How can journalists tap into the power of Facebook to crowdsource reporting and interact with readers? The average users spend an estimated “25 minutes daily on Facebook,” according to Vadim Lavrusik, Journalist Program Manager at Facebook. How can news organizations and journalists raise user engagement?
IJNet attended a recent Facebook Journalism Meetup held at the American University in Washington, DC to answer these questions. The meetup featured a presentation on “Facebook and Social Journalism” by Larvrusik and a panel discussion with Ian Shapira from the Washington Post, Mandy Jenkins from the Huffington Post, Bryan Monroe from CNN and Laura Amico from Homicide Watch.
Here are our top six takeaways.
1. Open a personal page on Facebook. Separate your personal life from your sources. A good example of how journalists use Facebook pages to interact with readers is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Click here to open your personal Facebook page.
2. Don’t forget to use the Search option on Facebook. You can see what people are talking about in real time with public status updates.
3. Use the direct message feature. Don’t be afraid to direct message people you don’t know who might be a source for the story you are working on. People might respond to you and not to other journalists simply because you connected to them on a personal level using a platform they are very familiar with: Facebook. Laura Amico from Homicide Watch said that some of the victims’ families that she connects with prefer to talk with her via Facebook Chat instead of over the phone.
4. Avoid automated feeds and update your Facebook page manually. According to Lavrusik, “automated feeds get two to three times less engagement than manual feeds.”
5. Use the newly launched Facebook Questions for higher audience engagement. A good example is how NBC’s Dateline asked their fans on Facebook last month to vote on the episode that they wanted to watch. Keith Morrison’s “The Haunting” earned the most votes and aired that week. Click here for more information on Facebook Questions.
Facebook recently announced plans to reach out to journalists by providing them with training on how to better interact with their audience via Facebook. The page Facebook+ Journalists, run by Facebook employees, serves as a community for journalists on Facebook and provides useful resources.
As the world watches the unprecedented developments in Egypt, which was dubbed “Revolution 2.0,” a number of media outlets and social media sites have also taken their own unprecedented steps by offering their services in Arabic for the first time. From Tweeting in Arabic to translating content, it looks like the Web is looking East these days, embracing the Arab World as a key target audience.
It will be worth keeping an eye on this and see who will embrace the Arabic content next. As news from the Middle East is not showing signs of slowing down any time soon, I’d expect to see more international media outlets localizing more of their content to reach a wider Arab audience. Overall, it is definitely a good time to be an Arabic speaker.
I just got back from an eight-day trip to California where I embarked on a journey of discovery. As an East Coaster, I wanted to understand that foreign part of the country, home to the “chilled”, the “pot-smokers,” the outdoor enthusiasts, and the technology-savvy.
My husband and I along with friends we stayed with and met along the way, traveled from the deep south of California all the way to San Francisco. I saw and learned a great deal. I saw pot smokers on Venice Beach and Haight Ashbury. I yelled with the joy to the sight of seals swimming to the shore on La Jolla Beach. I visited Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. I learned about the intricacies of the Hollywood culture in LA, and drove around celebrity homes in Beverly Hills.
Medica Marijuana in Venice Beach, California
I saw this journey of discovery as part of my Americanization, of my deep understanding of the country that I now call home, the country that granted me citizenship and provided me with many things that I remain grateful for. But while on the trip, my friend who uses the alias Jameed, jokingly told me while we were running around LA: “You are not assimilated, you are too busy eating Hummus and pita bread.”
His comments came in response to my failure to engage in conversations about popular culture, or to be more specific about the increasingly popular American reality TV shows.
I had no idea who “Snooki” was. (For those unassimilated like myself, Snooki is a star of an MTV reality TV show called Jersey Shore). I also had no idea that Kim Kardashian had sisters, and even failed to recognize the names of Lady Gaga’s latest songs (Knowing the song Telephone didn’t save me). I also couldn’t recognize many of the names of celebrities that my friends were tossing around when we went to visit their presumed houses in Beverly Hills with the help of the famous “celebrity map”.
