Social Storytelling Made Simple

Jun 25, 2016

Snaps, tweets, Instas and Vines.

These staples of millennial communication can be exciting yet confusing tools for journalism. At PRNDI’s "Social Storytelling" breakout session, social media gurus gave a crash course on the trendiest tools, such as Snapchat and Facebook Live.

Kelly Moffitt, online producer at St. Louis Public Radio; Adam Ragusea, host of Current’s The Pub podcast; and Lori Todd, social media editor at NPR, moderated the panel.

Here are six tips for making the most of social media in a public radio newsroom.

1. Snapchat can help reach younger audiences

One conference attendee asked, “Why Snapchat?” The short answer: Millennials.

Ragusea, who teaches journalism at Mercer University in Georgia, said Snapchat can connect young people, who are increasingly living in “walled gardens.”

2. Be a digital native

On Snapchat, especially, panelists recommended using geofilters and emojis as well as mixing photos with videos.

These are not just bells and whistles. They show younger audiences that your newsroom is serious about reaching them and understanding how they consume news.

Still, Todd said the best radio practices should apply to content that’s digitally native.

3. Use live-video

Moffitt said live-video tools, such as Facebook Live and Periscope, can help engage audiences and capitalize on content.

Live-video allows viewers to interact directly with stories. They can ask questions and comment during a live feed.

Finally, live-video is longer than radio.

According to Todd, audiences on Facebook Live peak at seven minutes for a 10-minute feed. While this may be liberating for radio journalists, who are used to tighter time slots, she says that it’s still important not to go over a certain length of time.

4. Facebook Live versus Periscope

While they may seem similar, Facebook Live and Periscope each offer certain advantages.

Moffitt said Facebook Live can be ideal for projects that are planned in advance. The feed also lasts longer, at 72 hours.

On the other hand, Periscope, Twitter’s live-broadcasting app, works best for breaking news situations. Reporters can quickly engage with audiences from the field. However, Periscope feeds are available for 24 hours.

5. What about Twitter?

Ragusea gave a brief overview of Twitter toward the end of the session. He stressed that Twitter reaches a smaller audience.


Credit Pew Research Center

According to data from the Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of Americans are monthly Twitter users.

Ragusea said Twitter can be useful for journalists to find sources and join an “in-conversation.” For publishing and promoting, he recommended Facebook because more people are on Facebook.

6. Don’t forget visuals

All the panelists emphasized the importance of visuals. Every tweet should be posted with a photo or video.

Todd said that quotables, which are used at NPR, adds a visual that provides more information than can be written in 140 characters and may attract audiences to click on the story’s link.


To view the complete presentation and learn more about digital storytelling resources, visit