Meet the People Behind BIRN: Tommaso Siviero, Jovan Ilić, and Emilija Petreska

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Each month, BIRN introduces you to a different member of its team. For July, meet BIRN’s social media holy trinity, Tommaso Siviero, Jovan Ilić, and Emilija Petreska.

Jovan, Emilija, Tommaso Photo: BIRN

Emilija, 28, is from North Macedonia. She studied journalism and public relations. She joined BIRN Hub in 2022 as a social media coordinator and is based in Skopje.

Jovan, 27, is based in Serbia. He studied audio engineering. He started working for BIRN in 2021 and is responsible for the production of BIRN’s digital and social media content, developing new digital products.

Based in Sarajevo, Tommaso, 25 joined BIRN in 2022. He is from Como, Italy. He studied Political Science and has been working as a journalist for the last five years. He is BIRN’s social media manager.

Tommaso, Jovan and Emilija are the people behind BIRN’s social. With their witty texts and creative visuals and strategic ideas, they have managed to engage readers even with the most complex stories published on BIRN’s flagship English-language website, Balkan Insight.

What are your favourite and most challenging parts of your job?

Emilija: Learning your audience is the hardest part, especially when you are new to the team. It can be a challenge since one size doesn’t fit all. For example, if your audience on Instagram wants more feature stories and explanatory content, your Twitter audience might want totally different things, let’s say breaking news and short news, or op-eds and analysis. But I would say that the fun part is experimenting, trying out digital tools and discovering new creative ways to present the content.

Which is your favourite social media platform while working in Balkan Insight? Why have you selected it? 

Jovan: Instagram. It changes so much all the time (can be good and bad) so you always have to learn something new.

Balkan Insight mostly publishes hard-read stories about human rights, crimes, corruption, etc. How easy or difficult is it to promote these stories on social media and ‘involve’ readers?

Tommaso: It can be difficult sometimes, and it would surely be easier to grow our numbers if we were publishing cute videos about cats, but also way more boring: in this way, we really need to crack our heads in experimenting different ways and strategies to better spread our articles and contents. It’s challenging. When looking at social media, there is always this huge concern and focus about quantities in terms of like, reach, growth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s crucial to reach a large number of people, especially if we are talking about good quality journalism. But on the other side, I think people are way too focused on how many people they are reaching and not who those people are. There are a lot of interests around the Balkans and our audience proves it. We need to reach more of that kind of niche and from there we can think about ways to win over those who don’t care about the region.

Surveys have shown that top newspapers use social media to spread news rather than engage audiences. What is the most effective social media communication model for you?

 Emilija: This is a tricky question to answer. I would say the coin has two sides. That said, it’s always nice to have an active social media presence where you can get attention for breaking news and updates. But that is more on a quantitative level.

If we really want to bring up the qualitative value of the social media platforms, it’s not just posting the link at the right time and place. It means we should strive to provoke meaningful discussion and teach your audience that they should keep you and other media outlets accountable for the information you spread, and the institutions for the issues you are writing about.

Would you like to share one of your job secrets?

 Jovan: Combining different apps in order to create a work environment that can be used in any location. Work smart.