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Oklahoman’s social media strategy evolves to encourage experimentation

February 21, 2012

By Elizabeth Edwards
Eastern Illinois University

An Oklahoman editor said during a presentation Sunday, that experimenting with social media is encouraged within the newsroom.

Alan Herzberger, digital managing editor of The Oklahoman, described the newspaper’s approach towards social media over the last five years, during a presentation titled “Managing Social Media.”

“I do not claim to be an expert really on anything,” Herzberger said. “I am an expert at what we do at The Oklahoman.”

In the beginning, Herzberger compared The Oklahoman’s strategies to his son’s make-shifted Halloween costume, which consisted of a ninja costume with a Spiderman bag randomly thrown in.

He said The Oklahoman “ninja-like” strategy was that they had no strategy at all.

Though, he said he encouraged reporters not to be afraid to get involved in social media and he helped create an atmosphere of encouragement.

He said he appealed to the ego of some reporters to get them to use social media.

Appealing to the ego, he said gets the first reporters in the door and they become the superstars on the medium.

As for the other reporters without a big personality, Herzberger said they do not have to be superstars in social media, but they should be themselves.

The greatest obstacle Herzberger said what prevents reporters from using social media is they are afraid to be themselves.

He said the way a journalist acts at a cocktail party or goes out with friends should be the same way they act on social media.

“A lot of journalists need to expose themselves to our audience,” he said.

While Herzberger said the first documented strategies for The Oklahoman did not come until 2009 with Twitter guidelines and a company-wide policy in 2010. The Twitter guidelines were mostly about the logistics of Twitter and how to use the medium. The guidelines mainly consisted of the “don’t be stupid” policy, he said.

Right now, more the half of their newsroom is active in social media and about a week ago they implemented an official strategy.

Like the previous strategy, The Oklahoman still encourages their reporters to experiment with social media, but now they are analyzing their productivity.

Herzberger said the champions in social media are actually producing more print product them other reporters.

Also, The Oklahoman is rewarding reporters with a best of the best awards. Winners will receive a small cash reward.

Measuring the social media footprint is also another important strategy, he said. Though he said his publisher gets discouraged when The Oklahoman has less of apresence on social media then the local television station.

Though Herzberger said he believes the reason for the low social media numbers is that The Oklahoman has multiple accounts and it is hard to measure.

Now, he said they also expect all new hires to understand and know how to use social media.

“We want someone who has already done it,” he said.

Herzberger said they do not force current reporters to use social media.

“We want them to come to the altar of social media on their own,” Herzberger said.

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