How a newsroom can make the most of Facebook during breaking news

Facebook breaking news checklist for social media editorsBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you have had any experience as a digital editor or web producer for a newsroom, you’ve certainly noticed Facebook doesn’t handle breaking news well.

The problem is Facebook has such a huge impact on social-generated traffic that many sites us it as their sole social media platform — and sometimes their primary content management system through embedded widgets or autofeeds to other social channels such as Twitter.

What you need to remember is that you don’t own that news feed. Facebook does. That is the KEY reason to treat Facebook as just one platform in your efforts to cover the news. It’s an important piece, but don’t make it the only one.

Here are the problems you’ll run into:

  1. Actual “news” is not a priority in the news feed. Instead, Facebook gives preference to content from friends and family. Because of that, users do not see all the posts made every day from all the news and lifestyle pages they follow, much less see that content in real time.
  2. Facebook comments are not seen by all. Fans who add comments to your Facebook page expect everyone else to see their contributions to the conversation. This is not necessarily the situation. When someone shares the original post on Facebook to their friends, the share does not include the original comment thread. An entirely new conversation has spun off.
  3. People don’t go to the trouble of resetting their news feeds. You can switch the view of your news feed from “top stories” to “most recent.” You can toggle the settings of any page or person you follow to “see first” rather than “default.” You can give likes, shares and comments so to increase the chances you’ll see future content from that page or person. You can hit “hide post” for content you don’t want to see – thereby giving clues to Facebook on those topics. You can unlike or unfollow pages you are no longer interested in. … But how many of these steps do you routinely use in your own Facebook experience? If you don’t use them, how can you expect casual Facebook users to do any of this?
  4. The best timing for posts is when your audience is on Facebook. This has nothing to do with deadlines and production schedules – or even when breaking news happens! To find your timing curve, get into Facebook administration panel, click on “Insights / Posts.” Then consider this: You reach about 50 percent of your potential audience in the first half hour and 75 percent of your potential audience during the first two hours of that post. While that’s from a 2013 study from Wiselytics, based on my experience scheduling content on pages I believe the theory is still valid.
  5. Facebook posts can circulate for couple of days. If content proved to be popular soon after posting, Facebook will continue to show it to people who may be interested over the next day or so. In a newsroom example, this means Facebook doesn’t understand that a tornado warning you posted two hours ago has expired. It just knows that post was popular and more people might want to see it. This also explains why daily reach may not coincide with posting dates for content that went viral – the content could have found a bigger audience as it continued to circulate.
  6. Facebook has a “today in history” feature. This feature encourages people to reshare a favorite memory. This might benefit your site with additional traffic for older content. But sometimes people mistake a reshare for current information and unfounded rumors result.

Here’s what to do on Facebook:

How do you compensate for the news feed not synching with the news curve?

You watch the conversations and reactions from your target audience; and tweak how, when and what you do on Facebook. Here are some action steps:

  1. Be specific with dates and times in time-sensitive content. For example, type “the 1978 blizzard anniversary is Jan. 26” instead of “the 1978 blizzard anniversary is today.” This provides clues when people are scanning through the news feed just how immediate (or perhaps outdated) the content actually is.
  2. Be specific with city or neighborhood locations in the content. It annoys me when TV stations send out a Facebook post that says “in our viewing area.” A “viewing area” on social media is the entire world! Besides, the newsroom has now missed missed an opportunity to catch the attention of the audience where that headline will matter the most. If you live in Fremont, Ohio, are you not more more likely to notice and share a Facebook post that says a newsworthy headline happened in Fremont? Think about the target geography for that headline and write accordingly.
  3. Tell Facebook fans where they can find faster updates. A mobile audience often can’t get full websites to load up. That’s why they tend to stay on Facebook and the “I saved you a click” conversations start. But Facebook-only followers will not get every detail in a timely manner. This is why during breaking news, I’ve sometimes added this pitch: “please watch our Twitter feed or go to our website for updates, Facebook does not handle real time information very well.” Now they have been reminded about the options: follow the links or hope for the best on a hit and miss news feed.
  4. Provide Facebook-only content during breaking or ongoing stories. Facebook Live video is an obvious choice; although that’s limited to situations such as press conferences, meetings or live action. If you wish to provide a quick glance update, then create a simple infographic sized for Facebook via Canva, Snappa or another image creator. Post that graphic on Facebook and include key phrases and words in the description. I’ve found simple infographics work amazingly well for keeping a Facebook-only audience happy and boosting engagement.
  5. Give thank you comments and likes to pages that share your content. If you want to encourage another page’s admin to continue sharing your page’s content, then follow up with a like or comment back as your page on their page. Remember that shares from one page to another generally do not do well in terms of reach. Your response as the page can boost the reach of that share in addition to encouraging such action in the future.
  6. Pay attention to continuing likes, comments and shares. Make edits or hit “refresh share attachment” for the website link. I have often used “UPDATE …. PREVIOUS POST… ” and other page admins do as well. On really old stories that pop up randomly, consider editing the post to add “THIS IS A STORY FROM 2014” or whatever is appropriate to clear up confusion.
  7. Schedule follow content during Facebook’s peak audience times. Because Facebook uses keywords in the description to guess who may be interested in particular content, a repost with the same content tends to be shown to the same people as before. They won’t appreciate seeing the same story twice. Instead, introduce the latest details you can provide have into posts such as “We have updated our developing story about …,” “We now have a photo gallery about …,” “This is the latest video about …”
  8. Plan as much as 48 hours lead time for advance content. While this isn’t directly related to breaking news, it can be. Let’s say a city council agenda includes a high interest topic, or the town’s Christmas parade will take place this weekend. You’re probably preparing an advance piece. Get that content up on your website and Facebook about two days ahead. In addition to providing useful information, the fact that the same words and phrases as will be seen in follow up coverage is a way to trigger views later.
  9. Use the “stop news feed” switch for time-sensitive content. If you have a few minutes wiggle room for a post that will be dated quickly, program it as a scheduled post and include the “stop news feed” time. Scheduled posts can be within about 10 minutes, so even in most weather situations this is very useful.  With this setting, content won’t be fed to new people after the cutoff time.
  10. Use the “pinned post” feature. Pinning puts content on the top of your page. Here is how that works: When visitors expect you to provide information in a timely manner on a specific topic, they are likely to go directly to your page and not wait for it to pop up on the news feed. They will appreciate finding the information quickly, especially if other posts are a mix of topics. When reach for the pinned post slows down or the campaign expires, pull the pin off or replace it.
  11. Explain how to set the “see first” instead of “default” view on pages or profiles. This helps teach Facebook what you want to see, remind readers to try that if they complain about what topics they are seeing or how little they see from your page.  That being said: in my experience, “see first” does not completely override what Facebook has decided through other metrics what to show me first.
  12. Worst case senario: delete the post. The best workaround should old content cause a problem (as in feeding rumor mills) is to edit the post with updated information. But if the original poster deletes the content, it’s gone. This is one of the theories behind the ask on Facebook for “please copy and paste / repost rather than share.” The original posters want to get a message or idea circulating while protecting themselves from a deletion. (Read why “copy and paste” is so popular.)

