Every day I marvel at the insanity of L.A. traffic, so the idea of fighting my way down to Santa Ana for a Social Media Day event was less than appealing. Fortunately, the very thing that changed my mind turned out to be the best part of the event — its location at The Orange County Register.
Social Media Day on June 30 was founded by Mashable, the must-read blog on anything and everything social media. Through Meetup.com, Mashable encouraged social media enthusiasts like me to do with our online connections what ultimately has the potential for yielding the most success — connecting offline, where networking will always have its greatest strength.
Though the name has changed more than once, The Orange County Register was founded in 1905. So it’s an important part of history, especially for those of us immersed in social media.
During her speaking segment entitled “Putting a personal touch behind your social media efforts,” Rochelle Veturis noted the irony of a newspaper hosting Social Media Day. After all, it’s bloggers, Twitter, YouTube and other social media outlets that are presenting such a challenge to the traditional newspaper industry. And that is precisely what is so brilliant about the Register‘s decision to host those of us most passionate about social media. What better way to bring attention to the paper’s aggressive pursuit of a fine balance between social media and traditional news?
As we learned during a tour of the pressroom, The Orange County Register recently updated the look of its website where news is posted online before it makes it way into print. Insider Coordinator Jacqie Mardian explained that some of the most-read stories online are the ones printed in the paper the next day. In other words, the readers themselves are helping to determine the news — the very essence of social media.
The Register is doing something especially innovative with its Twitter page. A number of people post to the account, but on a rotating basis. As that rotation changes, so does the avatar associated with the account (i.e., the picture of the current tweeter). It would be nice to see this concept go one step further, tweaking the bio (or “twio” as Rochelle calls it) to reflect the name of the current tweeter as well. Though the pictures and names of those posting to the account are displayed in the Twitter background, the computer screen I’m working on right now (for example) cuts off the majority of them. In other words, I see the avatar of the person tweeting but I don’t know his name.
Beyond that, the Register has a good following/follower ratio on Twitter, they post frequently and the level of engagement is strong. They are utilizing the lists too, but there is definite room for growth there. What a great way to share with readers lists of ways to get involved in the community, from restaurants, to shops, to local non-profits.
As for Facebook, the Register‘s FB page is stellar! They post a wide variety of updates, sharing stories and asking questions, which are super-effective at generating comments. The RSS feed button is prominent and there’s a tab for other Facebook pages, as the Register has a number of them.
I am surprised to see that I can’t find a YouTube channel for The Orange County Register. In search results, the Register does turn up, but they are videos posted by other users. The paper could really benefit from having its own presence there, not only as a means of driving traffic from direct click-throughs to the website, but also for the SEO benefits associated with YouTube.
As speaker Morgan Brown noted yesterday during his “Leveraging online video” presentation, people are increasingly using YouTube as their primary search engine, as it is second only to Google in the number of online searches. And, a YouTube video is 50 times more likely than a text page to show up on Google’s first page search results!
Overall, the Register is a social media star, and will no doubt move forward in all the right online directions. But as Jacqie made clear during the tour, the Register is equally committed to preserving the newspaper tradition.
The paper opened in 1905, using the same printing press for the next 70 years — a linotype machine that took 15 minutes to create just one newspaper column. They replaced the linotype in 1976 and have been using the same printing press without a hitch ever since. It uses recycled paper rolls weighing one ton each and, at its fastest, the press can print 1,000 pages a minute.
What a lovely irony that a newspaper steeped in such rich tradition was the site of the 4th largest Social Media Day event in the world, at least in terms of Meetup RSVPs. Though I didn’t follow the Register‘s promotion of the event on its website or in its newspaper, perhaps the impressive turnout (which it was) suggests traditional media still has an impressive level of influence after all.
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Meredith Simonds, Social Media Reviewer, Blogger and Consultant