Social media best practices

For newsrooms covering Hurricane Matthew, reaching audience via Facebook was key

Last week when Hurricane Matthew was wreaking havoc on the East Coast, several GateHouse newsrooms were right in the middle of it, covering the damage from the storm in their communities.

Website traffic, as you can imagine, hit new records. But without social media and particularly Facebook, connecting with readers would have been more difficult.

At the StarNews in Wilmington, North Carolina, one staff member was dedicated solely to managing social media at the height of the storm.

How did readers interact with the StarNews staff on Facebook during the storm. They did it in a couple of different ways.

First, they added photos and videos to posts directly in the comments, according to Sherry Jones, the assistant managing editor for news.

Second, they searched on social media for photos and reactions from readers that weren’t being sent directly to the StarNews. Jones said that they had success finding new pieces of content, and users granted permission for photos to be added to galleries.

Facebook Live also played a huge role in reading readers at both the StarNews and at the News-Journal in Daytona Beach, Florida, with the News-Journal doing several Facebook Live broadcasts within 24 hours.

The results were astounding, with 15 live videos in a six-day period resulting in nearly 76,000 video views. A video taking over the ride on the Main Street Bridge was also viewed more than 39,000 times. The StarNews saw similar results, with a live video showing downtown flooding resulting in 59,000 views.

Both sites also added 2-3 times the fan page likes they would receive in a typical month in just a matter of a few days.

Readers appreciated the coverage too, with many readers thanking the staff for their updates during the storm.

Deputy Managing Editor John Gallas said that while comments in Facebook can often be critical, the response during the storm was overwhelmingly positive.

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