Phil Hay is the long-standing Leeds United at the Yorkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post. Over the last few years, he has amassed 130,000 followers on Twitter. At the Behind Local News conference, he took part in a social media panel. Here are the questions posed to him by panel chair Corinne Podger, and his answers:
What are you doing right on Twitter?
I think the first thing I’m doing right is being lucky to cover a club that has a really big fanbase both in Britain but abroad as well. The further field you are from from Elland Road the more difficult it is to keep up to date with the club.
The bigger following that a football club has the more followers you’re likely to attract automatically is as a journalist.
My intention was always just to get as much on the Twitter account that I thought was interesting and relevant and the sort of content that people want to read.
I made the assumption that people will gravitate towards you naturally because Leeds does have such a big appeal and that is pretty much what has happened over the years.
And also it has been running for seven years now so has built up little by little. I’m fortunate that the club I covered such an intense amount of interest in it that people are automatically drawn to it.
How do you cater for audiences on other platforms?
We do run a Facebook page. I don’t have any involvement in running that myself as that’s done by staff on our desks so I run purely my own personal Twitter account and also the YP Twitter account as well.
I think the difference for me between Facebook and Twitter is that the Twitter timeline is chronological so it’s far easier to keep up to date with what’s going on. I also find that other journalists, other football journalists in particular, use Twitter an awful lot more than they do Facebook.
So again in terms of what’s been reported elsewhere or the sort of information that you would like to see it as it comes and it is more available on Twitter.
We do run a Facebook page but I think it’s pretty obvious that more people do gravitate towards what we do on Twitter than than on Facebook.
Debate around football on social media can often be very robust. How do you deal with that?
It is although not to the same extent as it is for players who are on social media, particularly Twitter, and I often wonder why any of them are on there at all.
It’s great [for players] when great when things are going well, but it does seem to lead to pretty much outright abuse when things are going badly and we’ve seen that in the second half of the season at Leeds.
I guess I’m not so different. You attract the good and you attract the bad but I’ve always seen it as part of the game on Twitter really and I’ve never found that interaction like that on Twitter overall.
I have to say that it’s [the bad tweets] quite a small proportion of the interaction you get. Alot of it is good, very supportive and very worthwhile dealing with.
But I never find that the worst of interaction on Twitter is ever replicated in real life. You just have to be careful about your opinions, and as a rule I don’t tweet about politics. I have a little bit over the years but I tended to find that it always developed into an argument and ended with people telling me concentrate on the football.
And actually if I think about it they probably have got a point really because it is a personal account. The YP don’t have any any control over it. They don’t tell me what to post.They would expect me not to put anything illegal, borderline illegal, racist, homophobic, sectarian or that sort of thing on it, but I can pretty much tweet what I like on there .
But in a way, it is a YP account because the only reason that there are so many followers is because I’m working for them and covering Leeds United and I think when people say we don’t particularly want to hear political views on there I can understand that and I think I probably do agree.
But in terms of the rough and tumble it’s actually quite good for a lot of the time.
What would your advice be to football journalists working for regional news titles and covering clubs where there is saturation coverage from elsewhere?
I think the only answer really is is to try and get as close to the clubs as you possibly can and to be every bit as accurate as any of the national debate around those clubs.
I think the Liverpool Echo cope extremely well in what is a very, very competitive patch over there, particularly the Liverpool job over there that’s an extremely tough gig.
It is hard it is different and I think if Leeds was to get promoted at any time in my lifetime then the chances are it would become an awful lot more saturated on our patch as well.
I think the only approach to take will be to get as close to and stay as close to the club as we possibly can so that our content is every bit as good as what the Nationals are producing.
I think by good content it does come down to the best stories. Transfer stories, which is pretty much what everybody is after, and also all the online content that people expect. Overall, I do think that a paper’s credibility is determined by the quality of their reporting of hard core stories that they get.