There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we do our jobs as broadcast meteorologists. Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow us to reach viewers outside of the 6 and 11PM broadcasts. More importantly, it allows viewers to reach us a whole lot easier, and on a much more frequent basis. That changes things up quite a bit from fifteen years ago. What was once more of a one-way broadcast is evolving into more of a two-way discussion. We have to learn how to listen and respond better, and Facebook is the best tool for that right now. As broadcast meteorologists, our time during the day in limited, and I think its a valid question about where our time is best spent. While all social media channels has its advantages and disadvantages, personally I’m feeling like I’m getting more value out of Facebook.
Facebook is for everyone. It seems like Twitter is there for people with something to say. Everyone is broadcasting on Twitter, the way a television station broadcasts the local news. But those who don’t have something to promote or push aren’t on Twitter as much, and that is likely most of your viewing audience. Some say that the leaders and trendsetters are engaging on Twitter and where they go, so will everyone else. It seems to me there are a whole lot more loyal viewers on Facebook, waiting to hear what you have to say.
Facebook encouages discussion. Twitter restricts you to 140 characters, which is good in some ways. On Facebook, you can type out a more complete weather forecast or answer to a viewer’s question. You can also easily attach a video or photos without having to ask someone to click a link (unless you are posting a link, which you can do as well). Most importantly though, on Facebook you can comment on a previous post by someone, and follow that discussion through the chain. You can retweet or respond to someone on Twitter, but if you missed it at the top of your feed, chances are its long gone and buried under the hundreds of other tweets you take in a day. Discussions on Facebook are held together better, and allow communities of people to exchange thoughts and ideas much easier.
On the flip side, Facebook really works best when you already have a following, and that group takes some time to build up. As an example, our WCAX Weather Facebook page hovered at around 300 friends for the longest time. We were on there daily, putting up some weather forecasts and chatting with who was on there. It wasn’t until we had some historic flooding this Spring when people started paying attention. Friends told other friends, and people started to follow exponentially. We added about a thousand followers in just a few days, and have been growing weekly by the hundreds ever since. At least Twitter has hashtags, which allow your message to reach outside of your circle of followers. You can be proactive in trying to generate followers on Twitter, instead of relying on your content to get people to come to you over time.
Now that we have friends in the thousands, the content and exchanges of information are a lot more rich and interesting. Its not just a spot for us to give the weather forecast, but a spot for others to share photos and storm reports of their own. Its not so much about us providing a weather forecast anymore as it is about maintaining a spot on the internet for people to gather and share weather experiences. We create the space, but its our friends who make it their own.
I still think you need to be present and active on both platforms right now. When you use them together, along with your traditional website and daily television broadcasts, you can increase your broadcast reach, which it pretty much the whole point. They all support each other when you do it right, and bring people to your message. The more people listening to your message, the more advertisers will pay to be associated with that message. The question is how many more buckets are you willing to fill on a hourly basis? When the next big social media platform becomes mainstream, like Google+, will you be adding that to your routine as well?