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BY MARK FREEMAN
One day last spring I filed a standard Monday blog post at my Oregon newspaper’s website, then posted a link to it on my Facebook account because I thought some of my “friends” might enjoy it.
Not 20 minutes later, a techie from the paper’s Web division popped her head over her partition and asked who the heck do I know in Utah because she’s just seen more than 100 hits from Utah on my blog.
Well, Brett Prettyman at the Salt Lake Tribune made me a momentary hero in the Dow Jones Web world and illustrated a new way that newspaper outdoor writers can help themselves — and each other — through social media.
Prettyman simply “shared” my post on his Facebook account, and the army of Utahans who regularly read his posts instantly got access, and Prettyman’s endorsement, to read my blog.
The time of poopoo-ing social media is over. Portals like Facebook present an incredible opportunity to generate more traffic to newspaper outdoor websites and pages, solidifying our ilk as important niches in our businesses’ transition from print to Web.
Regardless of how vapid you consider the world of social media, you can’t get left behind here — even if it means asking one of your grandkids to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for you.
Social media is a wonderful way to expand your readership and get more unique page views on your blog and, hopefully, your outdoor pages and columns. Newspapers’ advertising rates are based on unique page views, so any extra hits you generate for your blog or page is more money for your paper and more reason for you to hang around.
Once you get comfortable with it like Prettyman has, the Facebook profile or page becomes a new medium for your craft.
“One of the things I have found is that (Facebook) has become, for all intents and purposes, a second blog for me,” Prettyman writes in, of course, a Facebook message. “One that is easier for me to manage because I can just hit ‘Share.’”
Simply go to www.facebook.com and www.twitter.com to set up free accounts that identify you by name and as an outdoors writer.
In Facebook, you simply add friends by looking for people you know. Once you have a few friends, readers will discover you and ask you to “friend” them. Friends can view everything you post to your Facebook account, while everyone else can view only what you choose to show to the public.
It’s the same on Twitter, except you “follow” others and they follow you, meaning you get access to each other’s “tweets.”
The best purpose for these posts is something not foreign to OWAA members: self promotion.
Think of Facebook and Twitter as cyber versions of plastering your name on your clothes and the side of your boat.
Except these generate more readership than stencils on your bass boat or pickup.
Prettyman has been on the forefront of the social media integration among outdoor writers, and his readership has jumped exponentially.
“It’s interesting for me to pay attention to the number of my followers on Twitter,” Prettyman writes. “I thought 300 was good, then 500 and now that I am over 900. I’m kind of excited about 1,000. Not sure why.”
On Facebook, many media outlets are asking their writers to create pages as “news personalities.” That allows writers to troll for readers and enjoy conversations with readers without mixing in family members and friends who enjoy more personal posts.
That also creates a very helpful buffer from Zumbo-ing yourself. Colorado outdoor writer Jim Zumbo suffered immensely from a blog post criticizing a form of firearms. It serves as a lesson that we need to steer clear of posting anything that might harm our reputations for the objectivity that we in newspapers guard so fiercely.
Avoid endorsements just like you would in your news columns. And don’t post any pictures of what you’re having for lunch.
But you would be surprised at how loose and fast newspapers can play in this new social media world as long as it generates unique page views.
One of the new newsroom adages is, “It’s all about the hits, baby.”
I once did a blog about an Oregon lake with off-the-charts rainbow trout catches. In the Facebook tease, I wrote, “Did I really just write that catching trout at Diamond Lake is easier than catching an STD in Thailand?”
In the old days, that would get me called into the Fishbowl for a major chew-out by the managing editor. Now, one of the techies says that was cool and that blog traffic jumped 25 percent. The managing editor laughed. And the hits keep coming.
On Facebook, I have a personal profile and news personality page. They are friends with each other, so a post on one goes on the other. I write nothing except posts with links to blogs and stories.
By adding fellow outdoor writers as “friends,” you and others can replicate how Prettyman gets me more hits with him than without him, and vice versa.
By hitting “share” or “like” on a fellow OWAA’ers link, we can generate more readership for everyone when we have a broader network than just local followers. ♦
—Residing in Medford, Ore., Mark Freeman has been a member since 1993. He is a staff writer and columnist for the Mail Tribune. Freeman is also an adjunct professor of journalism at Southern Oregon University. Contact him at email@example.com.