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November 14 2011

21:45

A Newsroom Primer: Starting Fresh With Google+ Brand Pages

If newsrooms avoided creating an account on Google+ when the product asked brands to stay away, the time has come to build your brand inside the social-networking tool. Last week, Google opened up brand pages for all to use.

But before you set it up, there's an important thing you need to know: You can set up a brand page that is attached to your personal Google account, but at this point, only one person can manage a brand page.

My newsroom had an already existing Google account (that had a profile suspended on Google+ when it initially launched because brands were not allowed inside the social network). I rebuilt the new KOMU 8 News page using that Google account because it means I have a core group of people who have access to the username and password without having to give away my personal username and password. It also means you have to bounce between different browsers to manage your personal account and the brand account. There are pros and cons to both options. Either way, you have to agree to Google Pages' Terms of Service before you can move forward.

setting up your brand

komugoogle+.png

Once you agree to the terms, you have a chance to add your brand's avatar and create a tagline. This is the short summary of your brand that anyone will see when they look it up. You want to be concise and have fun with it if you can. My newsroom is focused on mid-Missouri, but Google+ has helped us expand our coverage. So our tagline is "Mid-MO and beyond. The most innovative + in the news biz." The New York Times' Google+ page says, "All the news that's fit to +."

There is no requirement to use a "+" in your tagline. I promise.

Once you have a tagline and an avatar, Google+ recommends you send out a post and share the arrival of your new brand. You can do that immediately or you can take some time to build out the look of your page.

managing your page

If you choose to work on your page, you can add a few things to it. If you just posted a URL to your website, you can also add a phone number, email and physical address if that's something you think is important. Be sure to verify the email you share on the page. (A little verification link will pop up minutes after you save your changes.) This is just a step you can take to prove to Google that you really do represent the brand. You can also add photos and additional links that help your Google+ consumer learn more about you.

Once you post, you need to revisit your page and hit refresh to make sure you see any new reactions. I'm often adding my personal Google+ profile in the posts so readers know they can also respond to me. I hope that will help keep me up to date with the responses to the content I post on our brand page.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned after working inside the Google+ brand pages for a while:

  1. Your brand must get circled before you can add anyone into your brand's circles. This helps prevent spam inside Google+, but it also makes it a lot harder to keep track of how and who to circle. Adding people into your circles is a slow and manual process. The +KOMU 8 News page is focused on our regional market of mid-Missouri, but our Google+ audience extends around the world. I've created circles for regions in my market and beyond to help me track what people are saying. I haven't been able to keep up with our 6,500-plus circlers because Google continues to restrict the number of people I can put into circles. Hopefully, that process will change soon. I am committed to adding people into our circles so I can listen and learn from the many people who are talking inside this space.


    Time magazine is trying an idea I tested out the first time my newsroom was inside Google+. The Time page has asked its consumers to tell them what topic circles they'd like to be in. The question was so successful, they had to ask it a second time because the brand had reached its 500-comment limit. Each person who pitches a topic circle has to be manually added into the brand's circle. Hopefully, someday Google will make it possible for brands to create public circles and allow anyone to put themselves inside.

  2. You don't get alerts when your brand is mentioned or added into a circle. I rely on those alerts with my personal profile. My only workaround on this is by searching my brand in the Google+ search bar. I don't know if it shows everything that is said about my brand, but it gives me a chance to comment and +1 content that includes my brand.
  3. Hashtags work. This is another way that's worth trying to keep up with the way people want to engage with my brand. My newsroom tested out an idea where we asked our G+ readers how they heard the national Emergency Alert System by adding a #KOMUalert hashtag. We didn't hear from a lot of people, but it was clearly a quick and easy way to track a topic. It can't hurt to share hashtags on your brand and see if others will use them.
  4. Take advantage of sharing circles. One of the best ways to make sure your brand is included in a collection of recommended media brand pages is to build one of your own, and contact and share your newly created page with people you know who are active on Google+. Promote the heck out of your page so everyone knows it exists. Of course, once you promote it, make sure you follow through and add content there!

Here is a list Google created of the differences between a Google+ profile and a brand page.

Our newsroom's page is asking for input at every turn as we build the page. Google+ gives you the opportunity to share extended content, links, images and video. Try it all out, and get opinions from the people who have circled you. Our newsroom is also using Google Hangouts every Monday through Friday as part of a nontraditional social media-based newscast called U_News@4. I was impressed to see ABC's "Good Morning America" test out the idea of using Hangouts on its show and spent a good chunk of time on it during one morning broadcast this week. CNN and Fox have also found opportunities to use Hangouts in recent months. Let's keep this going! Get creative and see if Google+ offers new ways to reach media consumers and beyond.

