MU convergence instructor creates Twitter buzz

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | 6:02 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 6, 2009

COLUMBIA — Two years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jim Macmillan was frustrated that no one watched the videos he shot for the Philadelphia Daily News' Web site. 

“Practically no one was seeing my videos, because, in my opinion, they didn’t have very effective distribution,” said Macmillan, who was recently named to the MU journalism faculty.

So Macmillan turned to a new media conference hosted by BlogWorld Expo and learned the basics of social media. He immediately subscribed to 40 social networks, using them to promote his videos and generate traffic to his work. 

Macmillan, 48, now has more than 50,000 followers on one of his Twitter accounts. The blog and journal Photo District News ran an online feature calling him one of the five biggest photographers on the Internet due to his Twitter popularity. Macmillan said he tries to “tweet” a combination of media news, what he jokingly calls “the adventures of Jim” and odd news. 

“I wanted to keep it informative, entertaining and engaging. By personalizing it, I made it interesting,” he said.

A year ago, Macmillan left the Philadelphia Daily News for a “self-funded sabbatical to study social media.” He wanted to find out if he could use social media to market himself and make money freelancing his work. Macmillan said he used social networking to drum up interest in photographs on his blog,

Macmillan was recently hired to teach convergence journalism at MU. He said social media is useful to journalism students in a struggling industry since many may find themselves working independently.

Macmillan said MU was interested in his recent experience. “Throughout the interview process, they expressed an interest to incorporate my social media skills,” he said.  

Macmillan isn’t sure how social media works best in the classroom, but thought students would know best.   

“It’s always a good thing to listen to the students and ask them what works,” he said.

For now, Macmillan is busy starting a Twitter account for his new home. MissouriJim on Twitter has more than 500 followers.

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