I've been asked at least a half dozen times over the last few weeks if it's a good idea for reporters to have Facebook pages.
This week, I stumbled upon Journal Star columnist Phil Luciano's professional Facebook page, while writing a post about a raw video he produced.
Based on the questions from the field on this topic and seeing Phil's Facebook page (which is well done), I thought I would take some time today to address when a reporter should have a Facebook page.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
1. Does the reporter have some sort of following or brandability?
2. Can you build an audience around the reporter?
3. Can you create a buzz and following, based on what the reporter writes about?
4. Will the reporter do more than just link to their stories, but actual engage audiences?
5. If the reporter is going to manage the account, will they regularly update it?
If the answer to all of those questions is a firm yes, then it's a great idea to launch a Facebook account for a reporter on your staff.
This could be a longtime sports reporter who readers just gush about or a new reporter on your city or schools beat who readers have developed a connection with because of their aggressiveness. Making the decision if a reporter should have a Facebook page isn't just about their journalism, but their personality and engagement with readers has to be taken into consideration as well.
I often hear publishers and editors tell me about sports editors who have significant followings, or columnists who readers look for on specific days and just couldn't live without, or reporters who are well known for their tough questions and gritty writing. Those are the kinds of journalists who are best to set up with their own Facebook pages.
One of the best examples I've run across of a reporter utilizing a Facebook page in smart ways is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.
There are a few specific things that make his page so successful:
1. He offers quick hits from conversations with sources and reporting, like this one.
2. He poses questions and uses Facebook's "question" feature for topics he's covering or has interest with.
3. He promotes his columns and asks his "friends" specific questions about his content. He does a great job teasing comments that users have provided.
4. He often teases content on the New York Times site and offers context and comments about his colleagues' work.
Nicholas covers very different things than the reporter who spends their days on the city hall beat. But that doesn't mean that a reporter in a local community can't find some takeaways from the best practices of Nicholas's work. Questions to sources, poll questions and links to content relevant to beats, works whether you're covering Main Street or international topics.