By Renee Pinckney, Journalist, Freelancer & Multimedia Reporter
As media professionals continue to discover new ways to operate in a digital age and adapt to a new era of journalism, Google Plus might be the next big communication tool for journalists to interact with their audiences.
Social networking giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, have proven to be effective platforms for journalists to disseminate real-time news and information.
According to a 2011 survey conducted by TEKGROUP International, 90 percent of working journalists say they use Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis to monitor news and information.
While Google Plus has yet to reach the degree of notoriety its competitors have, the site offers essential social media tools that will potentially attract a larger audience that include:
- Sharing posts as a way to engage readers
- Analyzing news coverage
- Personal branding strategies
- Sharing of photos, videos and other multimedia
- Marketing opportunities (advertise & increase traffic)
- Interacting with readers/audience
- Connecting with fellow writers and professionals
- Providing journalists the chance to show personality
- Hosting audience hangouts
- Gathering ideas for blog posts and articles
- Gaining feedback and increasing followers
Some journalists who have become early adopters of Google Plus are media mogul and founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, and The Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.
Much like Facebook, Huffington and Klein engage with the public by posting up-to-the-minute news stories and sharing photos. Readers respond with comments, shares and +1’s (Google Plus’ take on the Facebook like button). However, in comparison to their Facebook pages, the feedback by the audience is much less.
But this is expected for Google Plus, which just launched last summer. Many media professionals are experimenting with the site, including Chicago-based freelance writer Jewell Washington.
“In many ways, I think Google Plus has the potential to be a great social networking tool to not only connect with readers and fellow professionals but it has personally helped me in driving traffic to my site and marketing my work while also selling my brand,” she says.
One of Google Plus’ most popular options is its Hangout feature, which allows journalists to invite readers from anywhere in the world to join them in a video chat session. This provides the audience an inside look into their profession and a chance for journalists to host Q&A sessions with viewers.
Sarah Hill, an anchor for KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri, recently told Mashable.com that she hosts a Hangout during the 5 p.m. newscasts to give viewers a behind-the-scenes into the newsroom.
Hangout allows journalists to create a community to exchange ideas, knowledge and advice while also sharing experiences. Washington recommends using the virtual platform to conduct interviews.
“There have been times when I’ve connected with sources through Google Plus who don’t live in the surrounding area and it provided a fresh alternative to talking on the phone or through email.”
Unlike Facebook, and much to Google Plus’ advantage, journalists are able to create a public network that establishes a connection with readers that doesn’t infringe upon their privacy.
In addition, journalists who already have a large following on Twitter and Facebook can build their network by encouraging readers to follow them on Google Plus.
The effect Google Plus will have on the news industry is still unforeseen, however its social media tools are steadily making an impact on journalists and growing one user at a time.