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Quick Takes: Two Angles on Social Media

by Nicole Vargas, reporter and multimedia producer for the San Diego Union-Tribune and lecturer at San Diego State University and by Krista Nielsen, technologies marketing specialist for SDSU College of Extended Studies and instructor of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Here at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, we’re lucky to bring together instructors with such a wealth of expertise and professional savvy, and we couldn’t resist asking a couple of them to weigh in on a trend that’s increasingly affecting all of us: social media. In this double-feature of a white paper, we offer you two angles on social media that we haven’t seen out there very often. We thought we’d avoid the standard “Pros and Cons of Social Media” paper, and bypass the “Will it Take?” approach, since there’s little debate anymore whether social media is here to stay.

Instead, we asked two specialists whose work has become increasingly tied in with social media to address specific ways in which social media can be utilized by media professionals and organizations in productive and useful ways. So in the following pages, Nicole Vargas will address how social media can provide media professionals and journalists with valuable access and information, and Krista Nielsen will weigh in on how companies often overlook the ways in which social media can be used internally to facilitate collaboration and communication within and between work groups.

Social Media Tools for Journalists: From Networking to Newsgathering


by Nicole Vargas, reporter and multimedia producer for the San Diego Union-Tribune and lecturer at San Diego State University

Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. LinkedIn. YouTube. You know they’re out there. You might even be willing to admit you spend a little of your free time catching up with old friends or former colleagues online. But what may seem on the surface to be a high-powered instrument of procrastination can also serve as a high-tech newsgathering tool. More and more media professionals, including journalists of all stripes, are finding social networks to be a viable option when searching for tips and leads. The very public nature of these sites, which make it so easy for individuals to connect, also throws open the door of possibility for media professionals struggling against a backdrop of reduced resources and dwindling time.


In a matter of seconds, a media professional can access a long, fully searchable list of potential sources. And not only is basic information and background often readily available, but direct messaging allows for interpersonal contact that otherwise may be challenging. Meeting a source on their terms in a setting where they are comfortable, albeit in cyberspace, can often times be the difference between disclosure and indifference.

In newsgathering, social networking success isn’t measured in friends as much as it is measured in facility. When it comes to making the most of social networks, remember why you are there. If your goal is to gather news as efficiently as possible, make learning to do that a priority. Don’t worry. Social networks are inherently very user-friendly, and getting up to

speed can take just a few hours of your time. Still stumped? Look around the office. With literally millions of people on social networks, you can easily find someone to guide you through your social network of choice.

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I am a serious journalist. Why would I bother with a technology tailored for teens? Don’t assume the Facebook generation is more concerned with SATs and OMGs. Some of the fastest growing demographics in social networking are, shall we say, more mature when it comes to age. Who

specifically? According to Facebook, the fastest growing demographic is 35 and older. So a quick search no matter what the age of a source can yield surprising results.

Can’t get directly to your source? Consider connecting with friends or followers. In traditional reporting circles, savvy reporters often find their best sources are individuals close, but not too close, to the story. Next-door neighbors, extended family members or colleagues in the workplace often provide some

of the best leads and background. The same holds true for social networking, and often, even with a profile marked “private,” a complete list of those trusted individuals can be a mouse click away.

Be open, honest and yourself. Your integrity as a journalist depends on it. As a professional journalist, it is always important to identify ourselves as such. Don’t be a faceless troll on social networking sites. Establish your presence first, complete with a photo, your affiliation and a smattering of

information about yourself. Nothing too personal – keep oversharing to a minimum. Striking the right balance between representing your organization and being approachable will make your job easier.

Remain diligent. The tools may be new and different, but resist the temptation to run with them irresponsibly. Just as you would in traditional newsgathering, verify any information disseminated online. And expect that information you give may also go beyond a single individual. They don’t call it the World Wide Web for nothing.

