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FreePint BlogStrategic use of social media - Heron & Hughes at news:rewired

Wednesday, 8th February 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Martin Belam


At the news:rewired event in London last week, Liz Heron and Nicola Hughes both gave great insights into their uses of social media. At the New York Times Liz is mostly concerned with the best strategic way for the paper to use social media, whilst Nicola Hughes uses social media as a powerful investigative tool.


At the news:rewired conference in London last week, the New York Times' Social Media Editor Liz Heron gave the keynote talk. She explained that even as little as a year ago the question seemed to be "should we be doing social media?". Most organisations, she explained, are now over that stage, and are more into asking "how do we do it well?".

She had three key messages for people running social media for their organisation – "be strategic, be different, and strive for meaningful interactions". The days of amassing large follower counts as the key metric were over, she said. Instead, businesses need to focus on the distinctive thing about each social media platform.

With Google+ for example, the New York Times has spotted the potential of the video hangout feature. As part of its coverage of the 2012 US Election The Times is hosting regular sessions that put its audience in touch with its key political journalists.

Facebook is different. There, the paper has encouraged foreign correspondents to have a presence, using the new "subscribe" feature. Heron stressed that only a third of Facebook accounts were based in the US, which meant there was a huge scope for people covering the world outside of America to get in touch with new voices and new potential sources through the conversations that take place in Facebook.

Facebook also has potential as a research tool. For a recent series with a focus on depression among young people, they used the platform to gather material that eventually made it into the paper and formed the basis for some of the journalism.

Also on the agenda at news:rewired was a workshop session run by Nicola Hughes. She specialises is using social media search tools to uncover stories, but the techniques she uses could be equally as applicable to someone working on a research desk as hunting down a person who can provide pictures of a volcano eruption. She has written a blog post outlining some of her techniques, based on a previous appearance at the event – "Sorting the Social Media Chaos" – and has also put together a useful resource page of the tools that she uses. This is much more than a list of URLs, as it also includes some really instructional examples of what the tools can be used for.


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Martin Belam is Information Architect for Before joining The Guardian, he worked as an Internet Consultant with organisations like the BBC, Sony, Vodafone and the Science Museum.

Martin also blogs about information architecture and the media at and can be found on Twitter as @currybet.

Martin can be reached at

More articles by Martin Belam »

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