What does it mean to be influential in social media?
The world of journalism is a small one, and growing smaller every day. Literally, figuratively, whatever.
Along the way, you meet some really great people: colleagues, bosses, teammates, underlings, random staffers, anyone who helps put a paper to bed or a newscast on the air.
I owe my latest honor to my roots in journalism and my friends still in the industry.
The Poynter Institute selected me as one of its 35 influential people in social media.
I’m deeply honored to be part of this group. But what does it mean, and how did I get here?
Much of my career has been focused on journalism, or, more to the point, communication. I’m fascinated by how we share information, and how often we get it wrong or right.
Social media is a wonderful outlet for me to share ideas, quips, questions and information quickly and easily. I love my Twitter and Facebook friends continue to work on deepening my ties with my LinkedIn crew. And let’s not forget blogging, my best area of expertise.
In essence, I like keeping up with people. And maybe that’s why, when the nonprofit journalism school Poynter put out the call for nominations for social media influences, my friend and former colleague Dave Sharp stepped in.
I thanked Dave, my cohort from my Birmingham Post-Herald newspaper days, for the shout out, then thought nothing of it since September.
Until this popped up …
Wow. A professor from the Columbia Journalism School. Sharing info, an honor and a compliment all at once. Without Sree Sreenivasan’s tweet, I might not have ever found out about it. (I still wonder why they didn’t contact me and maybe all the finalists. Who knows?)
That’s how I got here. Without social media, I would not have found out about my accolade about being influential in social media. (Or something like that.) Poynter had announced the results in November.
But really, what does it mean?
I’ve talked about an honor I received the month before, Best Tweeter in Birmingham. I said that how I used Twitter, as a conversation starter and a promotional tool, made the difference.
Poynter had some interesting criteria for narrowing their list of 66 nominees down to 35 (a number mirroring its 35th anniversary celebration):
When determining who made our final list of 35, we looked at your nominations, comments and the number of “likes” or retweets each nominee got. We also considered other factors, including the impact and significance of the contribution.
So, someone who was an early adopter and has a long track record of using social media would be as likely to make the list as someone who had one substantial contribution.
(I have a great love for Poynter, having attended two of the school’s weeklong leadership seminars in the past decade. Journalism and its practitioners are so much the wiser for its instructors’ counsel.)
The three main ways I influence journalism are:
- I provide news, features, opinion and multimedia content through blogs and websites. (This includes writing about the industry, news gathering, reporting, ethics and more.) And I teach how. This is 21st-century journalism.
- I discuss journalism daily in social media: best practices, horrifying trends, great examples, big questions. And frequently in real life.
- I am a co-founder of Media of Birmingham, a professional group for networking among journalists, advertising managers, public relations experts, social media strategists and more.
I have a responsibility to help define what journalism is and will be as technology and society evolve at alarming rates. That responsibility is shared among all of us who care about news and responsible reporting.
Thumb through the list, and you will find authors, professors, photographers, entrepreneurs, Twitter gurus, old media, new media. It’s just a fascinating array of people who redefined journalism again and again and again. (You can also follow the Twitter list of finalists and nominees.)
If I am influential in social media, it is because I am consistent at the basics: generously sharing good stuff; listening and responding to others; experimenting and measuring; and offering original material.
If people listen, it isn’t because I’m some important guy. It’s because I share things that matter or inspire or provoke or amuse.
If you learn something through my social media stream, I am happy. Because I always learn something from all of you.
For me, it’s not about how influential I am, but how well I use that influence to make the world a little better.
So thank you. This journalist trudges onward through the digital landscape. Come along with me.
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