5 things social media editors should do when programming Facebook

Media organizations, repeat after me: Facebook is not made for you. It may adapt somewhat to your presence, but ultimately it’s made for the 1 billion-plus people who are having a conversation on it. If you’re lucky, your story might sometimes be the topic of that conversation; if you’re smart, you’ll be engaged in the discussion, too. Here are five recommendations to help make that happen.

Facebook at it’s core is built for conversation, not broadcasting. // PHOTO CREDIT: Rasande Tyskar / flickr

Prioritize quality over quantity. We could post a story every 30 minutes, but should we? Let’s be more rigorous about which stories work for our Facebook audiences. If we run out of fresh, quality stories in a day, consider strong evergreen content. Post good stories when you have them. If you don’t have good stories, don’t post “bad” ones (as in stories that won’t work for a mobile, social audience). Side note: If a story won’t work for a mobile, social audience, you might ask yourself why it was published that way in the first place.

Spend time wisely. If we’re posting as many stories as possible to try and reach more news feeds more frequently, are we spending enough time crafting each post? We should focus on engaging the audience in the comments, seeking their input and learning from their reactions. Each story we share should have the best images and text it can have. Investing in these tasks may mean fewer posts overall (and maybe even less traffic), but your audience will have a better experience. After all, we want more than just eyeballs on our content. We want satisfied, loyal consumers.

Mix it up. The majority of NPR’s posts on Facebook are link posts to stories on NPR.org (like this). Link posts are tempting because they generate the most click-throughs and therefore traffic to our site. But folks on Facebook generally want to be on Facebook. And we should honor that by giving them more photo-driven posts and conversation for the sake of conversing rather than asking them to go somewhere else for answers. Our call-outs help our reporters find sources, which can seem like direct engagement, but we also often ask readers to go off platform to fill out a form or send an email, and the follow-up after the fact is spotty.

If we are putting the audience first, consider how the average person on Facebook uses the network: It’s a mix of links, statuses, photos and videos. Different stories require different treatment. Facebook itself recommends this approach (and 11 other best practices for media organizations), and when we are talking about succeeding on Facebook, guidance from the platform itself is not insignificant. It is possible to both stay true to our journalistic integrity and respect the rules of the social space.

Diversify. Do you know who your current audience is? Who is missing? Find new ways to reach potential fans. Possibilities include: pay to boost posts (to reach beyond existing followers), capitalize on trending and breaking news stories that are shared more broadly, strategically engage with other pages and accounts that have a different follower base, and consider the story itself: Who is the implicit audience (does the story need to be reframed)?

Reevaluate. Monitor how the platform is changing and how the audience’s habits change. Experiment. Adjust. Repeat. (Forever.)

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments, or tweet to me.

Dana Farrington is digital editor for NPR Politics. She helped run the NPR Facebook page for the past five years.

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