40 Tips To Help Journalists Turn Facebook Into The Ultimate News Portal

  • Author: Lauren
  • Lauren Fisher,

Over the past year, Facebook has made drastic changes to its site. From the introduction of Timeline for personal and brand pages to the introduction of the subscribe button, the platform has undergone significant changes. These changes has turned Facebook from a place to connect with friends into a multimedia portal, with journalists and multimedia organisations placing greater importance on the site..

The subscribe button has helped quite a bit in getting high-profile journalists to use Facebook over other sites, but for those starting out or trying to better engage with readers, there are a number of ways to help you engage with readers, and develop your presence on the site.

Profile Vs Page

There are pros and cons to choosing whether you use your profile or create a page. While profiles already give you access to your friends, Facebook pages does give you access to analytics, where you can find out what demographics like your page and what location they're based among other things.

Also, you can target status updates or posts to these demographics, which is useful if you're dealing with a local story. However, the problem is that in creating a page, you're starting from scratch so a lot of self-promotion would be needed to make people aware it exists.

Subscriptions

Turn on subscriptions

By turning on subscriptions, unknown users can view your public content freely. Subscriptions divide your status updates, photos and general activity into public and private categories, so you can share your work and professional links with the world and yet keep your personal or more colloquial updates from going beyond close friends and real-life acquaintances.

Facebook is a social medium to be shared by friends, but subscriptions allow you to use the sites popularity to help share your journalistic content. It's quite simple: go into 'Account Settings', click on the subscriptions tab and tick the box to turn them on, and you can start using Facebook for your working life as well as your social life.

Subscribe button

More for your personal blog or main site, Facebook has numerous widgets that allow you to install a subscribe button onto the site. Handy for building up page and brand awareness.

Subscriber settings

While you know how subscriptions work, you mightn't realise that you can customise what subscribers can and cannot do. Such options include allowing users to subscribe in the first place, who can comment and what subscriber updates you should be notified about.

Lists & Curation

Filter your feed

Feeds tend to have too much filler these days as brands take up space with massive photos and your Facebook friends get marginalised to make space for them. You can manually filter out annoying people and pages and therefore focus on the people that matter to you, whether they are friends or fellow professionals.

It will take a bit of effort to streamline your feed to your specifications, and you can do this by unliking/unfriending or simply clicking next to a post in your news feed and choosing to hide all posts from this friend/user in future. It will most likely take a while to get it right, but you will have filtered out a lot of noise at that point, leaving yourself open to only important and wanted updates - social and journalistic.

Makes lists based on interests

Interest lists are a simple way of compiling posts, pages and people into one easily-digested feed. It is certain that there are already many interest feeds on Facebook that overlap with your interests, so that saves you the hassle of creating one yourself.

Pre-existing interest lists can also be particularly specific, so you can really focus on the aspects of a profession or business that matter to you most and keep up to date with the most important figures in every field.

Follow other journalists

Much like interest lists, people/friend lists help you to compartmentalise your news feed along certain criteria lines. By creating lists of fellow journalists, you can easily keep up to date with your colleagues and peers, what they're doing, what they're writing, etc.

It's an easy way of filtering everybody else out of your feed and allowing yourself to focus on fellow journalists and their Facebook activity, whether it is purely for professional purposes or just keep them all in the one place, so you can read their statuses and click through their photos as they arrive in your feed.

Follow staff/colleagues

If you want to create your own list for others to follow, a good place to start is to create a subscription list featuring staff members or your colleagues. Certain media outlets like Buzzfeed and CNN have already done this and provided your colleagues have already activated subscriptions, it's a good way to get the message across.

Follow your competition

If you want to see how other outlets are covering certain stories, you could do worse than to create a list solely for that purpose. This could be more to build up your knowledge about a specific area and bringing you up to speed with what's going on.

If you're interested in Apple, you can create a list of Apple reporters to learn more and see how they cover the topic. Also, it brings all their material to the one place so you don't have to resort to Google searches every time you want an update.

Compile a list of experts

Relating to the last entry, bringing those from the top into the one feed can be a useful way to gather sources or get ideas for stories. If you're writing a piece about social media and journalism, you can get in touch with someone in your list who covers said topic and add to your story.

Follow industries

If your job requires you to keep up with industry and brands, creating a list dedicated to them is a simple way of bringing their updates to the one place so you can keep tabs of official updates.

