Social Media for Journalists: Making a case for Facebook

Unearthing Facebook's hidden potential for journalism

There is one clear fact about journalism and social media, i.e. Twitter is the ‘Holy Grail’ for journalists.
The 140 characters in a tweet are used by a majority of journalists for breaking news and microblogging. Almost every journalist has a twitter account.

Facebook on the other hand is what I call a ‘potential’ which is waiting to be discovered by journalists. Facebook is a larger platform than that of Twitter and much more varied. In the following points I will make a case for Facebook and why it should be used more by journalists.

Here we go.

1. Number of users

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This is the modus operandi and source of pride for any social media site. More users will generate more content. In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly users while Twitter had just 313 million in the same time period.

This is a massive difference. More importantly, a difference which can have major consequences on what is being shared and created. Facebook has already become a source of news, with almost every major news agency sharing content on their official Facebook pages.

Contrastingly, individual journalists are not that active on Facebook. Click on a journalist’s profile, and you get a Wikipedia-esque introduction, with few irregular posts.

To reach a bigger audience, journalists who already have a Facebook profile can use their profiles professionally or even make a separate page if they want to keep their professional and personal profiles separate.

Journalists will get a much larger audience to cater to on Facebook.

2. Extensive engagement with audience

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Facebook’s comments section is a platform for opinions, frustrations, and friendly banter. Activity over Facebook has become so relevant in recent times, that governments in certain countries (India and Pakistan) track such activities and curb them. Like the press, Facebook provides a platform for public opinion, forming and shaping it.

Granted that Twitter is good source for breaking news, but if a story is broken on Facebook, the public can actively engage in debate through the comments section.

Facebook’s reactions is a great tool for journalists. It can help them to understand what shared content resonates with the public’s emotions. Before reactions, it was impossible to tell from a “like” whether the reader was angry, sad, or happy about what they had seen.

On Twitter, although you can engage with audiences through replies, the scope of debate is limited to 140 characters.

Engaging with Facebook comments may seem like a daunting task. Twitter is more favoured because journalists are short on time and sending a tweet is easier than commenting on Facebook.

But, if they can spare time to engage with their audience on Facebook, they will be be able to understand public opinion.

3. The multi-platform format on Facebook facebooklive_marquee3
Facebook can influence public opinion because it provides a wide range of platforms on its site through which users can share content.

News agencies are making extensive use of Facebook live to break news and report on stories. If you compare breaking a story on Twitter with just a one line tweet and breaking the same news with a live video, you can understand the huge differences between the two. Video always has a more lasting effect on the viewer than words have on the reader. 

Facebook Live video has revolutionised reporting: where anyone can record live videos of any event through their mobile phone cameras.

Twitter is not so accessible when it comes to multimedia reporting. Short videos, GIFs and pictures are about all there is on offer.

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