I like to ask my students what social media platforms they use every day. It’s a way for me to understand their digital and social worlds better. Most of them are on Facebook - it’s almost like a home base for them, but they’re not super active on it. Twitter and LinkedIn use grows the longer they’re in college. Contrary to what a lot of us assume, they don’t usually come in with a lot of Twitter skills.
Instead, it’s Instagram and Snapchat that are the popular apps with my students. Particularly Snapchat.
Snapchat is growing from the app that allowed you to send self-destroying pictures to friends into a richer, real-time visual social media platform. It’s Discover feature is quite interesting. Just because I don’t totally understand the app and how people use it doesn’t mean it isn't potentially valuable as a reporting and journalism tool.
Earlier this week, USA Today social media editor Tanya Sichynski wrote about how she used both Snapchat and Periscope at the Final Four (Periscope, the app that allows users to live-stream events through social media, is really valuable for journalists. This could be a real game-changer for social journalism.)
I think some of the snaps that Sichynski posted look unprofessional and sloppy. It’s a limitation of the app design, but the photo of Mark Emmert’s press conference (posted above) looks kind of childish - especially considering the relative gravity of the question Emmert was answering. But I also think that ignoring the potential of an entire app just because of how it looks or acts right now is shortsighted and foolish (think back to how stupid we all thought tweets sounded 2009–2010.)
But her general idea is right. Digital and social journalism shouldn’t be about chasing fads. It shouldn’t be about getting on Snapchat just so you can say you’re on Snapchat. It should be about seeing the whole board, understanding that our younger audience members consume news and information in small bits, often visually, and definitely on their phones. It’s understanding that and figuring out how to use that knowledge to do our jobs.
I don’t pretend to understand Snapchat that much. But I do understand that a majority of my students do understand it and do use it — passionately. And I’d be foolish not to consider that, to think about how news organizations can use it, and other apps like it, to publish and report the news.
Last week, I had the pleasure of being on a guest on the Sports Politik podcast with my friend Dr. Galen Clavio from Indiana University. We had a long, rambling and fun conversation about fan behavior and sports journalism within the social media space.