How journalists can be better at Facebook

What’s the first website most of us reach for in the morning?

It’s probably the same in the evening, too.

I wouldn’t mind betting that the site the majority of us spend the most time on (other, perhaps, than our own beloved newspaper’s) is Facebook.

On Facebook, we’re all experts: breaking our news, posting our pictures, banging out the witty one-liners, and sharing our good and bad times.

No one’s trained us to do it, and there’s no manual.

We just get on with it in a very natural, spontaneous and human way.

So why is it so tricky when we use it at work?

Of course we’re wearing a slightly more formal and corporate hat, and of course we need to watch our Ps and Qs a little more carefully.

But often we just seem to leave all our human warmth, humour and character at the office door.

So how can we get better at social media – and particularly at being human?

Let’s look at one of the best social media operators in the Local World stable.

The South Wales Evening Post in Swansea has more than 27,000 likes on Facebook, with stories shared up to 80 times.

One of its most popular features is a picture of the day.

sw post fbook

It doesn’t lead anyone to the website, but it keeps people on the Facebook page in the hope that something else will, and creates the sort of positive experience that makes you want to return every day.

So what other lessons can we learn from the folks over the bridge?

* Don’t just repeat the intro in the blurb – find new words to entice people to read the story

* Talk like a human, not an autopilot newsdesk – with the Post using slangy expressions such as ‘lad’, and emoticons, and occasionally taking the mick out of criminals. They use the word ‘we’ a lot and remember the Facebook audience is likely to contain more women than men.

swales sandra


* Use pull-out quotes to tease human interest stories – employed sparingly, they work well


* Be unashamed about non-local content – they fess up and offer up cute dogs, and the odd national story

* Ask questions – and not just the lame ‘What do you think?’

It’s clear that Facebook can play a big role in driving audience growth.

And Telegraph editor in chief Jason Seiken says journalists have neglected Facebook in favour of Twitter.

It’s true that many journalists, including me, have been far more comfortable using Twitter for work purposes than Facebook.

So what else can we do to maximise our chances on Facebook?

Change your cover photo every week to keep your pages fresh

* Tag groups, businesses, people, clubs etc

* Get better at social media at weekends – when people spend the most time on Facebook, but when your resources may be at their most stretched

* Think about a social media content management strategy, so that postings are planned more carefully

* Post from 7am, but know that 9pm is likely to be the peak time for Facebook use, and schedule accordingly

* Don’t bombard people with repeat messages, or speak-your-weight scheduled posts

* Like the occasional comments of people – and respond to them where appropriate

Social media offers us a real chance to get to new people, to expand the footprint of our stories, and boost those all-important web audience figures.

So let’s try to remember that it’s real people we’re talking to on Facebook – people like you and I. 

People like the ones we talk to in the rest of our Facebook lives.


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