People Support the Things They Help Build

by Alex Margolin

The AP made news recently by hiring a social networks editor to look for news leads on social media channels. Apparently, the AP has recognized that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among other sites, cannot be ignored when it comes to gathering news. There is simply too much vital information moving through these networks.

The AP follows The New York Times, which hired its own social media editor in May. But finding news amid “the conversation” on social media is just the start. CNN and the Huffington Post have taken the concept even further, allowing readers to post their own content directly to the news sites. That’s right – readers can post original videos to CNN’s IReporter section, mostly without filters.

So as newspapers direct more of their resources to the Internet, other mainstream outlets are likely to make room for greater reader engagement. The reason is simple: people support the things they help build. When a reader sees his own article or video on a site, he has a stake in the site’s success. When he is able to share his perspective with others, he has a reason to encourage people to visit.

This sort of engagement has another important element. Thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, people can gather around a common purpose in ways that weren’t possible in an earlier era. HonestReporting saw this first hand with our successful Facebook group on behalf of Golan residents.

As the group grew in size, it became a center of community activity around the Golan. People contributed photos and videos of the Golan, held a series of discussions related to the region, and posted their own views and experiences. Even if Facebook had not changed its policies toward Golan residents, the group would have remained a vibrant meeting place for people with an interest in the Golan.

The people who helped build the group and turn it into a community had more than a passing interest in the issue. They have a personal claim to the group’s success.

Thanks to social media, people can express themselves like never before. And their voices are being heard, not just by the millions of social media users but, increasingly, but the mainstream media as well.

Alex Margolin is the social media editor for HonestReporting and oversees their Facebook efforts.