Jen Lee Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to nontraditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the interactive director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

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July 24 2011

17:45

Sarah Hill, KOMU-TV - Google+ Hangout: Norwegians speak on Oslo bombings

Another case of how journalist currently make use of Google+ features. Sarah Hill, an American television journalist at KOMU in Missouri, used a Google+ video chat Hangout to bring together Norwegians via Google Plus about their reaction to the recent bombing outside government headquarters and shooting at a youth camp outside Oslo. One of the video chat room participants described what it felt like when the bomb blast went off. The G+ Hangout was recorded and broadcast on TV.

 

May 24 2011

19:59

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado

When Joplin, Mo., was hit with a massive tornado, I knew my community would react. Even though we're nearly 250 miles away, many people in Columbia and mid-Missouri are either Joplin natives or have family there. My newsroom's normally local-focused Facebook page quickly became a clearinghouse for updates about how mid-Missouri could help the tornado-ravaged community.

Fans are using the page now to share news, photos, videos, information on relief efforts, and in general, to connect with each other in a time of crisis.

The efforts grew organically on our page. The KOMU online audience is already very interactive. We have 10,000+ fans and, on average, 7,500 users have some level of interaction with us on a weekly basis, according to Facebook Insights.

I encourage sharing and conversations among everyone in an open and transparent way. I and my web team pay attention and are constantly interacting with our fans. Over time, a relationship has developed -- the kind that's enhanced during severe situations like what happened in Joplin.

When the tornado hit, our Facebook fans knew they could trust us to coordinate and share important information there.

So that's just what we did. Since the tornado, I've been on overdrive. In the last 24 hours, I've gathered information on social media to share on our website, KOMU.com, and on Facebook. I'm gathering as many relief drives as possible to share on Facebook, KOMU.com and the newsroom's Twitter page. My goal is to share and gather data from the social spaces where KOMU's audience already interacts.

The Beginning

When the first information came out on Joplin, KOMU-TV was on the air with details about severe weather in our area. Our meteorologists shared images live that were posted on our Facebook page using an iPad. Anytime we show live Facebook content on television, our interaction online starts to jump.

I was working from home, but knew we had a spark of community activity on our Facebook page. I and a few others working in our newsroom started posting links from our website to Facebook. One of the most viewed pages is a collection of tweets curated on Storify. It's had more than 8,000 views in less than 24 hours and was shared on Facebook more than 165 times. These kind of collections continued to bring people to our Facebook page to interact and share.
SharingOnFacebook

A number of people wanted to know how they could help. We posted immediate links and information about how medical providers could offer their expertise and how relief agencies were trying to coordinate assistance. I wrapped up my oversight of the page around 1:30 in the morning with a dramatic video on YouTube. It created a stir, even though it was very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective).

Some of the conversations I had with our Facebook audience led to our morning show coverage. A woman who posted a picture about a tree that crushed her van became the subject of a live report the next day.

treesdownscreenshot

The Next Day

Not only did we have continuing requests on how our Facebook users could help, a growing number of people had information about blood drives, fundraisers and donation sites. Not only did I take the time to thank users for the information, I added a link to my Facebook profile by typing "@jen Lee Reeves" to identify myself as the person commenting as a representative for KOMU.

My newsroom started to ask for the community to tell us about the relief efforts they knew about. I tried to keep up with a list and encouraged our Facebook users to post their efforts on a discussion page. When I learned about items that weren't added to the page, I'd copy and past from the Facebook wall and Twitter. (Our newsroom encouraged our region to use #JoplinMidMo to help us keep track of local efforts.)

The best development with Facebook pages is the "Notifications" link that helps me keep track of any interactions on the page. I'm able to see new posts, likes and comments on items that might be hours old on the page. Almost every time I respond, I add that link to my Facebook profile.

Near the end of the day, I slowed down my obsessive oversight of the page. One member was unable to find a donation location, and other page members jumped in with some details. I was able to research a few extra details and add to the conversation.
HelpingScreenShot

A Wish List

After spending so much time inside the Facebook page, I have a few things I'd love to have the next time I'm helping manage a crisis.

  • The ability to post notes. Facebook groups have a wonderful ability to let members create and contribute openly to notes. This would have been much easier to manage with our collection of relief efforts. I'm helping manage a community Facebook page that allows notes. My "television station category" doesn't get notes in Facebook.
  • The ability to create a call to action at the top of the page. I had to repost a number of helpful links and information because our Facebook users kept asking the same questions. It would have been great to have the main relief information easily accessible.
  • Photo tagging needs to be easier. I know this is a new feature where Facebook users can tag a page they like. I had a number of people tell me they weren't able to tag KOMU to a picture. I've also noticed this service is spotty.
  • The ability to tag posts from a mobile app. When I left the newsroom, I had to add to the comments on the KOMU page without the ability to identify myself.

