Below is the article I wrote for an upcoming NATAS newsletter. The purpose of the article is to introduce social media to the NATAS member that may be thinking of using social media. Tell me your thoughts.

Social media may not be a necessity. Social media, at this time, may not drastically change viewership numbers. Social media, however, will give you or your organization another voice in a world where turning on the television is not always the first action people take to find news. Social media is a tool that can be used to connect your brand with the community. Social media can be a resource to find information.

When you make the decision to utilize social media, which ranges on many platforms such as blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, have a goal or a strategy. Social media is whatever you make it to be. CBS4 News, KCNC-TV in Denver, CO utilizes social media to achieve advocacy, transparency and interactivity. The goal is to connect our brand of empowering, insightful, relevant news with our community.

Many people in the newsroom, and even in other departments at the station, are able to contribute to the CBS4 News Facebook Fan Page and the Twitter account @cbs4denver. The experiences and knowledge of the many lend credibility to the social media platforms that are used. One example of this is when Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida logs into Twitter, announces he’s there to answer your medical questions and then converses with those on Twitter who submit questions.

Social media can also open new avenues for the way stories are told. CBS4 News was the first news station to partner with a local hospital, Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Medical Center, to Tweet live during a pediatric operation. Dr. Hnida was able to share on Twitter what was happening live in the operating room. Digital photographs taken during the operation were also posted on Twitter. Those who followed the surgery were literally in the operation room with Dr. Hnida and were able to have immediate answers to questions or concerns they submitted via Twitter. This was not just a social media story only available via Twitter. CBS4 News covered the Twitter surgery as a news story that was incorporated into several of the newscasts.

CBS4 News uses Twitter to share what’s happening in the newsroom and in the editorial meetings. Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Many stories have been found this way. Many interviews the reporters need to accomplish their stories have been found through using social media. This also opens the station to a new way for public relation professionals and individuals to pitch stories. At the same time another avenue to receive criticism is opened. By communicating in the social media platforms and addressing any critiques openly CBS4 News is creating trust within the community. Doors that seemed to be closed to community members are now wide open for them to be involved and vested in the station. When community members participate in discussions they feel like they are a part of the news process and when in the past they may have never turned on CBS4 News, now they do. Some now watch to see if the station has followed through on decisions made during discussions, and even more so to see if their own ideas, comments, submissions were aired in a newscast.

There were a series of April snow storms where community members submitted photographs, videos and information about weather conditions on several social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouReport on The station acknowledged the help from the community and aired several of the shared items. Credit was given by naming and thanking those whose items were aired live during the news. Another example of involving the social media community during news coverage is when CBS4 News asks for people to chat with the anchors during live instant message sessions and asks what questions they want answered on specific stories. For example questions that were submitted were asked at press conferences regarding swine flu and asked during post game coverage of the Nuggest's during the playoffs.

As social media evolves, so will CBS4 News' use of social media. The advice I can share for any media organization using or wanting to use social media is to first and foremost have a plan, a goal, a strategy. If you need a strategy to accomplish the goals you have for using social media, then develop that plan and communicate clearly to those in your organization that will be utilizing social media. You need to understand each social media platform is different and people use them differently. For example, Twitter has a fast pace and many conversations happen at once; whereas Facebook is slower paced and not necessarily a conversation. CBS4 News may post dozens of Tweeets in one day but only posts two or three updates on Facebook. Finally, when people follow or friend your organization on social media platforms those people have now invited you into their homes. Imagine yourself as the dinner guest at a party and behave as such. People who use social media expect an open door. You will not receive a friendly response if you just push your message at the dinner party and walk out slamming the door as you leave.