Sunday, September 2, 2012

Social media and a prep sportswriter

It seems archaic even thinking about it.

Before Twitter truly hit it big, my first experience with live updates from a high school sporting event came a handful of years ago at the Baron Cup, Greater Cleveland high school hockey's city championship tournament at Brooklyn. I set up a new story on our website and throughout a tripleheader of games involving News-Herald area teams that day essentially made it a live blog - posts with times and the most recent first on the list, publish the site and there it was - a blog, albeit a basic one. Even better, I was online via - gulp - dialup.

Twitter has made the process a lot easier, of course, both for the purpose of posting updates and also for people to find those updates.

It's still an evolving process, but I thought it might be worthwhile to share a few of the lessons I've learned in the social media age and utilizing that platform in my job:

1) Keep it simple: Most of my Twitter followers are coaches, athletes and parents from my main high school beats - soccer, hockey, swimming and track and field. They want live information from events - score updates, state qualifiers and event winners if applicable, some opinion mixed in about games in team sports, etc. They don't want to see a Twitpic of what I'm having for dinner or a rant about tooth pain. Non-work tweets happen from time to time, but for the most part respect why your followers are following you in the first place.

2) Get used to convenience follows: The practice is nothing personal. From time to time, you'll cover a particular event that will appeal to someone on a given day. Case in point: I covered the Mentor at Erie McDowell football game Friday night. Since a lot of people didn't make the trek to Pennsylvania, I picked up followers who were interested in updates on that game. The reality is, after the fact, those Mentor fans will see I'm not covering the team every week, will not be interested in tweets about, say, high school soccer, and subsequently unfollow. Again, it's not personal - it's simply a matter of convenience. 

3) Let work speak for itself: Tweeting a link to a story, of which your followers may potentially be interested, is another way of building rapport. It becomes something else, however, when it's a subliminal practice of, "Hey, everybody, look how great my work is." The people who read your work will be the judge of that. They'll decide if it's good, subpar or indifferent. Link, but don't be a smoaster (social media boaster).

4) A list of scores can go a long way: One way I've been fortunate enough to build a following is to tweet area scores. In soccer season, for example, whether I'm covering a match or not, I'll tweet a list of scores we've received that day, along with scores available from the state coaches association website. It doesn't take very much effort but gets information out for which there's an interested audience.

There are many more lessons, but the bottom line is simplicity works best.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH


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