This is the second post of a new social sandbox series, “Socially Speaking,” where we talk to NPR reporters and producers about their experiments in the social space. Who do you want to hear from next? Send me your suggestions on Twitter.
- Kate, social media intern
NPR desk: Digital News, All Things Considered
Twitter handle: @sgraslie
The takeaway: Invite your audience to assist with the information-gathering process. You’ll produce more interesting, diverse stories.
Tell me about your morning social media routine.
The first thing I do is load TweetDeck and see what tweets have come in overnight, retweet a few things. I may also post some quotables or takeaways from the interviews we did the day before.
Who are your favorite people to follow on social media?
Chris Hadfield. Whether it’s on Reddit or Twitter, the Canadian astronaut really knows how to engage people. Member station KCRW has a fresh approach to Instagram. Writer Matthew Ingram is someone who gets why it’s important to use social media to engage with readers, not just spit out links to your content.
What platforms do you use most often?
Twitter and Facebook mostly. I’ve started an Instagram account. We’ve used that to feature in-studio guests, to promote different commentaries, and share photos from our hosts, including Melissa Block’s recent trip to a heirloom apple orchard. And then we’ll highlight responses to different callouts we’ve done on social media. For example, we asked people to send us photos of nature reclaiming space for the NPR Cities project.
Have you found a platform that gives you the best responses?
It sort of depends on what you’re looking for. Twitter and Facebook are great places for people to contact us if they’re having trouble hearing their member station feed. As far as reaching people for callouts, I love using Google Forms. It’s totally private and it puts everything in a database that you can share with your colleagues.
Any examples of how you’ve successfully used Google forms?
Sure, there’s our trade lingo series. Melissa Block knew she wanted to talk to people in different industries about the weird lingo they use that people in other industries wouldn’t understand. We put together a form asking people to share their lingo, profession, name, email address, etc. We got so many responses from different industries—theater and food, but we also got arborists and potters.
*All Things Considered radio producer Theo Balcomb chimes in*
Theo: —and strippers. That was my favorite one.
Serri: Yeah, and video game designers. The majority of people we featured in the series were people who replied to the callout. People were basically doing homework for us.
So doing call outs on the Internet is kind of like getting the world to do your homework for you?
Exactly, it’s about tapping into that crowd source.
What are three quick tips you would share with someone who is just starting to do a callout?
VIDEO: How-to: Conducting a Callout
(Or read a summary of the tips, below.)
Focus your callout question. Ask yourself whether you would have something to say in response.
Provide an example. More specific examples generally receive better responses.
Include contact information. Ask for email addresses, not phone numbers.
Serri: When you’re doing general crowdsourcing, stick to Twitter and Facebook. For instances where there’s a themed callout or you’re looking for a very specific type of person, subreddits are useful. (Editor’s note: this callout in the Army subreddit helped ATC find a great story.)
What would you say to people who are concerned about the time investment? Are callouts worth it?
Definitely. People are doing work for you, and it allows you to see everything at a glance. It also gives you a sense of how people feel about a subject. You might have thought people were going to respond one way or another, and then in reading your responses you realize that you were a little off base. It’s not to say you only use a media callout for sources. It’s just a way to bring the old tools into the new tools.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.
My sister is so cool. We joke that some day the two of us are going to start a social media consulting firm for non-profit businesses ‘cuz we rock the beat