Gainesville Company Helps Media Connect with Social Media

Kim Wilson says social media is like going to the prom: “Everyone wants to go, but nobody knows what to do when they get there.”

Now Wilson is providing some clues. A former news executive with WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, she is helping television stations, radio stations and newspapers excel at social media through her new Gainesville-based company, SocialNewsDesk.

SocialNewsDesk provides software that allows clients to “push” their news reports and other information to their social media accounts.

“It makes it much easier for our reporters to post content on social media,” says Laura Bragg, social media coordinator for WJXT, one of Wilson’s clients. “Instead of having to sign onto their Facebook account and their Twitter account, they can post to both at the same time.“We used to get one to two comments on stories posted on our website,” she says. “Now we’re getting close to 100 comments on some stories.”

Wilson developed the product after recognizing that “most stations were extremely disorganized in their approach to social media,” Wilson says. “We’ve made a really big splash by meeting their needs.”

Wilson and her partner, Elisa DeFoe, began beta testing SocialNewsDesk with WJXT in November, and started adding other customers in March. Already it is working with eight television stations, two radio stations and one newspaper.

Now, two national media companies are interested in licensing SocialNewsDesk to use with their local television stations, says Kevin Ogilby of the investment banking firm Duncan-Williams, who’s helping Wilson negotiate with the firms.

Beyond providing more direct connections to social media followers, SocialNewsDesk also helps stations build that base. For example, WJXT is using a SocialNewsDesk feature that runs contests, with prizes such as Jaguars tickets. “People have to ‘like’ us to win, so the contests help us build up a following,” Bragg says.

Most stations Wilson works with have at least 25,000 Facebook fans, and Wilson says growing that base should be a key focus for all media.

“There’s no option,” she says. “Any business that wants to survive in the next five years has to be involved in social media.”

Broadcasters who are struggling to maintain ratings also can use a solid social media presence to attract and keep viewers, Wilson says. “Some stations are selling sponsorships within social media for thousands of dollars.”

Wilson uses 352 Media Group, owned by her husband, Geoff, for website development and technical support.

Wilson is plugged into social media herself, with the Twitter handle of @kimberly_wilson; a blog (www.kimwilson.com), and a Facebook page (facebook.com/SocialNewsDesk).

“SocialNewsDesk is a great example of the creative talent and innovative spirit in Gainesville and should serve as a guide to other entrepreneurs who want to address unmet needs in the marketplace,” Ogilby says.

SBA Launches iPhone App

Need some quick help starting or growing your business? Try the Small Business Administration’s new iPhone app.

Developed in collaboration with Palo Alto Software, the free app give you access to video content from the SBA’s YouTube channel, puts you in touch with SBA experts for one-to-one counseling, connects you with the agency’s social media alerts and even offers a start-up calculator that helps you determine how much money you’ll need to get a new business off the ground.

The program is available through Apple’s iTunes store.

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