MySpace is a blessing and a curse for journalists. There’s a wealth of information and many of its features can help when researching for a story.
Social networking is consistent presence in the Internet life of anyone in college and recent graduates. We’ve grown up with this technology and only as we enter the job force are many of us thinking about where we draw the line between our private and public lives.
Each week, I will write about how MySpace can make you a better journalist. I’ll offer suggestions, strategies and point out potential pitfalls.
This week’s topic: Developing a public profile.
I started working at SacLights.com at the end of last summer. One of my first responsibilities was to find the Web site and MySpace of every local musician. I wanted to do more than catalog data in a spreadsheet. I wanted to start connecting and collecting. Problem was, we didn’t have a MySpace for SacLights.com and I didn’t want to add bands as friends to my private MySpace. I figured it was a good opportunity to start a second, professional MySpace.
There are too many drawbacks to adding local contacts to your everyday, private MySpace. You may be inundated with concert invites. The status and mood feed will fill with notes from bands. The bulletin board becomes an unmanageable outlet for bands to post fliers. Bulletins and status updates by friends are quickly buried. Bands will regularly post fliers in comment sections, sometimes altering the look with large fliers. Connecting with friends is muddied when you add so many non-friend friends.
Distributed information becomes a concern. You can only control what your friends post if you’ve altered your privacy options. You may be tagged in a compromising photo, sensitive information might be posted in your comment section and, in the worst of case, your top friends list might become victims of harassment by angry sources. A profile pages says a lot about a person. It also leaves a lot lost in translation. A joke among your friends might be offensive to sensitive sources.
Enough about the potential dangers. Here are 10 steps to starting a professional MySpace:
Tip No. 1: Secure your private profile.
Make your private profile viewable only by your friends. Require approval before comments are posted. Take a hard look at what you post. You may think you’re profile is secure, but photos can be downloaded by friends and e-mailed around.
Tip No. 2: Start a professional profile.
Create a second profile using a work e-mail or professional e-mail address. Add the friends from your private profile so that your friend’s list isn’t empty. Send each of your friends a message to say that your second profile isn’t fake. You're privacy options can be more lenient, allowing for anyone to add you as a friend.
Tip No. 3: Post a headshot.
Add a couple of photos. Make sure you have some basic photos that allow sources to know what you look like — very beneficial for in-person interviews at public locations. Headshots are fine. If you’re friends tag you in photos using the private profile, make sure to deny those tags. If you’ve drawn a line of separation, make sure to keep it.
Tip No. 4: Flesh out your profile.
There’s nothing wrong with being truthful about your general interests, favorite movies, favorite music, favorite television shows, favorite movies, favorite books and personal heroes. Treat the schools section like you would the education section of a résumé. I treat my company section the same way. I’ve listed the six places where I have worked. You can hold back and list only your current position. The networking feature has never been too helpful. You can find other journalists and they can find you as long as you add it to your profile. Most important, tailor your about me section to your career. Talk about your skills. Employers make look at your professional profile page too.
Tip No. 5: Simple name, simple reference.
Make your MySpace URL something simple. You can use your URL as a calling card. Use your pen name if possible.
Tip No. 6: Post stories and photos.
Photographers should post an album of work. Writers should post some written examples using the blog feature. The blog system allows for HTML, so some multimedia work can be posted as well. It helps to show people what you can do.
Tip No. 7: Limit HTML and application use.
You want to make sure that you’re profile can be seen by anyone. Custom designs by third-party Web sites can slow down load times. Applications are typically more trouble then they’re worth.
Tip No. 8: The notification system is your friend.
It helps to allow for notifications. You probably don't want to check your professional and private MySpace each day. Notifications allow you to know when a band, comedian or venue has added you or sent you a message.
Tip No 9: Assessment.
You want a clean MySpace that offers the necessary information. If you can build your own Web site to show off your work, simply offer a link and do not repost all your work. If you’re a photographer and want to house your portfolio elsewhere, just post a couple of photos as examples and display a prominent link to more work. Re-read everything you’ve written for your profile. If this is your first point of contact with sources, you want them to know that you’re a good writer. Copyediting shouldn’t be a lost art.
Tip N0 10: Add to your heart's content.
Now you can go ahead and start adding new friends. Musicians, comedians and filmmakers are a good start. Nightclubs, tattoo parlors and business aren't segmented on MySpace yet, but you can find many of them. It's a good idea think about your scope. Do you want to keep your friends list to local sources or go national? The more friends, the harder it will be to segment them and find them later.
I hope my suggestions are helpful. Feel free to leave comments on this blog or by sending my a message through my MySpace page.
On the horizon (Update): The next MySpace Monday will detail a couple methods on finding local comedians, local music and local venues. I originally planned to talk about ways to make MySpace your digital Rolodex. That will come in the third post.
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