ArchivesNovember 2010Advantages, pitfalls of social media bared

Advantages, pitfalls of social media bared

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The various social media tools on the Internet may have revolutionized the landscape of how news and information are shared, but there are potential hazards that journalists need to recognize as the line between public and private activities is blurred by such tools.{{more}}

In a forum on Then the Web became a Social Network: Social Media for Journalists, investigative journalist and media studies researcher Avie Olarte reminded her fellow writers in the Philippine Network of Environment Journalists (PNEJ) in a forum in Manila that “professional integrity is our most important commodity”.

She urged her colleagues in the industry to take advantage of the power of social media which enable us to connect with the community, find experts and sources, monitor key issues, get news leads and tips, know the “pulse” of a topic, aggregate content from various sources, use them as investigative tools, promote our own stories, and sell/market oneself.

She lamented that some even open a Fan Page, which could be perceived by others as vanity. She also cautioned on setting up websites without much planning for content, or with what one puts as his expertise.

Olarte said 14 million Filipinos use the Internet, or roughly 15.1 percent of the population, making us the 10th heaviest users in Asia, and the 26th worldwide.

She cited a study on social marketing reach and engagement in Asia-Pacific markets done in February this year showing how Filipino Internet users rank first in using social networking online with a 90.3 percent reach, at an average of 5.5 hours of usage per user. Japan had a 42.3 percent reach with an average of only two hours per use.

The same study found that Facebook is the top social networking site in Asia-Pacific markets. Twitter ranked No. 6 worldwide.

“The social media is democratizing the communication landscape, and we’re no longer gatekeepers,” she said, that almost anyone who has access to the web can simply upload information in the online news process or be an editor.

“Others have reshaped their newsrooms because of the technological changes, hiring full-time web managers to manage their online content,” she noted.

She quoted the findings of a survey among journalists that revealed 89 percent use blogs, and 65 percent use social networks to research on their stories.

She also cited a study by the World Editors Forum how Facebook Connect, a highly-viral platform for news, allows anyone to share articles, build up conversations, connect with friends, join networks, publish to Twitter or to one’s blog.

The Trends in Newsrooms 2010 study also found how the San Francisco Chronicle registered a 1,597 percent growth in page views in less than a year. While the news website and content-aggregating blog Huffington Post enjoyed an increase of 500 percent in referrals from Facebook in six months, or a total of 3.5 million visits.

Olarte presented random homepages of some of the country’s community papers which showed that the Dumaguete MetroPost based in Negros Oriental is one of the very few, if any, which has an interactive version on the web, complete with Share and Comment buttons.

She said journalists can find various experts and sources of news through Listorious or SciDev.Net on Twitter, or sciencebase or Science Writers on Facebook; and monitor key issues and get news leads and tips using Tweetdeck.

Olarte, however, warned that although the social media — which include other popular web-based technologies like Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, YouTube, and Google Reader — can help us do all that, it can also monitor what we have been up to. “It can recall your past tweets, show conversations, or find tweets mentioning you.”

“It’s almost scary; it’s as if someone is watching and recording our every move,” one journalist commented.

Olarte said journalists can also know the public’s pulse on any topic by looking for trends on Hashtag.org, Monitter, Twitterfall, or Google updates. Short messages may also be tagged when one attaches the hash symbol (#) as a prefix to a word or phrase, for example, #climate change, for easy search.

She recalled the recent incident involving USec. Mai Mislang, the Malacanang speechwriter who got in trouble for tweeting about Vietnam’s bad wine, bad traffic, and the lack of handsome men. She has since deleted her Twitter posts, but they could still be located through the program Amplicate or favstar by simply encoding the phrase “wine hate”.

A quick search on the history of Tweeting topics of journalist Prime Sarmiento also revealed that her top topics were about money, work, and learning.

Olarte also quoted a report about how a US court charged a man of lying when he claimed he was with his children at one point. His past activities on the Internet proved that he was simply managing his FarmVille, a real-time farm simulation game on Facebook. FarmVille, set up on June 2009, has since grown to be Facebook’s most popular application, with over 62 million active users as of September 2010.

She warned that simply hitting the Like button on a certain blogpost can henceforth allow the blogger to send the one who hit Like more updates on his News Feeds.

Olarte said there is an urgent need for all Internet users to revisit their settings, and get protected by hitting Reclaim Privacy.

Facebook runs a privacy meter that gauges if a user is “exposed” or safe. A user is exposed when his content is available to virtually anyone who is online, not just friends — which can cause problems like harassment or identity theft.

(Back to MetroPost home page)

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