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Salon.com Editor Tells Journalists: Social Media is More than Article Sharing

It’s About Forming Relationships

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Salon.com Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh today told journalists that too often, writers and websites rely on social media technology to simply spread articles across the internet, instead of spending time developing relationships with readers. Speaking at the Online News Association Conference (ONA) on a social media panel, Walsh told fellow journalists that social media is fundamentally about relationships.

“Too many sites and individual journalists have a one-way Twitter or Facebook presence,” said Walsh. “They say ‘read our stories! become a fan!’ without understanding that the reason most people participate in social media is to form relationships. It wasn't until I started to actually converse on Twitter and especially to re-Tweet others' stories and observations, and add pictures of my puppy that my follower number began to take off,” she said.

According to Walsh, Salon's traffic from social media sites has tripled since last October and is growing stronger month over month. Though the site is gradually adding links to multiple social networks on every story, the real cause for the growth this year is individual editors and writers being active community members, especially on Facebook and Twitter. “Although it¹s time intensive, it makes a huge difference,” Walsh said. “Technology matters, but voices matter more. Relationships matter. Being a person actually matters.”

Salon is unique as an online media site because it offers its readers a blogging platform, Open Salon, as part of the site. With almost one million unique visitors and 35,000 active members, Open Salon promotes loyalty and engagement with Salon writers and content. Further, the sites’ editors curate the best user generated blog posts and features them on the Salon home page, giving aspiring writers a built-in audience.

In fact, Open Salon members have landed book deals as well as magazine and newspaper assignments thanks to their Salon connection -- Open Salon's Gwen Cooper turned a post about her blind cat into a book, "Homer's Odyssey," that made the New York Times bestseller list last month. "We've always boasted we have the best audience in journalism, and we've really made them our publishing partners in the last year," Walsh told ONA.

Walsh joined Salon in 1998 and became the site’s Editor-in-Chief in 2005. She is a regular guest on political television shows, including MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Morning Joe, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show. Walsh made her second appearance on The O’Reilly Factor in June 2009, discussing the murder of Dr. George Tiller and her views on the responsibility of journalists and the impact of their words in controversial matters. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines from the Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun to Vogue and The Nation. Walsh won a 2004 Western Magazine Award for her writing about local politics.

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joanwalsh

More Stories By Carmen Gonzalez

Carmen Gonzalez is the co-founder, president, and CEO of SYS-CON Media, Cloud Expo, Inc. and Ulitzer, Inc.

Carmen has been in charge of SYS-CON's sales and marketing functions since 1994. Under her leadership, the company was named by Inc 500, among the fastest growing 500 privately held companies in North America three years in a row.