I remember when I started in television 21 years ago.  Back then – as in many newsrooms – you dreaded answering the phone in case a ‘viewer’ had a question or wanted to tell you what they thought of the newscast.  Who wanted to hear that?

How wrong we were.

Today, I rarely say we have viewers; we have customers.  And we definitely want to know what stories are on their minds, what they think of our newscasts and more!

I know we have a lot of work left to do – when I respond to someone’s e-mail or join the comments on our website, customers are amazed someone at the station actually cares about what they have to say.

Do we have a lot of work to do!

So, we have set up a lot of ways for people to give us the feedback I argue we don’t just want, we need in order to thrive in the world.  One example is the live chat my station, News10, does on big story days.

One Way of Connecting
One Way of Connecting

We’re building a culture where everyone realizes how important this is.  And hopefully, in a year or two, people aren’t so surprised when we talk back.

Take the poll, comment – give me some feedback.

    More and more TV stations – and cable news channels – are going aggressively into social networking, especially Facebook and Twitter.  CNN has a daily show on at 3 every afternoon with Rick Sanchez that feeds off those two sites.  Why so much focus?  In our case at WZZM, it’s all part of our strategy to connect with current and future customers where they are.  CNN says Rick’s show is now #1 in its time period.  There’s something here.

    A new study, written about in TV Newsday,  shows we’re currently half right.  Crawford, Johnson and Northcutt, along with Brand Amplitude, studied 18-30 year olds who are active online.  One key finding was this:

 In a series of online focus groups, young adults across the country indicated a strong interest in local information and said they would welcome the availability of that information on their turf — social networking sites. Further, they said that a local television station would make an impression with them if it had a presence on those sites.

   But it also points out these people are not necessarily going to turn on TV newscasts right now, except in the case of breaking news.

    Here’s what interesting to me.  10 years, even 5 years ago, we weren’t that worried about whether teenagers were going to start watching our newscasts anytime soon.  Now, I hear and read about that more and more.  Most teens I know do not care about local news – yet. They care about weather, snow and school closings and whether the football team won on Friday night.  So we do have some connection with that group right now.  Obviously, we’re all hoping this pays off when today’s 18-year old becomes 25 or 26.

    I also know from looking at my Facebook group that more and more 30 and 40-somethings are joining – and research backs that up.  So, we are hitting our current customers using these tools as well. 

   And what I keep wondering about is this – what’s next?  What’s the next Twitter, Facebook?

More media companies are laying off more workers and filing for bankruptcy.  Two friends from my NBC days recently lost their jobs at Media General and other people I know are facing job elimination.  People ask me if I have ever experienced anything like this and my answer is no.  And I don’t know what’s around the bend.

Whether you are in that position or not, the title of tonight’s post is directed at YOU!

What’s your social media profile?  Do you read blogs, write one, both?  (I do both.)

If you don’t like to Twitter, do you understand it?  If you try it, you’ll probably become addicted.

If someone asked you what feeds do you aggregate in your RSS reader, would you be able to say yes and, hopefully, understand what they’re talking about?  (I read about 20 sites using my Google Reader.)

Are you on LinkedIn?  Facebook?  Have more than 10 friends in each?  (I have about 80 on Facebook, 270 on LinkedIn.)

Here’s my point: do not wait until your job or career is in jeopardy to start building your social profile (Mashable wrote a great article about this recently)

At a January meeting in our Information Center, I asked our team to pick one and work on it, not for us, but for them.  I don’t think you can say you get social media and sit on the sidelines.

And, because I also hire people, I can say this: I do and will search your name if you apply for a job to see if what you say to me about social networking is really what you do.

So, finish reading this and ask yourself: Am I into social media enough to beat out all those other journalists for that job I’m going for?   Or, is this just a diversion, taking our attention away from our traditional TV or print platform.  I’d love to debate.

I am one statistic in a new report from Pew.  It shows the number of adults who have set up social networking profiles has skyrocketed almost 30% percentage points in a little more than 3 years.  That part does not surprise me.

Here’s what did – 50% of the adults surveyed have a MySpace page, but just 22% did.  I know MySpace is more for adults and Facebook is where my teenage daughters live, so maybe it shouldn’t surprise me.  Still, it did.  And it makes me question our current social networking strategy.

Our website often will display a banner asking our customers to join our Facebook group.  We have well over 1,000 friends and growing.  We’re also starting to see all that work pay off in terms of new traffic back to our site.  It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.

We also just started a group on LinkedIn, which is my I do the most social networking.  But it’s only used by 6% of adults, the average user being a college-educated white man in his 40’s.  Who knew!

But we do not have anything going on MySpace.  This report leads me to think we should at least have the conversation.  If anyone knows of a TV station who is using MySpace well, let me know.