Social media updates: Twitter as a breaking news machine; PalmBeachPost.com tests social plugins

When retail reporter Allison Ross had some big shopping news to share last Friday, she alerted her nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter to keep an eye on her Malled! blog.

H&M

Within 20 minutes, a follower (coincidentally, a Post news designer) guessed it: H&M, a trendy discount clothier with a cult following, was coming to South Florida at last.

In front of a virtual audience of hundreds of people, Allison confirmed the hunch and then tweeted again asking for sources willing to comment for her story (click to view the conversation larger):

tw_allison_hm

Allison says: “I ended up with several emails from people willing to talk on record about how excited they are for the new store.” (Sample: “Hey Allison, I saw your message on Twitter- first i heard about H&M coming but I am SO excited. H&M is one of my favorites and even though I live in Delray, Gardens Mall is a lot closer than other places I have traveled to get my shopping fix. … Couldn’t be happier to have one so nearby!”)

Within minutes, not only the H&M news, but Allison’s request for people to interview, streamed across Twitter in a cascade reminiscent of the clickety-clack of an old UPI teletype machine.

H&M

All these “retweets” represented Allison’s content being exposed to hundreds upon hundreds of new eyeballs – including people who may not subscribe to the paper or normally visit PalmBeachPost.com.

More social media news from the past week

PalmBeachPost.com is among the more than 50,000 websites (including The Washington Post and CNN) to start using Facebook’s new “social plugins” since the tools launched last week.

The new widget on our homepage, for instance, collects in one place the Palm Beach Post stories that readers’ Facebook friends have shared. Our users see updates only from their friends, and only if they’re already logged in to Facebook – in other words, the same thing they’d see over on their Facebook pages.

Here’s a snapshot of what I saw recently on our homepage: This appeared because I was logged into Facebook in another window and because I’m Facebook-friends with these folks (They all gave their OK for me to post this screenshot):

fb_activityfeed

People who don’t use Facebook or who aren’t logged in see a general most-shared list without names attached (we’re looking into whether we can improve the appearance of those icons on the left):

fb_activityfeed2

A PoynterOnline blogger talked to The Washington Post, ABC News, ESPN.com and other news organizations about how Facebook’s new sharing tools are functioning as new (and some think more relevant) “Most Popular” boxes on their homepages and other pages.

What do you think of Facebook’s sharing tools?

• Tory Malmer helped drive a bit more traffic to and increase awareness of our entertainment channel, pbpulse.com, through a mini-contest on Twitter asking folks a trivia question they could find the answer to on our SunFest guide. Within roughly an hour, 12 people chimed in with the right answer before Tory announced the winner (the first person to tweet), who came in to pick up her two free passes.

• You may have heard chatter about location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla. In a nutshell, they allow users to connect with friends and update their locations.

Some news sites are getting more involved with the services. For instance, Gowalla and the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky’s largest newspaper, partnered up for this year’s Kentucky Derby. And The Wall Street Journal is hooking up with Foursquare to help promote the paper’s Lunch Box restaurant-review column.

CMGdigital has also been exploring this concept for Cox Media Group sites, including PalmBeachPost.com, but the price tags for such partnerships are steep.

• New to me, anyway (via former Sun-Sentinel reporter Kathy Bushouse Burstein on Twitter): Gov2Social is a handy resource that lists government officials using social media.

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