Social Media Spotlight: Amber Sullins

A meteorologist who puts weather apps in the shade

Amber Sullins is not a one-woman weather app, she is better. Across social media platforms she offers her followers a variety of content, from traditional graphics to live updates and memes.

Sullins is a five-time Emmy award winning meteorologist for E. W. Scripps Company’s KNXV-TV, ABC15 in Phoenix. She says social media shouldn’t be treated as a place where you just copy and paste your television work. Not only is social media an entirely different medium — with an entirely different audience — than TV, but each platform is distinctly different from the next.

“What’s engaging on Twitter is not necessarily what’s engaging on Facebook,” Sullins said. “I think the [social media profiles] that are the most successful recognize that the content needs to be different.”

Twitter works for short weather updates, she says, while Facebook, and especially Facebook Live, are better for longer video segments.

Sullins offers creative touches on daily posts, like mocking up a buzzer from the game show Press Your Luck to report on a 108-degree day. She also strives to offer what she calls “deeper digs” into weather stories, so her audience can distinguish her from every other meteorologist in the area.

“For example, it’s our eighth 110-plus [degree] day. Everybody in town may post: ‘110 again’ or ‘It’s our eighth 110 day of the year,’” Sullins said. “But to provide the deeper dig into this is: how many 110-plus [degree] days we see each year, this is how many we used to see, this is how many we see in the future. That’s all added value that sometimes there’s not time for in the nightly newscast.”

Meteorologists are always competing with weather apps, but Sullins is unthreatened. She feels that on any regular day, an app is good enough. But in emergencies, heat waves, storms, etc, she says weather apps fail to give viewers the expertise they need to feel secure. Enter meteorologists on social media.

“A lot of people don’t understand the difference between ‘watches,’ ‘warnings,’ or ’advisories’ that the National Weather Service puts out,” Sullins said. “We had monsoon storms coming through the Valley and…we did Facebook Live for close to two hours, tracking storms. I was able to walk my viewers through and explain the differences between all of these alerts.”

Sullins’s advice to all up-and-comers in the journalism world, especially meteorologists, is to know where their followers are and make sure to post the right content on the right social media sites in order to connect with them.

“I think it’s important to remember that we have people who follow us on our social media accounts who may not necessarily watch us on TV,” Sullins said. “Get them through those weather moments in their lives, and they will come back to you and trust you.”

Do you know an anchor, reporter or meteorologist who is creatively using social media and deserves to be featured in our next Social Media Spotlight? If so, email us at cronkitenewslab@asu.edu and we’ll check out the story.

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