There are certain realities in social media interaction for serious, trusted brands, such as news organizations, political parties and nonprofits, where sophisticated layers of branding—including sensitivities surrounding appearance of bias—are concerned.
Every decision to follow, retweet, reply, list, #FF and smiley face other users can be deconstructed for bias.
This isn’t helpful where journalistic integrity is required.
Social interactions—for instance, “supporting” someone by retweeting them; following—actually muddy transparency, because they imply relationships where potentially only information gathering or “listening” occur.
This appearance sometimes can’t be made balanced by following “both sides”, as not everyone’s on Twitter.
When news orgs don’t tweet you back, don’t take it personally.
Some news organizations policy is noninteraction—basically treating twitter as an RSS feed & not participating in the social aspects. You’ll see many more followers than followed, and no retweets/@ replies. Why might they do this?
- They’re letting the quality, speed & accuracy of reported news be the product, as opposed to ancillary conversations built around it.
- They’re building up their reporters as trustworthy touchpoints.
- They’re preventing unconfirmed reports from being lent the weight of their brand.
- They’re conscious of the appearance of bias.
- They won’t benefit from nor have the capacity to engage in becoming mired in endless opinion-based arguments.
- They don’t want to demonstrate editorial bias towards the most sensational (ie, most talked-about or retweetable) content.
Twitter knows it’s branding bread is buttered on the “realtime news network” side.
People are pondering Pulitzers for Twitter reporting. Twitter’s pitch is that you’ll have instant news based on your interests, not social interactions.
Pew Research Centre for People & the Press reported in in December 2010 that 55% of Twitter users post links to news. Personal currency on Twitter is largely linked to sharing news, either “first” or curated for niche relevance.
Can news orgs increase followership with social media chit chat?
Sure. I’ve done it for a major news outlet. But the above reasons/risks outline why it may not be worth the effort for already strong brands. Training reporters to engage, investigate & report in real time is often a better use of the new media budget.
News orgs have a privileged place on Twitter—they have what people want. They’re the “media” in “social media”, you know? Their job is to provide information to the public, not chat about it.
That’s the job of informed citizens