4 Ways Newspapers Can Better Use Facebook To Engage Readers

Over at iMedia Connection, Daniel Flamberg wrote an interesting post called 5 Steps Toward Better Facebook Fan Engagement. For brands, this is a great guide to get started on the right path to better engagement with fans. But his tips are also useful for newspapers and new organizations, so I’ve decided to remix it a bit.

Here are four ways newspapers and news organizations can better use Facebook to engage readers:

Be human. Often news organizations use their Facebook page as a platform for pushing stories. Little attempt is made at engaging readers, driving people to the page, or creating a reason for people to want to stick around. Within the organization, assign someone as the “face” of the news organization on Facebook. Readers will feel more comfortable engaging and sharing if they feel like they’re talking to a person, not a nameless brand. For an example, look at Face of Fox 30 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Relax. Ultimately the news organization is the “voice” of the readers and the community it covers. Be conscious of that in the updating of the Fan Page. Avoid being rigid and mechanical.  Instead be as conversational as possible. Read what you’re planning to write. Does it sound like it was auto-posted? If so, re-write it.

Hold the sales pitch. If the primary function of your newspaper’s Fan Page is to increase print subs, shut it down. Delete the page and re-invest that time into your other advertising efforts. Notice I’m not saying don’t ever sell. There’s a time and a place for it on you Fan Page. Include a post once or twice a week about it, but don’t do more than that. Your fan page is about engagement, conversation, and sharing news and information. Increasing your print subs comes a distant fourth or fifth on the priority list.

Be helpful. Online people will write complaints and vent about a company or a service, and assume that no-one is listening. Venting into the ether makes them feel better. Try not to let that happen on your Facebook page. If someone posts a comment complaining about an aspect of the newspaper, respond to it and try to fix the issue. You should also be actively encouraging you readers to “Like” the paper on Facebook. Tell them that editors actively monitor the page and will respond to queries quickly.

However none of these tips will do a thing to help if you aren’t actively involved in the community that you’re building on Facebook. A recent post by Amy Taylor at the Brains on Fire blog summed that up nicely:

You can manage a city from behind a desk, but if you want to understand community, you have to become a part of it. You have to get in it. You can’t just listen for the heartbeat, you have to be a part of the heartbeat.

I can’t promise that these four principles will grow your Fan Page by hundreds every day. But they will help to ensure that the people who decide to “Like” your newspaper on Facebook are remaining engaged and interested in what the newspaper has to say and share.