matt navarra headshot
Every week we ask a leading figure in digital news about their work, career and what it takes to be a journalist in the 21st century.

This week's guest is Matt Navarra, social media director at The Next Web (TNW), who explains what skills are needed to keep up with the fast-moving chatter on social and to find great stories.

What is your job title and what does that mean?

My role is kind of a hybrid of a lot of posts that have grown in popularity in recent years. Job titles like social media editor, social media manager, community manager, engagement editor, head of audience engagement, head of audience growth, etc.

For example, I am responsible for (takes a deep breath):
  • optimising content for use on the various social platforms we have a presence on;
  • identifying potential stories that are ‘pre-viral’ or blowing up on social networks at that moment;
  • monitoring social platforms for comments and replies to TNW;
  • engaging with our readers across all social platforms, compiling, interpreting and acting on social analytics data to improve our overall performance;
  • supporting the entire TNW team with any issues or training they require to use social media effectively, supporting marketing campaign efforts via social media, and leading the social channel strategy for TNW Conferences.
And that is just a bit of what I do (breathes again). So to keep it simple, and to incorporate all of these role duties, I am the social media director for The Next Web.

How did you get started in the industry?

I don’t really consider myself a journalist, but I work closely with the TNW editorial team throughout the day.

My route into the industry was fairly unusual, in that I graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Business Studies in 2002. My first career job was on a graduate training scheme with the Royal Bank of Scotland in London.

I later worked for the UK Civil Service in South Wales as a press/media manager for a fairly large government department. During this time working for the Civil Service, I took a secondment to work for the Government Digital Service (GDS) as a social media lead.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I was approached by the team at The Next Web to take on the role as their social media director. From there, my role has grown and slowly edged into more of a social media editorial position, which I guess many people recognise me as via my presence on Twitter (@MattNavarra).

What do you most look forward to at the start of your day?

Being a self-confessed social media geek, I dive straight into the stats to check overnight engagement and social traffic figures. I want to know how we have performed, as well as how we ranked versus rival publications' social activities.

I also look forward to checking what new viral stories have popped up on Twitter overnight. I scan through TweetDeck and check tools like Spike and CrowdTangle to look back up to 12 hours. It’s a bit depressing if I have missed something awesome :(

What does a normal day look like for you? In emoji.

matt navarra emoji

What three tools or apps do you use the most for work?
  1. TweetDeck – for publishing and monitoring;
  2. SocialFlow – for publishing only;
  3. Crowdtangle / Dataminr / Spike / Buzzsumo - for news discovery and analytics.
Oh, and let’s not forget Slack. I work remotely from home, as does a lot of TNW.

What would you focus on if you were training to work in digital media today?

  • Understand what the current trends in digital journalism are and what challenges it is facing.
  • Identify the predicted industry developments in an effort to keep up.
  • Build a great network of digital/social media contacts on Twitter by using lists.
  • Engage in online discussions with well-known influencers in the industry.
What skills do you think are important to your role?

Multi-tasking and working at speed – scanning TweetDeck, checking social media monitoring tools, and keeping up with email as well as conversations with your editorial team is no simple task when it gets busy.

Research and data analytics – spotting a random Facebook post or curious tweet that sparks your curiosity often leads you into a quick bit of ad-hoc research to investigate if there is a story to be told. Knowing where to look and what tools to use to search for key information is crucial when navigating the maze of social media for news.

Copywriting and social intuition – one of the hardest skills to learn is how to write a must-read headline for a tweet, Facebook post or similar. It requires you to know what your readership loves, and how they like content introduced.

You also need a bit of a ‘social sixth-sense’. Sometimes you just know when a quirky off-beat story is going to blow up and go viral, leading you to jump on it fast and drive up traffic and engagement for your publication.

What has your current job taught you about the industry?

Journalism is not what it was 10, 5, or even 2 years ago.

The pace of change right now is insane. With the advent of new formats like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, it’s about to be shaken up once more. Next year, it might be a whole new landscape… again.

What would you say to someone applying to work at your organisation?

The phrase “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!’ has never been more applicable.

TNW puts high value on personality, creativity, originality and rock solid determination. If you ever apply for a role here, be cool… and be different!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Ask for forgiveness later, rather than permission.”

This is kind of an unofficial motto at TNW that inspires us to be more innovative and to take more risks when we come up with new ideas. It also speeds up the the trial and error phase!

Our founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (@Boris) told me this on my first day at The Next Web.

Join us next week for a new look into the media industry – in the meantime, check out our other weekly interviews with digital media experts.

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