4 Questions With Brian Ries, Social Media Editor at Newsweek & The Daily Beast

“Four Questions With …” is a monthly series of interviews with different social media and community editors in the news industry.

Photo Credit: Angela Cranford
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So, what is it like to be a social media or community editor? What are the job responsibilities and how does one end up landing such a gig? The goal of “Four Questions With …” is to answer some of these questions and to give insight into what is a new and constantly evolving field.

This month, we talked to Brian Ries, the social media editor at Newsweek & The Daily Beast. Unlike some other social media editors, Ries didn’t start out in journalism. He started his current job in August 2010 after working at advertising and marketing companies with a heavy social bent. He began writing for Newsweek The Daily Beast while it was one of his clients. (It merged with Newsweek later.)

Ries further caught the editors’ attention when, in July 2010, he reported a Facebook post by Sarah Palin on the Ground Zero mosque as hate speech. His resulting Tumblr post went viral and Facebook even took down Palin’s post. He ended up writing an article about it for the site.

Here are his thoughts on what skills a social media editor needs and how you can make your mark in a newsroom with an already established social media strategy.

EZ: What is the biggest challenge using social media at a place like Newsweek & The Daily Beast?
BR: For us, I think we’re pretty unique in the sense that we have our news website where we try to get the latest news on there, try to get it out the quickest, we try to be right about it, we try to have good opinions. So of course we’re using social media to mirror that.

Then we also have Newsweek magazine, which is this awesome legacy magazine that’s been around a very long time. That has a much internationally-wider name recognition and product recognition.

They’re two very different brands that we use together to kind of help each other out. I think that’s a big challenge in figuring out how to use Daily Beast content in the Newsweek framework.

For one instance, Mark Coatney, who works at Tumblr now, started this awesome Newsweek Tumblr blog back in the day. It’s now very, very popular for us and I love it. Of all the various social media platforms that we have, it’s kind of my special one right now. It’s a great community. They’re all very smart. They love to talk about the news.

So I do put a lot of Daily Beast content on there. I think it mixes really well because it’s every day; it’s what’s happening on the news; what people are reading about; what people are hearing about. It’s basically just picking the right content and putting it in the right places — that is one challenge.

Another is of course is what’s at every organization and it is just threading that social needle throughout the newsroom. Whether you have young journalists or experienced journalists, it’s always a tool they might not be used to using. It’s about presenting it in the right context and making them excited about it.

You can walk in there and be kind of cocky with your Twitter skills and say, “Hey, you gotta be tweeting. Why aren’t you doing that?” But that tends not to work. So I think the way to do it is to think about each individual journalist and how they can potentially use it and show them. Wow them.