Facebook Journalism Project’s partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) includes a program to teach Facebook tools for journalists across the country. Since its launch last year, the program has trained more than 2,000 local journalists on how to report on the news and tell stories through Facebook.
It’s also built an active community of trainers who are well versed in the tools Facebook offers. “Our trainers are smart and funny and their passion for all that Facebook tools can do for journalists is infectious,” said Alison Bethel McKenzie, Executive Director of SPJ. “That’s probably why training is in such high demand.”
We caught up with some of the program’s trainers to learn more about their experiences as they’ve connected with journalists in local newsrooms across the country. Read on for their insights, tips, and learnings about storytelling on Facebook and Instagram.
For an update on the Facebook Journalism Project Journalist Training Program with Society of Professional Journalists, please visit us here.
If you’re interested in signing up for a training for your specific newsroom or organization, head here.
What tips do you have for other newsrooms who want to use Facebook or Instagram for storytelling?
Lynn Walsh: When using stories, tell a story. That may sound like a no-brainer but so many times I see news organizations just share a photo or video and tells people to “swipe up.” Instead of using the features as a way to share headlines, use the features to tell stories. Share a photo and add text to it, then maybe add a video clip and then maybe a portion of an interview. If you get people interested in the story by telling them what it’s about, I think it provides better engagement opportunities. Then you can tell them to “swipe up.”
Adrienne Luis: Building a digital presence in addition to managing one’s regular responsibilities may seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be if you create a simple and streamlined workflow. When I go into newsrooms, I encourage journalists to do this by starting out with one social media platform to post to. In a similar vein, I will often challenge those same journalists to brainstorm one post idea to share online after reporting on a story (e.g. a meaningful quote or picture/video from the field). In doing this, I hope journalists can see that social media doesn’t have to be a thorn in one’s side and can actually be pretty easy (and hopefully more enjoyable). It’s only after they get the hang of this that I would challenge journalists to experiment with Facebook and Instagram features that they are not currently familiar with.
Faith Sidlow: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Check Facebook/Instagram pages of your favorite news organizations and borrow some of the techniques that they employ. It takes time to get proficient with any type of platform or technology, so set aside some time to try something new. One great resource is the Facebook for Journalists e-learning certificate course that offers modules on each of the features and goes into depth on all of the features we discuss in the trainings.
What have you learned from this experience?
Adrienne Luis: From this experience, I learned about the power of Facebook groups. In part of the presentation, I talk about the intimacy of Facebook groups and how this can lead to a decent amount of engagement. The secret – as mentioned in detail in the training – is being able to establish an environment for people to feel comfortable enough to interact on.
Faith Sidlow: I’ve learned a lot from the newsrooms that I’ve visited. Although they may serve different demographics and have different goals, they are all trying to increase readership/viewership/listenership and are willing to embrace new strategies to do that. The best part of being a trainer is that I am constantly learning new things – from my fellow trainers, the news organizations, my students, and even by accident on my own when I have time to explore and experiment.
Kerwin Speight: I’ve learned that there are so many options for publishers and journalists to tell great stories, showcase their work and build community. It’s actually quite exciting to see the lightbulb flicker when someone learns a new trick or tactic.
Is there anything from these sessions that you’ve taken and incorporated in your day-to-day or work life?
Adrienne Luis: Yes, I’ve started my own Facebook page – where I share the presentation information, other journalism-related resources, and put into practice the concepts mentioned throughout the presentation. I’ve especially enjoyed the Facebook Creator App to help me create posts and respond to comments when I’m not at a desk. I’m also interested in incorporating more Facebook Live broadcasts into my page. True to form, after I implemented Facebook’s best practices tips, I saw an uptick in engagement during and after my first Live broadcast. I’d like to see if I can increase these engagement levels in the future.
Faith Sidlow: I am much more proficient at FB search and FB lives than I was before our first train the trainer session. I use both in the classroom. My students (who don’t regularly use FB) get excited about the FB lives when they do them as a class assignment. Also, we use a closed group to collaborate with students and professors at other universities around the world. It enables us to communicate with large numbers of people at once and see (through group insights and “seen by”) just how active and engaged (or not) our students are in a given project. In the past, I managed a closed group with more than 200 members from 20 countries and right now I’m co-managing a group with more than 100 members from 4 universities in three countries.
Kyle Foster: I go live often with little hesitation – I had not done a live story before being hired in June. I also have embraced 360 Live, which everyone who follows me seems to love. I use Instagram search frequently to find information and ideas for paid blog posts. I use the Creator App to combine my accounts and watch them or post to them on the go.
What do you see as the value of using Facebook for newsrooms to tell their stories?
Lynn Walsh: Using Facebook allows your newsroom to reach your users (and maybe some who do not even consume your content on traditional mediums) instantly and in more enriching ways. The technologies and tools on Facebook allow you to bring the user to the scene of your story in ways we couldn’t do before.
Ray Ruiz: Over 2 billion users can’t be wrong. Any newsroom’s digital strategy starts with Facebook. The vast array of resources that Facebook offers newsrooms allows journalists to engage with their audience in innovative and creative ways.
Ben Meyerson: Using Facebook and Instagram is a great way to deepen engagement with your audience, building substantive connections that create habit and loyalty. You know your audience is there. Show them you know how to connect with them in their language, on their terms.
Kerwin Speight: There’s huge value for newsrooms to use Facebook to tell their stories. There are 2.5 billion people on the platform. I always tell participants there is a world of people out there who can potentially see their work.
What are your go-to tips for newsrooms?
Adrienne Luis: My go-to tip for newsrooms/journalists is to be as authentic as possible. (I often hear social media gurus refer to this as developing your voice.) Basically, this means to create captions to posts that are conversational – to write them as if you were speaking to your peers. If you still don’t understand what I mean, take a look at your favorite social media accounts that you follow and regularly interact with. What is their writing style like? What kind of tone do they tend to convey? How are they able to get people, like you, to interact with their posts? Take notes of things like this and use this information to guide you as you craft captions to your future posts.
Faith Sidlow: Find out what works for you and capitalize on it. FB Live is one of the best tools for newsrooms — especially for live coverage. Your team can be everywhere with only a phone and a good cell or wifi connection. And if shot properly, it can all be repurposed for later use online and on the air. A lot of newsrooms used FB Live for election coverage during the midterm elections and found their public and social reach expanded significantly.
Kyle Foster: Continue to do good journalism. Vet your sources, moderate your groups, conduct the investigation, make the pictures. Be authentic. You don’t have to be overwhelmed and use all the tools at once. Some stories only require the on-air time or the brief in the paper. Others – such as the tornado in New Orleans – lend themselves to all the tools to get the news and much-needed information to the community in every way possible. Engage your community – readers, listeners, followers, viewers – by encouraging them to follow you, see you first, join a group, follow a page, comment.