3 Ways to Determine If Your News Organization Belongs on Facebook

It’s a hard question for a news organization to answer, especially now, when so may blog posts and news articles breathlessly explain how vital Facebook is to any and all businesses today.

Your newspaper or magazine has a Facebook Fan Page. It’s going good, but not great. You’ve got a couple hundred people following it, but nothing significant is happening.

Should you even bother to maintain it?

This question was raised in an interesting post written by Tom Johansmeyer on the SocialTimes blog. In his post, he’s speaking more to brands and companies. He used reinsurance as an example. While I’m not saying reinsurance and the news industry are the same, the points he’s making are applicable to news organizations, too.

Nobody likes reinsurance on Facebook. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t the sort of field that gets people dancing in the streets, but it is pretty interesting, and I enjoyed my time in it. I figured at least a few hundred people would have come through, but the absence of any shows the contrary. In fact, it also makes me face the reality that I’m part of the reason it’s zero.

Deleting or abandoning your news organization’s Fan Page isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. To ensure that you’re making the right decision, you should do a bit of research into your readership. Tom puts it nicely:

Do your homework. For real. Instead of making assumptions about your target market, get into the weeds. Once you’re there, get even dirtier. Think broadly, from the perspective that Facebook is an appropriate marketing platform for your company. Then, try to disprove it.

Here are three ways to find out if your news organization belongs on Facebook:

Find Your Reach. Though not completely accurate, one way to find out how many people exist on Facebook within specific parameters is to go through the motions of creating a Facebook Ad. Find your coverage area, and the average age of your reader. Facebook will show you a round number of Facebook users that fit within your parameters. Here is what comes up when I looked for total users here in Jacksonville, Florida that are aged 18+. If that number isn’t large enough to feel like it warrants your organization’s full attention, then perhaps Facebook shouldn’t be a priority.

    Install a Share Button. To quote Jay-Z on this one: Men lie, women lie, number don’t. Install a Share Button on your stories and home page. Let it sit for a while, then re-visit the data after a week or a month. Is there any activity? How many of your news organization’s stories are being shared on Facebook? Earlier this month, Facebook released a full update to their Insights tool, with publishers in mind. If you see that people are sharing your content regularly, then you could take that as a sign that perhaps your news organization should continue to focus on its Facebook presence. And, conversely, if you see little sharing or interaction, you could draw a conclusion that Facebook just isn’t that big or important to your readers.

      Compare. There’s no harm in staking out the competition. Spend a day looking around at news organizations similar to your own, whether they’re local or on the other side of the country. Are they on Facebook? How’s it going for them? When comparing, look for these three key metrics:

      • How many comments and Likes do they get on each post? If the total is about five reactions (any combination of Likes and comments) per post, then they’re doing well.
      • How many comments from ‘Fans’ do they have on the page? Do they comment regularly? That’s a true test of interest and engagement, because it requires someone to stop what they’re doing to write on your wall. Liking is much more passive.
      • How many ‘Likers’ or ‘Fans’ do they have? Do they have more or less than you? The new trend is to say that the size of your following is not indicative of your influence online. That’s mostly true. But in instances such as this, it’s pretty important.

      After doing these three things, you may decide that Facebook just isn’t right for your news organization.

      If that’s the case, before pulling the plug, do that one thing that you wanted to do on the Fan Page for a while, but wasn’t sure it would fly. It could end up being the thing that turns your dead Fan Page into a lively community.