Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Social Media Workshop: Hear Tips on Twitter, LinkedIn Lessons and Ways to Find Facebook Friends”

By Jeff Gelski

The ideal social media tool for business-to-business publications may differ by publication. Twitter has proven valuable in gathering contacts and story leads for The Packer, a weekly newspaper and Web site that reports on the marketing of fresh produce, said Fred Wilkinson, managing editor. While using Twitter, Courier Magazine has made more use of its Facebook page, said Jody Becker, editor.

Both Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Becker spoke at the “Social Media Workshop: Hear Tips on Twitter, LinkedIn Lessons and Ways to Find Facebook Friends,” which was held Oct. 20 at the Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission, Kan. The Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors produced the event.

Both speakers said using social media tools may not take all that much time. Ms. Becker works at Networx Communication Corp. in Kansas City, Mo., and serves as editor of not only Courier but also three other magazines – Applicator, Professional Window Cleaner and Scaffold Industry Magazine. She does not want to hear other editors say they’re too busy for social media tools.

“I have to tell you, you’re not,” she said.

Mr. Wilkinson checks Twitter a few times a day and estimates he spends an hour a day on it. A few times a week The Packer editors and writers find a story lead through Twitter.

About 700 people follow The Packer, based in Lenexa, Kan., and owned by Vance Publishing, on Twitter. The Packer follows close to 600 individuals or organizations, including government agencies, reader companies and advertisers, on Twitter.

“If you follow somebody on Twitter, they generally follow you, too,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

When covering a convention, The Packer editors and writers have sent out tweets about new product launches from produce companies along with a note that a full story will appear later. Mr. Wilkinson said a key benefit of Twitter is that it costs practically nothing to join.

The degree of technological knowledge runs a wide gamut in the agriculture industry, Mr. Wilkinson said. Executives for Chiquita can be as up to date as anybody, but farmers in Idaho might not be all that tech-savvy, he said.

The Packer uses to shorten web site links. HootSuite tracks statistics on social medial tools. The Packer has a Facebook page but does little with it. Mr. Wilkinson finds LinkedIn offers a way to keep in touch with co-workers, friends and colleagues.

Ms. Becker uses Facebook often, primarily with Courier Magazine, which now has 50 Facebook fans. She updates the magazine’s Facebook page at least once a day, which takes about 10 minutes a day. Facebook updates immediately go out on Twitter.

“It’s not a huge time investment,” she said.

On the Facebook page, she posts articles, comments on industry issues or seeks out story ideas or sources for stories. She also posts her blog entries to the Facebook page, where she has found people may feel more comfortable commenting on the entries.

Ms. Becker has joined Facebook pages run by advertisers in her magazines. She will request permission to add a link from her magazines to the advertisers’ Facebook pages although sometimes the request is denied.

Facebook has yet to make a lot of money for her company, but it has played a role in picking up several subscriptions.

Ms. Becker also has sent out Twitters from events. She said the first time she felt a little guilty doing that while the event was going on, but the web sites did see a spike in activity during the event.

Ms. Becker also mentioned Ning, a social network that is similar to Facebook. Ning lets users set up programs tailored to their industry.

Mr. Wilkinson urged editors to keep an open mind to any new social media tools that may appear in the future.

“Who’s to say in six months or three years what new thing in social media will come along,” he said. “Be ready to adjust and embrace new things. See what works for you.”

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