Social networking

Social media self-promotion: Resisting the temptation

November 29, 2011: 2:04 PM ET

A recent study suggests that media outlets are poor social media sports, using networks strictly to promote their own work. But isn't that what everyone using social media is asked to do?

By Megan Hustad, contributor

FORTUNE – Whether it's polite dinner party conversation, a networking event, or sharing an item on Facebook or Twitter, communication is an art. As with any medium, you have your masters and your dilettantes. Considering how relatively new the use of social media as a communications platform is, perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that even the pros' efforts are looking fairly amateurish.

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism, along with George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, released a report on the mainstream media's use of Twitter in the context of the social network's surprising growth. Initially dismissed by some as a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon catering to the ADHD set, Twitter was being used by 13% of "online Americans" as of June 2011. That's a big jump over the November 2010 numbers, when only 8% of wired Americans used the service.

The 13 major media outlets that Pew studied are riding this trend. In one week this past February, these institutions and the journalists they employ sent a combined 3,646 Tweets. After analyzing the content of these tweets, Pew concluded that the news outlets weren't doing it right. Ninety-three percent of their Tweets linked back to their own websites, and the "retweet" function was rarely used. (The New York Times (NYT), for instance, only generated original Tweets. Fox News (NWS) actually led in this arena, with 44% of their Tweets being retweets.)

The problem, as the study's authors saw it, was that these news outlets were using Twitter with a very "early days of the web" mentality, when "news organizations, worried about losing audience, rarely linked to content outside their own web domain." The media outlets mainly touted their own work.

But isn't that what everyone using Twitter is asked to do? More

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