By Haileigh Bayee
Ric Sanchez has been specializing in social media since pretty much right after he graduated from the UM School of Journalism in 2015, first at the Washington Post and now at the Athletic, a national publication focused on sports news. Sanchez’s work includes curating content from what the Athletic has published and packaging it for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Current University of Montana journalism student, Haileigh Bayee, interviewed Sanchez recently about best social media practices. Below is the transcription of the interview, edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What’s your favorite platform and how do you cater your content to that platform?
A: Twitter. Honestly, a lot of people use it, so I am always second screening on Twitter during a game. I’m looking at live reactions from creditors that I follow. Honestly, it’s the easiest and quickest way to get information out there. For the most part, it’s helpful as far as being able to publish news quickly.
Q: How do you ensure your posts stay professional yet inviting?
A: We had a lot of success being a little sillier on Twitter. You see that Washington Post avatar and you’re probably expecting something a little more serious. So voice with something lighter, as long as what you’re publishing is still accurate. You obviously don’t want to get carried away and post something that’s untrue but as long as you know you’re not like reaching, you’re not trying too hard, you can have funny reactions.
Q: Do you do any data analytics when it comes to post ratings and interactions?
A: Other than kind of being informative, maybe I’ll look at it once in a while. Overall I don’t really use that in my day today.
Q: What steps do you go through when contemplating posting something on social media? Do you have a routine or guidelines that you follow before pressing the “Post” button?
A: When I was at the Post, we had a platform where editors for sections would pitch us stories to post on social. Then, for this job, I’m a little bit more free to peruse the sites and see what we published already. Part of my job is looking at the things happening in the world of sports.
Q: Have you ever made a mistake on social media and if so, how did you handle it?
A: Do you want to reply to the post and add the correction or do you want to screenshot, delete the post and do a new one where you attach the screenshot and explain the correction? It really depends. Bigger things, like the optics of the post, aren’t great. That’s usually a conversation that your organization will kind of decide how they want to handle.
Q: What kind of post is the most popular and gets the most response from your followers?
A: Insightful quotes. I think those tend to do really well. However, I’ve noticed that posts that have a more interesting copy or if you’re posting a link, get better reviews quicker.
Q: What is the main difference between maintaining social media for a publication and maintaining social media for personal/private business use?
A: You’re promoting your outlet’s work. The rule I live by is: Am I willing to stand up on TV and defend it.
Q: How do you keep social media engagement consistent? Is it difficult to keep a stable audience on social media?
A: Engagement is really simple. For instance, if you know their interests, you can dress that up. It is good to make sure that people feel like they have a personal connection to your outlet.
Q: When posting a “promo” for a story, how do you present it to avoid it being victim to becoming misinformation?
A: Always lead with the truth. You want to make sure that if the story is about somebody that says something not true, you lead with something true.
Q: How do you keep up to date with social media trends online?
A: Most of my career is on Twitter. You definitely make sure you know which trend is popular. However, at some point, you don’t have much time in the day and it can be hard to stay on top of everything.
Q: When is the ideal time to post a story to social media? Following that, when is the best time to make a post that may not have a story attached?
A: Some things you’ll get people in real-time but most things later. Post as early as you can. Also, can we catch the tail end of our audience before they go to bed.
Q: How does a journalist ‘stay on brand’ when branding isn’t their job?
A: It’s kind of the voice of whoever’s running that account at that moment. So as employees cycle in and out, the voice of that platform will probably change.
Q: How do you continuously create or gain new, fresh, exciting content without being repetitive? Where do you get ideas and new content to share online?
A: When you see different sports outlets are all publishing the same sort of engagement, play around. Find your own version. It really is tough to create but a part of the job. The nice thing about working with a team is you can bounce ideas off of each other.
Haileigh Bayee is a student in the UM School of Journalism’s Social Media and Engagement class, which conducted Q&As this semester with more than 20 journalists as part of a research project on best practices for journalists on social media.