It wasn't until I left Capitol Hill that I fully respected social media. As a Hill staffer, I didn't see the value in my boss "tweeting" instant thoughts about the president's State of the Union from the House floor. I would encourage the obligatory blog post or Facebook status update for my boss, but was resistant to Twitter. In the private sector, I now realize the value social media holds in amplifying a message. Social media's various platforms - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr - cannot only tell a story, but can also be an effective tool in leveraging coverage among traditional forms of media.
The creation of online newspapers and blogs -- HuffingtonPost, AmericaBlog, and TalkingPoints Memo -- have provided instant reporting of breaking political and policy news. Online news outlets have turned the 24-hour news cycle on its head by creating a vehicle for citizen journalists who can report in not just innovative ways, but instantly. Politico Ben Smith's "running conversation about politics" breaks news all day delivering a summary to your in-box at day's end. Social media has truly revolutionized the way the news is reported. An MSNBC producer recently told me that he reads his Twitter feed prior to his morning assignment meeting.
Traditional newspapers must constantly adapt to keep pace with this changing medium. Washington Post columnists like Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Capehart can turn directly to their blogs to influence the debate. Long-time Hill publications like National Journal have to cut back on journalistic mainstays looking to social media to keep-up. Mike Allen's Politico Playbook has changed the way we get the news - many bypass the newspaper and coffee opting to read Allen's digest "on the go."
Everyone wants to be on television to advance their issue or cause, and the general rule was, first, get it in print. Then the tv producers will start calling. To a certain degree, the rule still holds - but it's not the only rule these days. I advise my clients that investing in social media gives you that competitive edge. Whether it's hosting a Facebook chat, tweeting the news first, or blogging regularly - having a profile in the digital space provides just another vehicle for your message. And people are listening on the other end - a whole online community of bloggers, followers, and fans.
Once fearing social media, I now embrace it. Its flexibility and ease is an important communications strategy. When I asked the same MSNBC producer about the next "it" thing? He didn't know, but if he did, we all would be doing it, he said laughing.