Resources: The Poynter Institute ( WiredJournalists ( Mashable (

Social Media Tools Provide Efficiency in the Workplace by Krista Nielsen, technologies marketing specialist for SDSU College of Extended Studies and instructor of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Many of us have become comfortable integrating social media into our social lives, making digital connections with friends, families, and even professional groups through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Integrating these and other social media tools into workplaces where communication and efficiency are key has been a slower transition. Understanding what social media tools do best and learning how to use them

at work can help you effectively streamline many processes we tackle every day. For example, as work processes become increasingly complex and demanding, the need for seamless collaboration is becoming more important. More and more companies are finding that the innovative internal use of social media tools is enabling them to work in more productive and collaborative ways than they ever did before.

How many companies are using social media tools already? And what tools are they using? McKinsey Quarterly has posted an interesting series of cuts on the data they’ve gathered about corporate use of social media tools on their site Business and Web 2.0: An Interactive Feature. In this example, they examine which social media tools companies are most readily adopting and using internally to facilitate collaboration:

Business and Web 2.0: An Interactive Feature

Before the use of social media folders, which can only be in one shared, and organized on the became so widespread, our set of hands at a time, can be web, accessible from anywhere workplace collaboration misplaced, and can only be shared by computer or mobile device, often depended on one-one easily over short distances. Why facilitating easy collaboration communication of circulating keep a file or idea on paper when among even distant coworkers. emails and file Email isn’t a technology that supports collaboration. Web-based folders. Email tools are It’s static, messy, and difficult to organize. isn’t a technology normally cheap, that supports collaboration – it’s it can be seen and manipulated by if not free, and because they static, messy, and difficult to many in digital form? store data within a database, organize. Using back‑and-forth the content you create is Web-based social media tools emails for collaborative work searchable, and can easily be are portable, personalized, often results in the creation of organized and archived. and participatory. They multiple versions of the same allow for much more The first step is understanding document, file organization efficient communication and which tools will best fit your hassles, and general confusion. organization. Files and ideas tasks and needs. The solution is definitely not to can be created, manipulated, retreat to passing around file

The Tools By breaking down the social Each tool offers a unique utility identifying and recruiting talent, media we’re most familiar with that may facilitate social use of enhancing company culture, into the distinct components the site, but can also powerfully and training. Making the perfect they bring together, we can address work needs as well. match takes some understanding start to see Making the perfect match takes some understanding how these tools of how each of these social media tools function. could be used at work. Flickr is an image gallery, of how each of these social media These social media tools can Wikipedia is obviously a wiki, tools function. increase the efficiency of and YouTube an image gallery of many professional processes, videos. Facebook incorporates from fostering collaboration a few tools: a blog, a forum, an and managing knowledge, to image gallery, webmail, and a developing products and services, content management system.

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Blog The blog is one of the simplest social tools, comprised of forms working in the background to push content to a web page. The newest content is posted at the top, and each new posting is identified with a title, an author, body content, and a time/ date stamp. Every time a post is submitted, a link is created in an organized way and posted to a visible menu on the web page. Blogs include a search function to locate posts by using terms within the blog’s content, or search tags and/or categories the author has assigned. In standard blogs, a single author regularly posts content, and readers can then comment on the posts.

When is one-way communication with commenting needed in the workplace? CEOs are increasingly blogging about large-scale company happenings, news, and special reports. IT departments can post regular updates and announcements regarding computer systems and servers. Departments can share information that had traditionally remained silo-ed across multiple departments and locations throughout the world.

Wiki The wiki is a content management system, which uses many forms to post to the web. One of the differences between a wiki and a blog is the way in which pages are organized. Unlike blogs, wikis are formatted like a standard web site, using a navigational system to sort pages or menus. Users decide how the pages are organized and linked. The pages on a wiki can be manipulated by many, so content can be maintained by a group of users, and the application keeps track of who has made changes, to what content, and when. Wikis enable companies an easy way to organize and format a large amount of data. A company’s knowledge base could easily be

organized into problem/solution pairs, and widely-accessed information like project management documentation, staff information, or FAQs could be accessed easily throughout the organization. Any ‘how to’ documentation can be posted within a wiki, with links and images included. Most importantly, wikis keep rapidly- and continuallychanging documentation up-to-date over time, so users throughout a company can use the search function to scan all of the content within wiki postings and access information based on relevance.


Forum A forum is similar to a blog, but offers a more conversational format that involves many contributors. As in a blog, postings are arranged by date with the newest ones visible at the top, and an organized digital version of each user’s contribution is maintained. The content of forum postings are searchable as well.