Use social reading apps

Trending articles tend to take up a significant amount of space in a Facebook news feed from day-to-day because so many people are reading content via social reading apps. Obviously, the Guardian is the worldwide leader when it comes to integrating social media with journalism, and such apps are a simple way of spreading articles quickly, even if it is an advantage solely held by the largest media outlets.

Big news sites have found their readership dropping with the rise social reading apps on Facebook, proving that they are growing in stature and influence.

Storify

Popular among journalists in curating and bringing together social media sources to report a story, Facebook is one of many sources that you can use to develop your story. Of course, you also have the option of sharing your Storify post on Facebook through your page or profile.

Timeline archive

While you can do this with your own profile, it's handier if you're using a Facebook page instead. If you're covering an event or story that will last a while, you can create an archive by creating a Facebook page dedicated to that story and adding links chronologically.

You can add previous events to it if the event has developed significantly, but you could create a good resource dedicated to it if done properly. The only problem with this is that may take a bit of time to put together, especially if you want to make it comprehensive.

Profile & Posting

Update feeds manually

Whether you use your profile or page, it's better to include some kind of personal update instead of automating posts. Not only does it look better, but adding a personal touch will result in more engagement. Besides, nobody wants to engage with a robot so adding your views or opinions to a story will show that you've put thought into the topic and will give users more incentive to respond.

Instagram & Facebook Camera

A picture can paint a thousand words and if you want a post that will definitely be engaged with, images are the best way to go about it. As well as showing your subscribers and fans what's happening, you can post it onto Instagram (and cross-post via Facebook and Twitter to further spread your message if the image is sufficient on its own), or use Facebook camera and give your image a status update.

Also, you can tag the photo's location on both Instagram and Facebook photos to give your photo extra context. Sharing videos also follows the same concept.

Location settings

Covered earlier with Instagram and Facebook camera, you can also tag posts when you're using your mobile settings to show where they were posted from, or from your desktop if you want to update old photos and images. This is useful if you want to add context to your status update or any old posts you may have missed.

Provide teasers for stories

If you're working on a story, but want to build up anticipation for it, it's a good idea to let your followers/fans know what you're doing. That way, those who do care about the piece will look for it once it's up live.

Know when to post

If you're posting something online that isn't time sensitive, you want to make sure that as many people see your post. As a rule, posting your update. According to bit.ly, Wednesday at 3pm is the best time to post although any time between 11am to 4pm is a good time for posting. This is important if you want to give your post the best possible chance for interaction.

Edit before posting link

When you're posting a link onto your page, remember you can edit the heading and blurb underneath as well as choose the thumbnail. This is handy if you want to give the link a catchier heading, or add different details to the blurb. Remember that once you post, the only way to change the link is to delete it.

Interaction

Sources for stories

If you're doing research and you're not really sure where to start, a good way of getting the ball rolling is to post a status update concerning what you're looking for.

Unlike Twitter, your friends will see your message and will be more likely to respond to your query either directly or at least point you in the right direction. With 950 million users, there's definitely someone out there who can help you with your query.

Use polls to get instant feedback

Polls are a fun way of attaining user feedback and creating a debate, which can, of course, lead to more sharing of you and your site's content. Simply create and question and add in a few answers before posting to set the ball rolling.

If it is a particularly inflammatory question or a question based on a divisive issue, then you are likely to provoke a bigger and more passionate response, but you can use polls as a form of evaluation for yourself as well, and learn more about what your readers want from you as a source of journalism.

Private messages

Also, if you're getting in touch with someone you don't know, dealing with a sensitive subject or just have a message too long to be a post, then direct messages are a great way of getting in touch. Remember that you can message anyone on Facebook, regardless of whether you or your friends know them or not.

Live stream

Unfortunately, Facebook is removing this feature in October, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be used before this. Simply this plugin lets you add a comment box that updates in real-time. It's usually alongside the live streaming of events so people watching can chip in with their comments. When October comes, Facebook will replace it with the comments box plugin.

Tagging

Tagging can come in handy if you want to alert a specific group or person to updates, or possibly bring them into the fold if you feel they could add a unique viewpoint to the discussion. Make sure it's someone who can add value to the discussion and not a random friend.

