How Chilean Journalists Use Social Media: Digital Transformation and New Forms of Visibility and Identity Creation


Over the past several years, social media platforms have grown exponentially, and they are now used all over the world. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are increasingly integrated into communication structures and processes of communication among people, and particularly those used by journalists (Van Dijck, 2013).

Hundreds of studies have analyzed different aspects of the relationship between journalism and the digital world, such as the impact of social media on newsroom routines (Hermida, 2010; Noguera-Vivo, 2013) and the use of social media by journalists, particularly the professionals who have the most followers or who exert influence in a particular space or in regard to a given topic (Gulyas, 2013; Hermida, 2013; Holton & Lewis, 2011; Lasorsa et al., 2012; Olausson, 2017).

However, there have been markedly fewer efforts to map journalists’ social media use and profiles, at least in Latin America. The studies that have been conducted tend to be based on surveys and interviews focused on news professionals’ perceptions, but have not analyzed their actual practices (Weiss, 2015; Saldaña et al., 2016; Powers & Vera-Zambrano, 2017; Mourao & Harlow, 2017).

Moreover, studies that have focused on journalistic practices in social media, and not just the perceptions and discourses built around them, have usually analyzed just one platform, such as Twitter (Hermida, 2013).

This study focuses on two digital platforms --Twitter and Instagram-- that offer users different functionalities and present objective qualities in terms of their narratives, textual-visual logics and how they approach audiences, despite sharing certain mechanisms for facilitating user communication (Hermida & Mellado, 2019).

Based on a content analysis of 1,400 Twitter and Instagram accounts, this study provides an analysis of the profiles that 792 Chilean journalists who work for national media outlets develop in their social media accounts, describing their visibility and activity levels and how they construct their identities in these two social media spaces. Our results show that although Chilean journalists have a significant presence in the digital world, they use different social media platforms in different ways, deploying various identity creation strategies and new journalistic roles.

Our findings also reveal that the performance of professional and media branding is comparatively higher, particularly for TV and radio journalists, and for those with more followers. The instability of the job market in the field and the fact that many works for more than one media organization may influence these results. Indeed, cultivating a large following may give journalists symbolic power that protects them and may even grant them a sort of immunity within their organizations, creating a pact (often implicit) between the news organization and the journalist. On the one hand, engaging in media branding allows journalists to showcase and promote their news organizations, increasing their profile level, the value of their social media use, and audience engagement. On the other, high profile social media accounts can become critical to the development and survival of media outlets’ business, which gives the journalists who own those accounts more internal autonomy and job security.