It will be interesting to see how long this call to action continues on our Facebook page. Our newsroom is planning a telethon with local organizations on Thursday for Joplin. I hope to Livestream the event on our Facebook page and offer anyone the ability to embed the stream to their websites. (I haven't figured out all of the logistics, but hopefully I'll have it ready by Thursday.)

Many other Facebook pages focused on Joplin relief, especially one built solely to offer updates and relief. KOMU was able to focus on the efforts in mid-Missouri. The online relationship we had before the crisis was able to grow in this time of need.

Hopefully, it's an example of how a commitment to social media can help encourage ongoing conversations between a newsroom and its community.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

February 17 2011

16:45

Blizzard Builds KOMU Community with Mobile Video, Facebook







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

I've always dreamed of a time when my community could come together with the help of our on-air and online collaboration. All it took was a blizzard to make it happen.

Mid-Missouri was hit with a blizzard-like storm that dumped 17.5 inches of snow into Columbia, Mo., and even more south of the city. The entire viewing audience of KOMU-TV was home and stuck inside. An ice storm had threatened to cut power across the region, but that didn't happen. Instead, the community was snowed in with power to their computers and high speed Internet connections. They were contained and ready to be engaged.

The KOMU newsroom was ready. The staff is a mix of professional reporters and journalists who are still students at the Missouri School of Journalism. The managers of the newsroom -- who, like me, are also faculty members -- encouraged the students to step up and help out in the coverage of what was looking to become an epic storm.

About 40 faculty, staff and students essentially lived in the newsroom to make sure all of the newscasts got on the air. I gathered up multiple teams of reporters, who were then placed into different communities. Each team had a really nice camera and at least one person had an iPhone, Android or Blackberry phone that could shoot video and/or Skype. I had the reporters download a set of tools that would help them tell multimedia stories about their locations and how those smaller towns were dealing with the heavy snow.

My recommendations were:

While we didn't use all of them, I wanted to make sure we were ready and able on all kinds of platforms.

Videos on the Scene

The reporters went out to their various locations, found a hotel, and got ready. As the day went on and the snow fell harder, the mobile reporters went out into the storm. They were looking at scenes no one else was willing to travel out to see -- like what a closed interstate highway looked like:

My favorite was taken the morning after the storm when one of our student reporters hopped onto a snow plow to survey the bad road conditions:

While the reporters were out sharing their stories of the snowstorm, our viewers were at home watching every link, video, and live broadcast. When the majority of the storm was over, the KOMU 8 viewers took over by sharing many of their own stories about the storm. Our newsroom has an email address that accepts moderated photos into a Ning network. Hundreds of photos were sent to KOMU -- and that was in addition to the more than 620 photos posted to the KOMU Facebook wall.

The fan page was the centerpiece of our online interaction during the storm. A year ago, KOMU had fewer than 500 "fans" on the page. Before the storm, it was up to 3100. After the storm, it was up to 5500. Our newsroom has yet to use contests to encourage fans to join our page so this jump was huge. Along with the increase in fans, more and more people join in on the conversations and share on the page.

Big Moment for Sharing

This is what I've always craved as a journalist working in a regional market. It's exactly the sort of interaction I've taught my students to foster for years. I have always wanted open the line of communication and sharing with my news audience. This blizzard was the first time I really had that opportunity.

During the storm, I lived on my computer. I commented and reacted to every discussion for at least 36 hours. I slept very little.

My experience was not unique for the staff. My husband, who also works in the newsroom, and stayed there for two days while I worked from home with our children. I had student employees who slept at the station and worked with me throughout the storm.

It was awesome and exhausting. But the relationships formed during that storm seem to be holding. In the two weeks since the storm, KOMU's Facebook page has only had about ten "fans" leave the page.

The downsides? The amount of user-generated content we gathered was overwhelming. I wanted to make sure we had opportunities to share all it. Our anchors did stories about the content viewers had shared, and we featured the images and video by showing off an iPad on the air. I also had my students create collections of the photos our viewers uploaded. Here's our Blizzard Kids collection:

The best moment? I'd say it was when our team found a woman and her son digging out the reporters' car. They were compelled to help by a Skype conversation during our newscast about how the reporters' car had been buried at a local hotel. The mother and son, who were staying there at the time, left their room just to help the reporters get their car out of the hotel parking lot:

What lessons did we learn? That when you have a chance to engage, grab it. We used mobile tools to report and encouraged our viewers to do the same. We shared, we compared, and we were a true community on-air and online. I would suffer through a hundred more blizzards if it meant we could continue to share and collaborate like we did during this one.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

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