether they decide to read more of your posts as a result. Sembhi adds that comments are a good way to measure engagement without tools, as they show audiences taking time to respond.

Platform-specific tools to use include Twitter Analytics, Facebook Creator Studio, Instagram Professional Dashboard, and TikTok Creator Tools.

Instagram’s analytics tools are particularly useful as they measure account growth and engagement. However, Sembhi explains that it is more beneficial to look at a longer period, rather than checking fluctuating daily or weekly performance.

Social media platforms are constantly evolving to optimize their operation. This means that what makes for successful content is also changing. You can keep up to date with the latest developments through newsletters like Matt Navarra’s GeekOut, which tracks the ever-changing algorithms of social media sites.

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