Undeniably, a common practice people do these days while on social media is to read news shared on their feeds. With more than 2.96 billion active users on Facebook, and millions more on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, social media is now considered an essential platform for news consumption.
News consumption is on the rise on social media platforms, but mistrust is high. So, what is the future of social media as a news source?
Is social media news the new way?
As users openly share their opinions and participate in online conversations, social media is considered a complex space for mainstream media to navigate. And as such, it’s important for journalists and news organisations to continually find ways to adapt to these more informal spaces, given the time people spend on social networks.
Not only can connecting with a variety of consumers on social media uncover significant opportunities for PR, marketing and comms professionals, it can also enable mainstream media organisations to engage with a wider scope of audiences.
With resources such as social media intelligence, organisations can gain insights and identify key influencers. They can monitor engagement across multiple social media channels and learn about market trends and themes.
Although social media continues to play an important role in how people access the news, the proportion of users varies from country to country. Social media feeds are full of information and opinions shared by everyday people, activists, politicians and news media outlets. But the level of attention these groups receive can be different across each social network.
The divide on social media news
Due to the naturalisation of social media among users, younger audiences tend to source their news updates from social media. This has caused a generational divide in trust on social platforms between younger and older audiences.
The 2022 Digital News Report found that newer platforms such as TikTok, reach a quarter (24%) of under-35s, with 7% using the platform for news – even more in parts of Asia.
Similarly, 16 per cent of US adults are active on Twitter, with exactly half of those (8%) accessing the news through tweets.
With 21.45 million active social media users in Australia and 4.35 million in New Zealand, it’s no wonder many use social media as their go to for everything from news, entertainment, shopping and messaging.
The 2022 Digital News Report also suggests publishers will be paying less attention to Facebook and Twitter and will instead put more effort into Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. As these platforms are fast becoming the norm for younger generations – spending on average 3 hours per day on social media – they will likely continue to rise, regardless of trusting the chosen network. And as a result, the use of social media as a news source from older generations could further accelerate over time.
Do we trust it?
Despite 44 per cent of Australian adults reporting they used social networks to keep up to date with news and current affairs, there are still reservations about the legitimacy and authenticity of the news published on social media. Organisations such as Newsguard are exposing the misinformation economy and leading the fight against misinformation across all new sources.
Social media platforms still have a long way to go to clean up ‘fake news’ and sharing misinformation, however they also have the power to democratise opinion, allowing users to have their say and be heard.
Meanwhile, polarised debates in social media are making publishers rethink the ways in which journalists should engage on social networks. After concerns about reputational damage, many publishers and news organisations have tightened their social media rules.
Although social networks spread information faster than any other media, traditional media monitoring will continue to be an important part of a PR and comms strategy. And despite social media’s prevalence increasing in these strategies, it will continue to be a noisy space.
Whether it’s a news article, tweet, blog or interview, it’s important to listen for a story that might be brewing. Using a social media intelligence platform will help put PR and comms professionals in control as it provides the launchpad to explore the news, see it in more detail and analyse what is uncovered.