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The news and online journalism industry through the eyes of a young Web publishist.

Third Way social media: Let’s outsource it

Newsrooms worldwide are grappling with the implications of having to suddenly become adept at utilizing social media to promote their Web sites. Writers complain that it’s not in their job description; they don’t want to; or they just plain don’t know how.

Because  so many newsrooms remain pretty far in the Dark Ages of new media the task of outfitting an entire newsroom is a daunting task. Some will write up a plan, circulate it around their newsroom and hope it implements itself.

For those in the “hope it fixes itself” camp, you may be interested in who I met yesterday at a media job fair at City University London. During the fair I chatted with two representatives of Agency:2, a London-based social media agency. I was a bit confused about what a ‘social media agency’ does, so I decided to ask.

What they do is assist organizations with their social media needs. Asked if this meant organizations were just outsourcing their social media strategy to them, they nodded in agreement

I asked if their clients set out benchmarks for them and they said not really. The company goes in and establishes their client’s social media footprint, tracks what people are saying about their client, and helps their client remain competitive within the social media sphere. Since social media is still in its experimental stage, everyone — including these social media agencies — is still determining what works and what does not.

An excerpt from their Web site:

We promote brands within influential online communities. We do this by deploying our writers to actively participate within discussions on popular and highly targeted user generated sites such as forums, blogs and social networks. In addition, we monitor relevant conversations within such user generated sites to help brands improve their customer insights and competitive intelligence.

This is an interesting approach. For a news organization that is stretched thin, this could be a viable option. By handing this off to a third party it gives the news organization the ability to both have a social media presence and keep the articles flowing at the same pace.

The are also downsides to this. Namely that it prevents staffers from becoming trained in the ways of social media. This approach also would not work for a title facing severe budget shortfalls and thus cannot afford to employ a third party.

Despite all of that, I do think this could be a real possibility for some titles to establish their social media footprint while they wade through the financial crisis. Once the paper gain its footing, editors can begin to train or hire people to take over the responsibilities of maintaining their social media profile that was built by the third party.

Filed under: design, newspaper websites, social media, ,

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