I’ve written a lot about Twitter’s value in covering breaking news. But don’t forget to post breaking news, especially photos, to Facebook, too.
Jon Hill, online editor of the Lowell Sun, demonstrated the power of a breaking news photo on Facebook yesterday, almost inadvertently. He was working the early-morning shift when a fire broke out at a popular local pizza parlor.
Jon hustled over to the pizza place and shot a photo. The website was down briefly, so he covered by Twitter and Facebook.
He tweeted some basic information and a photo:
And, since he couldn’t publish a story online, he did more than the usual step of just publishing a link to Facebook. He posted the photo and three paragraphs of basic information — the story he had so far — to the Sun’s Facebook page. He got way more engagement than a typical post: 80 comments, 48 shares and 13 likes (with bad news, people are less likely to “like,” thus increasing comments and shares, which show up more prominently in their friends’ news feeds).
This underscores the impact of posting images to Facebook, rather than simply posting links as status updates. If you post a photo, rather than just the thumbnail that goes with a link, it appears bigger in people’s news feeds, and generates more engagement, as my friend Daniel Victor noted in his blog.
The Sun also used Twitter to crowdsource:
John Collins’ story in the Sun quotes some of the Facebook comments.
In a much bigger breaking news story this week, our Digital First Media colleagues at the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, used Facebook effectively all week in their coverage of the shootings at Chardon High School. Engagement Editor Cheryl Sadler and her colleagues provided a steady stream of updates as the tragic story unfolded.
Beyond the news coverage, one of the thoughtful touches in the News-Herald’s Facebook engagement was to post photos and share photos from other Facebook pages of groups offering their support to Chardon:
In such a tragic story, it’s important to maintain an appropriate tone and to maintain your standards of accuracy, even under the urgency of constant updates. In an email, Cheryl told me:
Anecdotally, several people on Twitter and Facebook told me they thought The News-Herald had handled the shooting and aftermath very responsibly. Other media outlets in the area had published photos that were allegedly the suspected shooter (they were not) and had reported a second student died six hours before he actually did.
I’m proud of the work our News-Herald colleagues did on an important story under difficult circumstances, using both new and traditional tools and skills.
Another great Facebook practice is to specifically invite engagement. Lots of people do this by asking a question. Dan Petty, social media editor of the Denver Post and regional engagement editor for Digital First Media, takes this invitation a step further with a specific call to action. He doesn’t use this practice on every link that he shares, but uses it frequently on links people are likely to have opinions about. Dan invites and guides interaction, asking people to like the update if they agree with a particular point or tell why they don’t agree in the comments.
The example below (the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke story, so he chose a topic people are already talking about) went up on the page about 11 p.m. Mountain time. By about 5 a.m., it had 728 likes, 403 comments and 31 shares.
Don’t just post links to Facebook. Think about the best ways to engage people with your Facebook content. Photos and calls to action are two of the best ways, especially on breaking news stories and those stories that people are talking about.