Social MediaIt was three years ago when Matthew Keys, a young social media editor from Reuters, hacked the LA Times website. He was immediately fired from his post and subjected to federal charges. During the debacle, his role and the role of thousands of social media editors was thrust into the public eye for the first time.

A New Way to Engage

Social media editors may seem like they simply click and post chatter all day long, but these professionals actually fill an important role. They take information from their media outlets and optimize it for the social networks. Social media editors attempt to engage audiences in the news process by eliciting comments, photos, or opinions from them.

Rob Fishman, a former social media editor for the Huffington Post, took a different approach to the position. He says that most of his colleagues already have an incredible understanding of social media networks. Many of his colleagues have their own accounts and their own loyal followers. Fishman decided to focus more on the technical aspects of the job. He worked closely with the technical team to develop products and create partnerships that would draw more attention to his parent company, according to BuzzFeed.

On the Go

Regardless of the exact role these professionals take, their unconventional jobs can be completed from any location. One social media editor may be glued to his desktop computer all day while another one may work on the go using an HTC Windows phone from Tmobile. A kid on a smartphone with a Twitter account may not seem integral to an international news agency, but these gurus of social media have the power to draw new readers, engage old readers, and change the face of the journalism industry in general. Even in small markets, a social media editor has the power to determine whether or not a news publication is successful.

Newspapers like The Berlin Citizen and The New Britain Herald have social media editors. But with less than 250 Twitter followers each, neither of these organizations is making much of a splash in the social media world. This may indicate that these papers do not need a social media editor, or that they simply need to hire better social media editors.

Jan Westphal, the former social media editor for The Pioneer Press and, says that roughly 193,000 people read her paper every day. An additional 42,000 engage with the organization on Twitter and Facebook. Westphal, who is now the deputy editor of digital news and social media, says urgency is the most critical element of effective social media editing.

Keeping News Outlets Relevant

The average newspaper is simply a compendium of the previous day’s happenings. But social media can help people stay abreast of news throughout the day. People check their social media accounts all day long, and will go where the freshest information is. Whether working in a small market or for a global giant, a good social media editor has the power to attract or repel readers with their work.

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