Facebook engagement doesn’t mean just posting links and questions on your own page. Good journalists should be reaching out to the community on other pages.
In a recent email, Toni Sciacqua, Managing Editor – Digital at the Daily Breeze, Press-Telegram and Daily News in Southern California, shared a great example of Facebook engagement:
I wanted to share a big social media aha moment we had recently at the Daily Breeze that illustrates how listening to and engaging with the community can pay off in building a new audience and help us address issues the community is talking about.
We recently posted a question on Facebook asking followers to share their favorite community page. One commenter posted a link to “Life in Wilmington,” a FB page we weren’t aware of and weren’t following. The page had nearly 5,000 active fans. I asked a couple of reporters to start monitoring that page for news tips and engagement opportunities.
Crime reporter Larry Altman covered the story of a woman whose throat was slashed in Wilmington. We noticed that in the aftermath of that story, someone posted a rumor on the Life in Wilmington wall saying that another woman had been killed and police suspected a potential serial killer was on the loose. The item got more than 100 comments and was shared about 70 times over the next few hours.
Of course, if there were a serial killer roaming our area, we would want that story, right? So Larry got on the phone and found out there was no second victim and no reason to worry. He posted the comment to the LIW FB wall, hoping to allay the fears. That night, he picked up more than 100 new fans on his own FB page.
About the same time, LIW also posted a link to Larry’s story about the victim in advance of her vigil.
Traffic to our site spiked that evening after the posts, doubling our page views over the same day the week before, up about 120,000 page views. And traffic coming in from Facebook accounted for nearly 10 percent of our total traffic, also about double of normal.
Over the weekend, we noticed some negative comments about the inclusion of the victim’s criminal record in the follow-up story. In response to the criticism, Larry wrote a blog post responding to the complaints, that got a lot of immediate responses appreciative of the explanation.
But the rumor of a serial killer was still circulating, generating a lot of phone calls to our newsroom, the LAPD and more and more Facebook chatter. Larry decided to do a story about the rumors to finally put it to rest and calm fears in the community. Lest we alienate our new friends, we posted to their wall letting them know we admired their community involvement and that our story wasn’t meant to compromise what they’re doing.
Since then, we’ve posted several stories about their area to the wall, and they’ve given us a lot of feedback about our coverage. Overall, we’ve picked up about 200,000 page views on Wilmington-related stories in about two weeks. But more importantly, we’ve connected with a new group of readers who we hope will help us cover Wilmington better in the future.
This is a great example of how we can use existing community Facebook groups to build engagement with a new audience.
Thanks to Toni for sharing a detailed example of community engagement using Facebook (and to Larry for using Facebook so effectively). Larry and his Daily Breeze colleagues used several techniques that would be useful to many journalists:
- Identify Facebook pages in your community that you should be following.
- Use Facebook to ask questions about your community (and be sure you pay attention to the answers.
- Monitor community Facebook pages for possible news tips.
- Don’t post stories and comments just on your Facebook pages. Post them on community pages where people will find them relevant.
- Respond to reasonable criticism you see in social media.
- Rumors circulating on social media sometimes become stories worth addressing.
While I’m passing along Facebook advice, I’ll repeat this tip from the blog of my former TBD colleague Daniel Victor, who’s now leading social media efforts for ProPublica: Using images when posting stories to Facebook will increase the sharing. Don’t share a link that will just result in a thumbnail image; share a photo from the story, or create an image specifically for sharing on Facebook. You can add the link in the information you include with the photo.
Just as photos in print attract more readers to a story, sharing an image on Facebook draws more attention.
Update: A great cautionary tweet from Kim Bui. If you engage on other sites, you need to make it useful two-way engagement, not just spamming them with your links: