How a Journalist Created the Leading Social Tool for Newsrooms

How a Journalist Created the Leading Social Tool for Newsrooms
By Kim Wilson

I wanted to be a News Director. I went to Journalism school, worked in the PBS station at the University of Florida doing anything they’d let me, and sprung off to Jacksonville, FL post-graduation to take an overnight producing job at a TV station. I was stoked. Mark Zuckerberg was 17.

Within 18 months, I was the Executive Producer at WJXT-TV. And suddenly, making it to work by 2am was the least of my problems.  I had to lead a team of journalists. My job was to put systems in place that made everyone better. And the challenge was that there never seemed to be enough resources. Too much to do, too little with which to do it.

Several years later, (when Mark Zuckerberg was 22 years old), news broke that a college student had died in a terrible accident in our area. It was a big story. We didn’t have a ton of information. And I soon found out we had even less social media skill, “Does anyone in this entire newsroom have a Facebook account?” I asked. Silence. It was 2007, after all. Finally, an intern raised his hand and walked me through how to use the college-friendly social site to make connections. Ultimately, it’s the reason we beat our competition on every angle of that story.

I quickly realized this was going to be huge for newsrooms.

Before I could blink, my News Director wanted to know how we would use Facebook in coverage of future stories. I naturally suggested we get more interns. And although that wasn’t a terrible idea, I eventually came up with something better. What if I could create the social media management tool I never had, but always needed? Well, that’s exactly what I did.

I reached out to WJXT’s other Executive Producer, Elisa DeFoe, to be my business partner. (Two EPs are always better than one.) Armed with years of newsroom experience, we conceived and oversaw the creation of (SND). We spent more than a year beta testing our initial software in real newsrooms, gaining feedback, making changes, and making it right. In 2011, we made our first sale.

Three years later, more than 600 newsrooms across the US and Canada now use SocialNewsDesk tools to publish, manage and/or monetize social media. We support Facebook, Twitter and now Google+. And our unique feature set enforces best practices, helps secure valuable newsroom accounts with individual user accountability, and gives news organizations creative ways to monetize their social reach.

SND clients range from small markets to big markets and include both broadcast and print media. Our technology powers the social component of the WSI weather system which is utilized by 85% of the meteorologists in the US and Canada. And SocialNewsDesk is a member of Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) program.

The privilege we have is that we care about our clients’ content. When a big story breaks, nationally or locally, we help them find ways to best cover it on social.  When a post of theirs goes viral, we help with the next best step.  First and foremost, we provide a software tool, but we’re right there along the way – to help, advise, and cheer on our clients in what’s still considered very new territory.

We see our tool as one that’s built by news people, for news people. We regularly survey our users for feature ideas. And take their feedback extremely seriously.  Our product is made expressly for the very unique job they do.

While I’m extremely proud of what we’ve built and where we’re headed as a company, I rarely have time to reflect. This morning I got that chance as a Google alert came across my inbox. It was a job listing for a newsroom producer. Under skills, it listed “experience with SocialNewsDesk” as a job requirement. I smiled to myself. And thought about the job listings I used to post and how I wish I could have listed that myself.

Kim Wilson is the President and Founder of SocialNewsDesk. She regularly writes and speaks on social media best practices for journalists and news organizations. You can connect with Kim @kimsnd on Twitter.