@ EconAffinity: Forget Creating Revenue Streams, How Do We Manage Twitter?

imageThe WSJ and Bloomberg News were two of the most recent media companies have recently laid down the law on Twittering by their staffs. While companies are still struggling with how to make money from using social media tools and services like Twitter and Facebook, many are just feeling overwhelmed by trying to manage the enormity of the conversation.

Over the past year, a number of newspapers have started creating an editorial role to help their staffs manage the conversation to editors — see last week’s appointment of Jennifer Preston at the NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT). But at many media companies, it looks like the role of social media editor is handed over to the interns, panelists on the final session of paidContent parent ContentNext’s EconAffinity conference said. The panel’s moderator Peggy White, Publisher fo Slate’s female-focused Double X, began by asking Greg Galant, the CEO of Twitter aggregator Sawhorse Media, put the issue of figuring out how to make sense of the vast population of the micro-blogging service in context. Galant: “Before Twitter, I needed to reach the 10 journalists who cover my industry. It was fairly easy, as only a few people ‘mattered’ in a given situation. Twitter changed that. Now, thousands of people matter. Our job is to create an area where they can chat and where you can more reasonably reach the influencers you need to.” More after the jump

Mixing advertising and social media: In terms of outlining the different challenges to satisfying users and advertisers, publishers have some tough issues to sort through. Christine Cook, SVP, Digital Advertising Sales, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) People, noted that “people don’t want to use Twitter to engage with their phone company. Twitter has said they want to leave their site pure. For me, Greg was talking about [Sawhorse’s Twitter pet site, PetFeed] SockAMillion is hilarious. I would sign up for his tweets before I would sign up for any company.”

Curation cures: But in terms of keeping up with SockMillion or her boss’s tweets or social media in general, Cook explained that at a certain point, users just become overwhelmed with the huge amount content placed in front of them. So MSLO’s site added more curation. “That solved a lot of problems for the advertisers, but not for the consumer. We invite people in to our Dreamers and Doers site, which is more focused and narrow. A consumer wants talented people who know what they’re doing. On top of that, we mixed in readers’ content that they say they want, but in a manageable way.” In general, the surfeit of content offered up by social media is both the curse and cure, said Steven Waldman, Editor-in-Chief, President and Co-Founder, Beliefnet: “Mostly, Twitter is entertaining, but it’s not replaced TV or the phone. Most social media hasn’t hit people yet, because it’s added stuff to do, not taking away stuff to do.”

Guidelines: As for the issue of whether to restrict staffers from using blogs freely, Jack Rotolo, EVP, North American Sales, Glam Media, said it’s simply unnecessary: “We’re a Silicon Valley-based company. Everybody has to have that DNA. We have professional editors on staffs and they understand what’s acceptable on Twitter as well as how to entertain and keep an audience there. The WSJ doesn’t seem to be handling it in the best way. A lot of editors on staff are already brands. You need to encourage them to continue the conversation.”