UCSC science writing program May 4, 2010 David harris @physicsdavid SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Symmetry Magazine Social media for science writers
Your social media use Who in this room does each of these? uses facebook uses twitter uses LinkedIn has a blog is in some specialist social network uses social bookmarking regularly posts video/audio?
Why care about social media? Our trade is information Information is flowing in new ways due to social media We need to understand those ways to take advantage of them It gives us new ways to think about what we do
Evolution of Information Ecosystems Authority relationships Trust relationships Personal networks Trusted authorities
The secret life of social media Key points: It often doesn’t work the way you imagine or the way it claims to It can be quite complicated and you really need to understand it to take advantage of it Social bookmarking as a case study See a full presentation on this from NASW 2009 at: http://bit.ly/9dip5J
Fundamental rule of social media It’s just a tool or It’s a tactic not a strategy or The technology is not the sociology
Corollary of the fundamental rule Social media is often not about the content itself: It is often the meta-content or the distribution Social media offers a chance for you to be entrepreneurial in reaching new audiences You’ve written the story, now get it to the people Social media can be particularly useful to science writers as science interest is a non-geographically-specified niche.
Use the right tool for the right purpose Q: When would you use a facebook status update vs twitter update? Q: What’s the main difference between facebook and MySpace? Q: Why would you blog with LiveJournalvs Blogger vsWordPressvs … ? Q: What’s the difference between email and a twitter stream? Q: How do individuals matter in social media?
It’s the community, stupid The use of social media tools is inextricably linked with the kinds of communities you wish to include, create, connect with, or be part of. The sociology is not really new in most cases. However, the power of the tools is much greater. There is a loose community of science fans who previously could only coalesce around popular science magazines. What does social media offer?
Journalists’ concerns How does a journalist navigate the private-public spectrum that replaces the old private/public separation? (Risks and opportunities.) What is happening to the gatekeeper role of journalism? (Middleman problem. The importance of filters.) Can journalists beat the sources to breaking news any more? (The role of scoops. Scientists who blog.) What value does a journalist add? (Will “just the facts” cut it? Content vs. context vs. analysis)
Business models Like old media, still predominantly ad-based This means, it’s all about eyeballs on ads, and therefore about boosting traffic Increased traffic is used as a proxy for just about everything else, but how valid is that? Does it matter if it’s valid? Some new models appearing Content is a loss leader in the form of community building. Monetized through other options, such as events. Example: thebolditalic.com Relying on sources for content such as Journalism/PIO partnerships. Example: US News & World Report/NSF
10 uses of social media for science writers Finding/tracking breaking events Reporting on events as rapidly as possible Observing remote events/conferences Participating in remote events/conferences Finding ideas and commissioning stories Finding sources Building community (among peers & readers) “Meeting” new people -> meeting new people Hearing about useful events Spreading ideas, generating secondary pickup/stories
Adoption of social media by science writers Where are the science writers’ social networks? Why are science writers so slow to adopt social media and so resistant to it? How will you cope with being seen as the expert on social media in your next job, just because you are young?
Planning social media strategies Remember the fundamental rule: it’s a tactic not a strategy As a tactic, you should experiment to see what works. If it works, keep it up (at least until something changes). If not, abandon it (at least until something changes). Cost of failure is low if you haven’t invested lots of time. The tech makes it easy to do without large time investments. A social media plan should naturally derive from a communications plan. It shouldn’t take long to plan.
Collaboration An insufficiently answered question: How can science journalists use social media for collaboration? Tools of social media allow for easier blending of different media types Collaborative workspaces share many features of social networks Tools for other social media can be put to collaborative use in science writing. (e.g. Google Wave) Given the technical nature of much science writing, many questions arise for readers. How can social media help with this?
Old media recommendations Books: Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008 Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing, 2008 Lewis Hyde, The Gift, 1979 Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action, 1965
Some new media recommendations Twitter: @physicsdavid/forsciencewritingstudents Web: www.mashable.com www.zephoria.org/thoughts ksjtracker.mit.edu www.niemanlab.org www.cjr.org/the_observatory How do you want me to share good links/resources?
Other stuff Some stuff from me: Secret life of social media (slides+audio): http://bit.ly/9dip5J What does twitter mean for breaking news stories? The ISS near-collision case study: http://bit.ly/bz6wEk Some recent articles: Who’s using twitter? http://bit.ly/aLbcTf How Freelancers are Using Social Media for Real Results http://bit.ly/b0be4m
During this class Who has read some form of social media in this class? Who has updated some form of social media in this class? Who had the urge to either read or post during the class?