How Best to Use Social Media to Work with Journos

We live in an over-shared world. And I’m as guilty as anyone for putting my personal life on public Internet display.

Folks in my network know how much I ran this morning. They see pictures of what I ate for dinner recently. They read my every random thought on Twitter. We share articles of interest and comment on their meaning. They look at my family vacations in my photo streams, and I do the same, although I say I don’t photo stalk. And they can even give a spin to some of the same music I listen to, or tell me my musical taste is trash. These are among the social interactions that we would have called an intrusion a decade ago.

The question is whether in my workday life, PE/VC sources and marketing professionals are using my personal information to build a better relationship with me as a journalist.

That’s one of the topics I’ll no doubt chew on later tonight as I participate in a private media panel at the Bateman Group in San Francisco. The PR firm is hosting me and three others—Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher; J. Bonasia of Investor’s Business Daily and Ben Parr of Mashable—to talk about best practices with PR professionals, as well as to chat about tech trends.

Clearly, social media will be at the top of our discussion. Daily, I’m engaged in some form of communication with PR professionals and sources via email, tweets, IM, DM, shared posts or a good old-fashioned phone call (on our mobile phones, of course).

Social media technology has dramatically affected how journalists relate to those we write about. No longer can my peers and I be content with waiting for our audience and sources to come read us. We have to engage the community, participate in discussions and forums, share our views and listen to what they have to say.

More importantly, I’ve noticed that sources know a lot about me. They like to comment on how my sons look like me or they tell me how they’re training for a marathon and want to know more about why I’m running. But these shared experiences we have online don’t always translate into a better working relationship.

I recently was added as a friend on Facebook by someone. I’m sure she had the best intentions, but when I met her in person weeks later at an event, she had no idea what I did for a living or how her startup clients would be of interest to me.

What I’ll no doubt talk about tonight on the PR panel is that I’ve noticed good PR professionals and savvy investors would be good at their jobs even if it wasn’t for social media. The good ones know what I do for a living, they know the publications I work on, and they know what kinds of stories I’m after.

Social media doesn’t make sub-par professionals better at their jobs. How we use the information we post about each other online is up to each of us.