This is not an exit

What Ellen Degeneres and The New York Times can teach us about social media presence

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm

The Internet is a fickle thing. Do something it likes, and you’ll live in infamy (well, Internet infamy, anyway. And that can last anywhere from five minutes to maybe a week and a half.)

Sometimes all it takes is a meticulously constructed recipe for virality. Take, for instance, Ellen Degeneres’ tweet from the 2014 Academy Awards. You know the one.

It got 3.3 million retweets. The second-most retweeted post? Justin Bieber with 550,000.

Ellen’s tweet may have contained all of the ingredients for success, but it wasn’t entirely planned. Samsung, one of the sponsors of the 2014 Academy Awards, included in its contract with the event’s planners that the Galaxy be worked into the show in some way. Enter Ellen.

The daytime talk show star was coached on how to use the phone’s camera and Twitter app. And from there, Internet history was made.

What does this have to do with news? Well, it’s pretty well summed up in the headline for Nieman Labs’ article about The New York Times’ approach to social engagement: Don’t try to please Twitter.

Ellen’s tweet succeeded because she capitalized on a moment, a series of well-controlled circumstances that guaranteed some level of success. But think about it for a moment — think of everything that had to fall into place in order for that tweet to go viral:

• It had to include 12 of the year’s most popular celebrities
• It had to be taken on Oscar night
• Not only that, but it had to be taken during the broadcast by the host
• 
And that host had to be Ellen Degeneres

Remove any element of that formula and it falls apart. Just like a good headline. Or a well-framed photograph. Or a well-constructed tweet.

In film, the process is called mise en scéne. It’s the art of controlling everything within a frame. Of making sure that the only elements presented to viewers are those the director wishes them to see.

That’s sort of the same as what a good editor does with a story, no? Leave out the extraneous details. Construct the narrative in a logical way and present relevant facts at just the right time to give that story a punch.

The biggest takeaway from the Nieman Labs post is that, like everything else in the newspaper industry, the art of constructing a tweet that will inform and entertain readers requires professionals with a keen eye for detail and a flair for writing.

Of course what works for one outlet doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll work for somebody else. And just because we have all of these shiny new tools at our disposal, it doesn’t necessarily mean we need to employ them all just to say that we did.

I’ll leave the explanation to a real pro:

But what do YOU think?

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