This week in social media: Good content drives the bus; plus, is Facebook taking over the Web?

It all starts with good content – without it, social media’s just glitter on a lump of coal. Once you have something valuable that an audience out there wants to read, then it’s only natural to think about different ways to get it in front of their eyeballs.

The channels you can use are many: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Digg, Metacafe, Technorati, YouTube, etc.

At The Post, reporter aabramson_mugAndrew Abramson has steadily built a large audience around his beat, the city of West Palm Beach, with his blog, West Palm Beat, that started last November.

Andrew sees his blog as a way to inform readers about city happenings when he’s unable to get the news in the paper. “We have less and less space now, so a blog is perfect for a beat writer. It really allows you to own the beat.”

And he takes advantage of the interactivity of the Web by including a poll with almost every post.

For instance, after giving a play-by-play of a spat between Mayor Lois Frankel and Commissioner Bill Moss over Clematis By Night, a weekly concert and festival downtown, Andrew added a simple poll (using PollDaddy.com) to his post this week asking, Do you consider Clematis By Night a success? So far, nearly 500 people have voted, and another 45 have commented on the post.

clematis_poll

Andrew calls the impact of polls “huge.”

“It’s an easy way to figure out which topics engage readers, plus people like to be involved,” he says.

He also blogs frequently (sometimes while waiting for sources to call him back, and sometimes late at night from home while watching TV) and makes his posts more appealing by including photos.

Readers have noticed. Traffic to the blog has grown steadily.

Andrew uses Twitter (@wpbeat) not only to post links to his content, but to alert followers about stories and blog posts he’s working on (sample tweet: “Want the scoop on WPB police salaries? Stay tuned…”), link to non-Palm Beach Post content he thinks will interest his followers, respond to his followers’ questions and comments, and even to chat occasionally about casual topics.

More social media news from the past week:

Will Facebook ‘like’ button spread across Internet?: The Washington Post, CNN, IMDB, Pandora, ESPN, Levi’s and more have already started using Facebook’s latest feature: the ability to add a Facebook “like” button (and similar Facebook tools) on any website. Here’s how it looks:

fblike

Once you “Facebook-like” (or recommend – websites can use different verbs) something on any web page, that activity shows up on your Facebook profile. The “like” button is part of a group of tools called social plugins, and they’ve caused another uproar about privacy and accusations that Facebook is trying to take over the Internet. But it’s also an undeniable sign of how much more integrated the social Web keeps getting all the time, and it could be a powerful tool for news organizations to tap into Facebook’s ubiquity.

Google has added an “Updates” option to its search to allow users to replay how news broke (and how other hot topics played out) on update services such as Twitter. It plans to eventually add tweets going back to 2006. One cool feature is a timeline illustrating spikes in activity:

google_updates

Google says on its blog:

By replaying tweets, you can explore any topic that people have discussed on Twitter. Want to know how the news broke about health care legislation in Congress, what people were saying about Justice Paul Stevens’ retirement or what people were tweeting during your own marathon run? These are the kinds of things you can explore with the new updates mode.

• A fun one for journalists: @tweetsofold “extract(s) tidbits from old newspapers” and posts them as tweets. The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog did a riff on this theme a few days ago in a post, “Twitter Updates, the 18th Century Edition,” that notes how similar diary entries of the 1700s and 1800s were to modern-day 140-character-limit posts. Example: “May 14, 1770: Mrs. Mascarene here and Mrs. Cownsheild. Taken very ill. The Doctor bled me. Took an anodyne.” A tweet from 300 years ago: Gotta love that!

• During the volcanic ash crisis that froze air traffic in Europe, several airlines (such as British Airways, KLM & Air Baltic), plus Eurocontrol, the European aviation authority, used their Twitter feeds to communicate updates to travelers and to help customers. And Virgin Atlantic has been posting updates on its Facebook page. These social-media updates were much appreciated by thousands of stranded travelers, many of whom found the airlines’ websites to be stale and outdated.

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