My friend’s joke about my lack of assimilation hit me like a brick wall. After years of me trying to make it in this county, by getting a job, buying a house, voting in the primaries and even joining interest groups on Meetup. com, apparently I’m still not there yet. Mind you, my friends who knew all about Snooki include a PHD-holder, a business owner, an electrical engineer, a famous author and a pharmacist. Yes, they are the smartest, highly educated, and obviously completely assimilated.
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco
My friend’s comment about my lack of assimilation brought memories when I ran into Renee Zellweger at a Starbucks in New York a few years ago and instead of jumping up down and saying: “OMG, this is Renee Zellweger!”, I approached her and told her: “You look familiar, are you on TV?” I completely blanked out on her name. I just knew she was on TV. Another incident that comes to mind proving my “lack of assimilation” per say is when two people asked me about my reaction to the marriage break-up of Kate and her husband (sorry can’t remember his name) from Kate and someone Plus Eight TV show and of course, I had no idea what they were talking about.
So here, you have it, I’m not assimilated, but really when do those assimilated people have the time to keep up with the integration process when we are all busy with our daily rat race. How do they do it? Do they live a life similar to mine? Do they come back home at 7:00 PM and cook dinner while listening to NPR?
Do they check their Twitter feed and keep up with their followers while worrying about their Klout Score as much as they worry about their credit score? Do they fall asleep on the sofa while trying to watch the latest episode of Law and Order (here is some assimilation for you).
Maybe, maybe not. I really don’t know. All I know is that I have to do something about it. I have plans: I will do the assimilation my way: I will update my RSS feed to include some entertainment blogs. I will stop listening to the oldies on the radio and switch to DC mainstream music channel, DC 101. I will also Google “Jersey Shore” to see what the fuss is all about.
I have many plans. I need to stop living on the fringe, with my head buried in my daily shenanigans. Apparently traveling thousands of miles to California to consummate my assimilation process is not enough. I definitely need to know who Snooki is.
While many are arguing nowadays whether Wikileaks is a new kind of journalism, and whether journalists should learn from its founder Julian Assange or just stay away from him as much as possible, I want to discuss a new kind of journalism that has knocked my socks off: Social Media journalism.
This is a term I coined after reading a heart-wrenching Washington Post story about a DC area-based family who had to endure a tragic circumstance after the birth of their baby boy. I’m not going to ruin the story for you, but the most fascinating part for me was the format in which this story was told. The journalist who told the story chose a “Facebook format” in which he narrated tear-jerking events using real Facebook status updates that were written by the family members who were involved in the story.
After each update or comment, the author added factual information to make the story complete by explaining for example how the couple in this story met and how they relate to the people that they have as “friends” on their Facebook page.
The Facebook story format. Credit: Washington Post.
I’m not usually the emotional type, but after I read the story I did in fact tear up a bit.The reason for this is simple: the story hit close to home because it used a format that I use on a daily basis to interact with my family and friends: Facebook. By doing so, the author gave the people involved in the story a real life feel.They were not just faceless names mentioned in a newspaper article. They were people who had friends and family who “liked” their news and “LOL” ed their updates and “shared” their links.
This story wouldn’t have the same effect on me personally if it was written in a regular print format. I would have simply thought something along the lines of “How sad” and resumed checking my Tweetdeck Twitter updates.
After reading the story, I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact this social media format can have if let’s say it was used to tell the stories of war victims, or victims of violence or even honor crimes. I might be day dreaming here but these social media formats could probably prompt the audience to lobby to stop certain wars, or create tougher laws to punish those who commit honor crimes. Imagine how important the role of journalism would become in this case as it will improve or even save lives. Does Wikilieaks revelations have the same impact? Maybe, maybe not.I’m still not sure of that, but what I’m sure of is that such social media journalism format has made me shed a tear or two.
