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Social media training is getting results for the BBC

Chris Walton

is project editor in digital media at the BBC College of Journalism

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BBC News and The Huffington Post are easily leading the way worldwide at "social distribution", according to Newswhip, an innovative start-up company that monitors which news stories are spreading fastest through the social web.

It's clear that BBC News has come a long way in social media in the past couple of years and it is now using it effectively to strengthen the reach of BBC content.

In terms of numbers the @BBCBreaking account now has more than 2.5 million followers on Twitter; @BBCWorld, 1.5 million. And on Facebook, BBC World News has around 1.5 million friends.

More and more of our correspondents, reporters and producers are now tweeting. The BBC's social media editor, Chris Hamilton, runs a team of journalists who are expert in sifting through social media sites to find original news content and get it onto BBC platforms.

Meanwhile, BBC North West, BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland and BBC London, to name but a few, have appointed social media producers to find content on social media platforms and engage effectively with audiences.

In the past couple of years, the BBC has also put in place an effective social media training programme, bringing thousands of our journalists up to speed and ensuring they are comfortable with handling the new material and the new social spaces.

In November 2009, the College of Journalism started a one-day social media course called 'Making the Web Work for You' which soon broke all attendance records for a non-mandatory BBC News training course. It equipped journalists with the new digital tools they needed to find people, case studies and stories, and it set them up on Twitter and Facebook accounts to source content and interact with our audience.

To date nearly 3,000 BBC News staff have received training in some aspect of social media. We still run courses on internet tools, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and social media strategy and best practice. We do one-to-one sessions, tailored training on social media for individual BBC teams, and we run a 'Social Media Consultancy' - a kind of 'hit squad' for training at any BBC station that requires its services.

We have some of the best social media trainers in the world, led by @cward1e, @suellewellyn, @ramaamultimedia and @marcsettle, who ensure that the content is constantly refreshed, which is not easy when new tools are coming on stream almost daily.

We have moved into specialist training on smartphones for newsgathering - which is becoming more important - and training on tablets will follow.

The past two years has taught us the value of training. It is pleasing when the results start to show.

Chris Walton is a project editor specialising in digital media at the BBC College of Journalism.

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