8 Lessons From Hyperlocal News On Facebook

Rockville Central offers eight lessons learned from turning a hyperlocal news site into a Facebook-only operation covering Maryland.

After the announcement in February that Rockville, Md.-based hyperlocal news site Rockville Centra would become a hyperlocal site without a site, moving all of its content to its Facebook page, founder and publisher Brad Rourke offers eight lessons he and his team have learned from the move.

Rockville Central originally made the move due to competition from Rockville Patch, the AOL-owned hyperlocal Patch site covering the city, and also to resolve what editor Cindy Cotte Griffiths called the confusion of having “two different conversations going on,” meaning the homepage and Facebook page.

Without further ado, here are Rourke’s eight lessons, as shared with with Jeff Sonderman of Poynter Online.

Your Work May Reach More People

Rourke said posts on the Rockville Central Facebook page average around 2,000 impressions, versus a total of 700 unique daily visitors and 1,000 daily page views from the website.

You Can Reach New People

Rourke told Sonderman the Facebook page draws “new names and different people than were the normal commenters on our stand-alone site. We don’t need new and easier ways for the people who already go to City Council meetings to argue.”

You Can Build Relationships More Quickly

He pointed out that it takes just one second to like a page, post, or comment on Facebook.

You Should Use Personal Voices

Rourke and Griffiths post items under the Rockville Central name, but they use their personal user names to comment.

Timing Matters

Rockville Central focuses on three heavy Facebook use times of the day — before work (around 7 a.m.), midday (11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.), and dinnertime.

The Notes App Is A Really Poor Tool For Publication

Rourke added, “There’s no categorizing function or tagging function, so you can’t really organize notes very well.”

Archiving And Search Functions Are Weak

Looking for an item posted more than a few days ago requires scrolling through page after page.

Facebook Is “Its Own Place”

Rourke added, “I think it’s worthwhile to have a Facebook strategy that goes beyond, ‘How can we get these people from Facebook over to where we live?’ You start to ask, ‘What can we provide Facebook people that we don’t provide other people?’

In closing, Sonderman asked Rourke how he would handle Facebook strategy if he worked for a mainstream news organization, and he replied, “I would look at it as a place rather than a source of eyeballs. I would have a Facebook bureau.”