The beautiful thing about social networking is that it creates a level playing field for all users. Celebrities, students, young and old - everyone has the same ability to be heard on networks like Twitter and Facebook. Some people will take their chance to be heard and talk only about what is interesting to them, which may make them part of a smaller or larger community in the social space, depending on the niche.
Others? They will use it to let you know about the world around them, as it's happening. For example, a huge use of Twitter that will always be a part of me was the flood of my hometown in upstate New York back in the fall of 2011. Of course, news stations were covering it to the best of their abilities through the mediums that they had. But it was the average person who had no stock in being right or wrong that I was following. It was the journalists and reporters off-the-clock who had the best footage, the best pictures, the best commentary.
Journalists have a credibility that they have to live up to when they tweet or update a Facebook status. They (should) do major fact checking before saying anything on any platform, because whatever they say will be taken as truth by their followers.
But, it seems as though the pressure is off for users on Twitter, not related to the news, explaining what they see. They don't need to answer to a news director upset that he or she got a rain inch total wrong, or misspelled the street name where the most damage occurred. They're free to express themselves their own way.
Of course, more and more new stations are giving reporters free reign when it comes to social media - and rightfully so. The best way for a news stations social media campaign to flop in the eyes of the audience is to make your reporters tweet out systematic tweets that have zero personality. Why even have Twitter if you're not going to be yourself and be social? People are connecting with YOU on a social network if your profile is under your name. Not your station. They want to get to know you, your personality. Tweet how you talk and respond to the conversation around you, then watch your following grow.
The thing I love the most about Twitter during major story development is the ability to crowd-source from newsies and non-newsies alike. Maybe it's my thirst for always wanting to be at the scene of the action, or maybe it's because I know that sometimes journalists are so busy trying to cover a story, that unfortunately, social media becomes an afterthought, only updated hours after a story has happened. But it's those users not involved in the news industry that I love to gather my information from.
You learn so much more from having a localize group of followers at the scene. Reporters can't be at 100 places at once, but your 100 connections on Twitter can give you all the views. And sometimes, there is someone on there who can give you a better account of what's happening from where they're standing than anyone else - whether they're a reporter or not.
Perhaps one day, social media at the local news level will be the priority. For now, meeting deadlines for newscasts or print times is the driving factor, even if it means that the story will be antiquated by the time it reaches its audience. True, some stations definitely have their social media network strategies in place and rolling, and you'll see reporters and producers updating religiously as they are in the field. But sadly, this is usually the exception and not the rule.