Lately, I’ve been driving my husband crazy. I’m always distracted. My mind is simply elsewhere. I’m presently living “on planet Natasha,” to quote his description of my current state of mind. The reason is simple. There is so much innovation going on in the realm of digital journalism and its integration with social media that I’m both overwhelmed and elated. What’s happening in the online journalism arena is so cutting- edge, so creative, and extremely crucial in improving the current human condition that I’m constantly monitoring and watching (sadly, to the exclusion of other things in my life). Really, can you blame me for being distracted in this age of round-the-clock digital innovation?
Contrary to the popular belief that journalism is dying (yada, yada, yada), I think journalism is in its best shape ever. It’s not dying, but rather evolving. The old format of journalism might be dead, but the new one is so fresh and promising that the even the sky is not the limit.
Journalism graduates: Do not fear the future, embrace it!
As someone whose career is in media development, watching trends and monitoring new journalism innovation is what I do on a daily basis, believe me when I tell you that journalism is at the forefront of digital novelties continuing to further advance the quality of people’s lives everywhere.
One new journalism “tool” that I have been experimenting with is “social curation” using storify. The idea behind it is really simple: Editors of newspapers, websites or anyone can use this tool to search social media tools for a certain topic, then filter the best items, whether they were tweets, Facebook updates, Flickr, etc, to create a story that can be embedded on a website.
Now, the neat thing is that I can go back to this story anytime and update it with any new development and then republish it. The embedded code will update itself automatically without me needing to overwrite it. This kind of innovation is a real gift for website editors who are constantly following breaking news and gauging the community response to a certain event.
Storify has been making waves lately and harnessing a good amount of coverage in the media (here is one example). The creators behind Storify believe that they are building “the future of publishing” by “finding meaning in the noise”. It is a pretty neat idea if you ask me. Here is a an interview with the two founders of Storify:
The most recent horrific attack on Christians in Iraq struck a personal cord with me. Of all the attacks happening daily in Iraq, this one somehow hit home. It might have been the way the worshippers were ambushed during Sunday mass and then slaughtered that’s causing me to lose sleep. It is horrifying to realize that the only reason these Iraqis were butchered was because they belonged to the wrong religion. Being the over-dramatic type, I couldn’t stop thinking about my family in Jordan and wondering what if?
Iraqi Christians mourning their dead. Source (Reuters).
What if they were worshiping at a church in Amman and something similar happens. Al-Qaeda members seem to manage to cross borders so easily these days that a similar attack in Jordan might not be that remote. I know I’m probably going over the top since these things don’t normally happen in Jordan even after the Al-Qaeda-inspired attacks of 2005. But I did think about it, and for a brief moment I panicked.
The London-based Arabic publication Elaphalso discussed the issue and highlighted this distinct fact: Jordan has become a safe haven for Christians in the region, including Iraqi and Palestinian Christians that are feeling extremism in their home countries.
Yes, Jordanian Christians are in a superb position compared with the rest of the region. No one denies this. Coexistence is the name of the game, with many Jordanian Christians occupying senior positions in the government and parliament. Christians and Muslims live in the same neighborhoods and in some cases interact as members of the same family.
Another fact still affecting Jordanian Christians is the issue of inheritance, where Sharia law still applies to them. The male sibling takes double the share of his sisters and male relatives take a share of the daughters’ inheritance in the absence of a male sibling.
Since I have a big mouth, I have discussed these ticklish issues with many of my friends and coworkers when I lived in Amman. The answer I got most of the time was that Jordan is a Muslim country and we can’t change the rules for a “minority.” Throwing the “minority” label at me never made me feel special, to the contrary, it made me feel like a pariah. I used to respond with: “Come on, you can’t deprive my unborn child from ever dreaming that one day he (yes, a he, she, is another story) will become prime minister. Even minorities should have equal rights.”
But that was back then, when I was young, naïve and passionate. It was back when I thought writing, talking, and arguing would take me somewhere.
I’m now a thirty-something, jaded Christian Arab who has joined the ranks of those who are in the “exodus.” I might not have lots of ground to stand on simply because I packed my bags and left. Ah well, I’m just blowing off some steam on a breezy Friday morning in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Blowing off steam is probably the most I can do at this point since I’m only a “minority”.