Social media best practices

How Facebook groups can help newsrooms engage audiences on niche topics

Chances are if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, you’re part of a group of some sort, whether it’s for a neighborhood, an interest or another topic.

Facebook has recently renewed its focus on groups, by adding more features and data for admins. It also just held a community summit for the first time.

With more than 1 billion Facebook users who are members of groups and more than 100 million users participating in active groups, it’s clear this feature will be part of the social media tool for the long term.

Journalists have started using the tool too to connect with readers in different ways. In January, Nieman Lab reported on the Boston Globe subscriber Facebook groups, which was launched to engage with those readers on a more personal level. Readers comment in the group about changes to the print and online version of the Globe, as well as respond to each other.

At GateHouse, several newsrooms have launched groups, including the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois, and The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.

The Journal Star readers Facebook group is a private group where editors share important information and readers can ask questions.

The Ledger has also started two groups, one on education and one on food, within its coverage area. The newsroom’s staff share relevant articles, and readers also ask questions of other members.

With all of the effort put into posting articles to a main Facebook page, is it worth putting additional efforts towards a small Facebook group?

If you want to find ways to engage and involve your most important readers, the answer is yes.

Groups provide a few ways to develop relationships with your readers that are different than your main Facebook page:

1. They allow readers to connect with each other in a more private, smaller setting.

2. They allow readers to receive up-to-date information on topic they are especially passionate about.

3. They allow newsroom staff to get feedback directly from more loyal readers.

If you want to launch a group for your newsroom, make sure you set it up through your page admin, as you can link to it on your Facebook page. Be sure to have staff set up to moderate, but also use the platform not just to share links, but to ask questions of readers, or share about story ideas that you have.

Once you get it up and running, be sure to let readers know how to join, and don’t be afraid if discussion takes a little bit to get going. Your readers will appreciate the different way to connect with your staff and your content.


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