Crowdsourcing

One person can only cover so much and it's always possible that certain details will slip through the net. As Facebook is more intimate than other social media sites, asking for subscribers and friends to contribute their views, opinions or advice (if you're looking for feedback) is a great way to help develop a story. Just don't rely on it too much, otherwise it will look like you're letting your subscribers do all the work.

Respond to discussion

Just because you posted something and people responded doesn't mean it should end there. Make sure you respond to any thoughts, questions or views that might come up. If you have a lot of people responding, then it's best to be selective, but make sure you show that you're listening to people's responses. That's the most important thing.

Visibility

Public posts

While Twitter and Google+ have their own streams for updates on events, Facebook's allows you to post items privately or publicly. Most people post status updates and images publicly so you can go into search with your keyword, click the search button and on the left hand side, click on public posts. You'll see the latest status updates relating to that subject.

Vanity URL

If you want people to find you on Facebook easily, you can change your URL to your own name to make the process faster. If you're using Facebook pages and you've created your first, you can also change that straight away. From your second page onwards, you're required to have at least 25 fans before you can change.

Public search

You mightn't realise it, but you can control whether or not your profile appears on any of the major search engines. In settings, you can decide whether you do appear or not so check to see that its activated otherwise you'll make it harder to be found.

Privacy Settings

When you're adjusting your subscription settings, you should also consider looking at your privacy settings as well. This is important as it controls whether certain details such as your email, your mobile phone number, and who can send you private messages, who can post on your wall and whether you want to limit viewing old posts (in case you want your personal profile to be more professional).

Profile & Pages

Pinning & favouring posts

If you want to prioritise a post so that it's the first thing people see, you can pin certain posts by clicking the pencil icon at the top-right hand corner of said post. Pinned posts will stay at the top for a week, or until you pin another post. You can also favourite posts, which will make increase its size so that it covers both the left and right-hand column.

Browsing Facebook

If Facebook's own search function is too limiting (And let's face it, it could do with a lot of work), you might want to try out a third-party app. One such example is FBInstant which lets you search Facebook for status updates, related pages and events. It's slightly more advanced than Facebook's own search, but if you want a snapshot into what people are talking about, it's a good place to start.

Page insights

As mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to whether you use pages or your profile for posting content. One of the main benefits that pages bring is that you have access to insights, which lets you see what demographics engaging with your page, where your fans come from, their main language and what town/city they come from. You can also post targeted updates so that it's only seen by fans in Europe or those who speak English. Handy if you're covering a specific event and don't want to bombard those uninterested with numerous status updates.

View profile as...

IF you're finding that your profile isn't being engaged with as much as you would like, it could be that some of your posts aren't marked as public. If this is the case, click the cog icon beside messages and click 'view as.' You will get to see what your profile looks like to the public and your friends and see what posts can be viewed publicly.

Blogging

Add follow buttons to your website

Much as you can add buttons for people to press and recommend certain articles, you can also offer the same option for 'liking' the whole site. People tend to surf Facebook more than any other site, and this is a way of ensuring that your site gets their attention as part of their news feed.

Post content and photos to your Facebook page and they will show up in Facebook fan's feeds, thus giving you another automated outlet and further enabling people to share and spread your content with little encouragement.

Introduce sharing to your website or blog

Facebook is obviously one of the quickest ways to ensure that your content spreads as quickly as possible, and there are simple ways of instantly harnessing their social clout for your website or blog.

If you are registered with WordPress, then you can sync your blog with many social media outlets beyond Facebook (further details below) and automatically post articles to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. every time you publish. You can also add buttons to every page that give users the option to share articles with a social media platform of their choosing, further promoting interconnectivity.

Wordpress plugin

If you have a Wordpress blog, you can install a plugin which will allow you to automatically share articles as soon as you post them. Instead of a standard post with link, you can cross-post posts to both your personal pages and any Facebook pages you manage. As well as writing a status update, you can also tag friends and pages when you're posting so your content can reach more people.

Comment box

As well as being able to cross-post, you can also use Facebook's comment box within your blog so signed-up users can comment directly. This is handy if you're concerned about anonymous comments or trolling as it will get users to provide their own profile when posting a comment.

Facebook + Journalists

If you're looking for more updates or additional advice about using Facebook as a journalistic platform, this is a good resource.

Useful if you're looking for case studies or examples of using the platform.

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