When Bhaskar Das of the Times of India invited me to speak at the AdAsia Conference in New Delhi, I agreed without hesitation. It’s an event that would attract 1,200+ media and advertising executives, and Bhaskar is without peer as a marketing genius and INMA member. I couldn’t say “no.”

The problem came with the subject and the format. I didn’t look at the details of the invitation — until the week of the event.

Instead of a presentation on media industry trends (my strength), I was serving on a panel of experts about social media.

Social media?


Surrounded by people smarter than me on the subject?

I panicked.

And I did the only thing that INMA members, faced with the same conundrum, should do. I burrowed deeply into INMA resources and took a cram course.

I stepped onto my American Airlines flight to New Delhi a blank slate on social media and emerged from the plane 16 hours later with clear direction and ready to engage.

This is a story about social media and INMA. I thought it would be interesting to share.

Here was my simple process, and I encourage you to click on the links associated with each step and re-trace my steps:

  • Keyword search of “social media” and affiliated terms like “Twitter,” “Facebook,” and “LinkedIn” at INMA.org. 
  • Browsed the “Digital” section of INMA.org. 
  • Perused this year’s conference executive summaries (hidden gold). 
  • Re-downloaded the “Newspapers and Social Media” publication from April.

My research process is old-fashioned: I printed out 100+ pages, I set up my “desk” on the American Airlines flight from Chicago to New Delhi, and I got to work. I yellow-highlighted the relevant content, then hand-transcribed the points onto my notepad. This is how I prioritise and remember.

The breadth of content INMA has is impressive — and under-utilised. Even by me as CEO. Looking at dozens of case studies and insights, I found four big talking points for the media companies in the audience:

  1. Sharing has become the value-added “special sauce” for journalism online.
  2. Publishers can leverage their scale to create an echo chamber for content.
  3. Newspapers can become the curators of The Conversation in their communities.
  4. The next step for publishers is resourcing digital outreach to Web sites and blogs outside the newspaper’s Web site to become a trusted voice — then finding clever, value-added ways to bring the conversation back to the newspaper.

I should point out that I was particularly impressed by social media efforts by The New York Times and Chicago Tribune in the United States, 20 Minutos in Spain, and The Guardian in the United Kingdom.

To answer a post from the past week by Scott Stines on the INMA.org Bottom-Line Marketing Blog, who was skeptical of what he felt was a heavy skew toward social media in media planning, I think sometimes the sizzle of something can get in the way of the steak.

My read of social media for news publishers is that it needs more resourcing than today, but that doesn’t mean it requires a lot of resourcing.

Automating a Twitter feed or a Facebook feed isn’t committing to social media, and this is typically what news publishers are doing today.

Instead, there needs to be an authentic social voice that extends your journalism’s reach to places it’s never been seen before. Social media won’t succeed at a department in a news enterprise as broad as a newspaper; there needs to be staff that champions to hundreds of your employees.

Meanwhile, social media success isn’t just about clever pushing of your own content:

  • Participating on community sites: It’s becoming an authentic voice on other Web sites, then finding value-added reasons to bring that voice to your news brand. This requires someone proactively participating in the virtual community on your brand’s behalf. 
  • Bringing social audiences together: Connecting the social conversations among your newspaper’s audience. That means getting to know your audience in ways you’ve never considered before and adding value by connecting the dots, a natural role for a newspaper.

To see the examples of these new ways of adopting social media, you can look to a few newspapers. Yet the best examples are happening in other industries.

Whether looking inside the news industry or to other industries, INMA was an invaluable resource for my research on social media.

The experience was a powerful reminder that INMA can be a killer application if used properly. And it's at your fingertips 24/7 for similar circumstances as mine.