A forum can be very useful in facilitating conversations or online meetings to discuss work topics, events, ongoing debates, etc. Content posted to a forum remains accessible on the site, offering everyone the opportunity to reference and retrieve these conversations at a later time.

SDSU College of Extended Studies Internal Forum

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Image Gallery Socially, we share photos on sites like Flickr, Shutterfly, and Facebook, understanding that others can view and download our images after we place them in these sites. At work, these same tools can help us share images, pdfs, and even videos. A web-based image gallery has a built-in search tool that locates elements by tags. Also, the system organizes the data using thumbnails, allowing users to browse by viewing small images. All users can add and update the items within the gallery, keeping the most current sources available at all times.

Image galleries can be used at work to keep an inventory of marketing pieces, multiple formats of the company’s logo, photos from events and ceremonies, and even video from media spots readily accessible throughout the organization. Everything included within the gallery can be tagged with associated search terms, and organized within sets and subsets for easy search and access.

Google Tools The tools described above can either be set up on a company’s internal server, or used on shared sites (see sources below). Another source for sharing content and facilitating easy and collaborative communication is Google Tools. Google offers users the ability to share word documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations directly on the site. Google users can give others access to either view or edit shared documents, bookmarks, gadgets, and RSS feeds. Google sharing applications

include the Google Calendar, Google Groups, and Google Sites; all of these enable multiple users to view and edit shared web-based content. Google Chat also allows colleagues to contact each other quickly from anywhere and hold live conversations on work topics that need speedy resolution. Using Google’s many tools enable people in the workplace to collaborate and share knowledge more easily than ever before.

You can build it and they may come... but will they contribute? In addition to simplifying communication and efficiency, web-based social media tools enhance community and can be very effective in building morale. As collaboration is eased and enhanced through the use of online tools, users often find they’re more engaged in the projects they’re working on, and develop greater intellectual investment in the ideas they contribute. Trying out the use of these tools within an organization can also dispel any fears management may have around using these tools to market to external customers.

Using social media tools within the workplace can reduce the number of face-to-face meetings necessary for collaboration, decrease travel and operational costs, and facilitate easier access to and collaboration between internal experts and staff located at different locations or working on various schedules. These web-based tools are searchable, taggable, and allow for clean and consistent organization of a company’s knowledge base. And, because these tools are all online, telecommuting and remote meetings become productive options.

Having said that, the tools alone are not enough! You can build it and they may come... but will they contribute? Remember, the use of any new tools within an organization requires ongoing promotion, encouragement and facilitation; this is a “social” environment where more than one employee must interact!

Where to Get The Tools: Wikis:


Image Gallery:


Other Applications:

Nicole Vargas has been a reporter and multimedia producer at The San Diego Union-Tribune since 1999, when she graduated from the University of California, San Diego. She teaches at SDSU’s School of Journalism & Media Studies, and serves as faculty advisor to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists SDSU student chapter. Nicole teaches Publishing on the Web and Advanced Social Networking Tools within the Professional Certificate in Digital Media program offered at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies. Her first course provides students with a strategic introduction to Web 2.0 publishing tools, while the second explores the use of popular social networking tools in more depth.

Krista Nielsen is a technology marketing specialist at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies. She has 13 years of web marketing, design, and analytics experience as owner of LHA, and has taught Internet marketing at North City Center. She earned a web analytics certification from the University of British Columbia, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas. Krista’s course in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) teaches participants how to structure web sites, news or feature content, ads, and headlines to maximize their exposure to various audiences, and how to use assessment tools to measure and improve search results.

If you have questions or comments about this white paper, feel free to email For questions about the Digital Media certificate program at CES, email, or give us a call at (619) 594-5640 using priority code MM005. If you’ve downloaded this white paper from the CES web site, you already know where to find more information about Nicole’s and Krista’s courses and the Professional Certificate in Digital Media. If you’ve received this paper from a friend or colleague, check us out online at

Quick Takes: Two Angles on Social Media, by Nicole Vargas and Krista Nielsen  

Social Media white paper developed for SDSU's College of Extended Studies