Here’s what to do beyond Facebook:

  1. Understand everything your website can do to prioritize content. Do you have a “breaking news” or “featured” spot in your web template? If you are on WordPress, do you know how to pin a post or page to the front of your site? Do you know how sidebars, categories and tags can assist and redirect readers? With visual cues for content priority, someone who came to your site for one topic might notice another and the traffic spills over.
  2. Understand how SEO works on your website. People use Google and other search engines to find content they know or hope is available somewhere on the web. This is why you need to program alt tags on images, include keywords in the headlines and description box, and link related content to each other. Good SEO strategy can attract views for content that doesn’t quite catch on in social media or has long faded out of social conversations. Because of a very SEO-friendly headline and content, I got traffic for nearly two years on a blog post that discussed a one-time shift in food stamp schedules! That’s despite the fact that social posts were long off the news feeds.
  3. Build a targeted Twitter audience. The Twitter audience may be smaller than on Facebook, but I find it is much more predictable. Twitter doesn’t play games with its stream – your fans will see your content if they they are logged in when you post. Twitter also takes well to “in case you missed it” posts when that strategy can easily backfire on Facebook. Do some investigating on Google Analytics as to how long Twitter leads stay on your site as compared to Facebook leads – you might be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Learn how your newsroom’s email newsletter works. This is the best opportunity for overlooked content to get links. Do you know how people opt in to the newsletter? Do you know which keywords or categories trigger an article being added? Can you plan ahead of the deadline to make sure time-sensitive content gets in the next edition? Have you looked over examples so to understand whether headlines are too long and which photo formats work best? Are you adding related links such as photo gallery or video embeds into articles whose headlines feed into the newsletter?
  5. Use mobile news app notifications for breaking news. I don’t think anything can beat the ROI on app alerts after people have opted in. This has not just an immediate impact, people continue see the notifications for the next few hours as they check their phones. However, be picky with when and why you send mobile app alerts. One of the TV stations I subscribe to sends a “good morning” post with the weather forecast of the day. I don’t care for that at all. Use your email newsletter subscriptions for daily briefings, and save app alerts for “here’s what you need to know that can’t wait.”

If you are a newsroom web editor / social media producer, you can learn a lot from the experience and research of social media professionals and agency owners. Take a look at the huge collection of social media pins I have on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in February 2017 and updated in May 2017.







The one question to ask before picking a social media manager

One question to ask before you pick a social media managerBy Paula Wethington

Let’s say you are appointing or hiring someone to post content to your social media accounts.

The question you need to avoid asking is “Do you know how to use Facebook?”

This is too broad a query to result in the response you really want.

To explain: Research shows over 70 percent of American adults who use the Internet also use Facebook. But as you’ve probably noticed, not everyone has the same proficiency in understanding how the news feed works; how to use the Page functions (which differ quite a bit from Profile functions); or whether they found a reliable source or official page before hitting “share” or “check in.”

This is why scams, rumors, old content, unclaimed “community” pages and “fake news” so frequently and easily populate the network.

The one question you SHOULD ask instead starts with picking a piece of content, link or message.

Your question becomes that example and:

“What would you do with this on social media?”

A caution: Based on my conversations with freelancer and social media marketing agency owners, one of their frustrations is that contacts ask for a “conversation” or interview to get advice without hiring anyone to do the work.

You can reassure them that you are not doing that by picking a piece of content that won’t be, for whatever reason, an upcoming project for your brand or company. Instead, pick one of your competitor’s topics, or a campaign or project that has concluded.

Then listen for marketing, content writing, illustration and community response strategies relevant to that selection. These discussion points are among those that someone who has the experience and / or training to handle social media for a company or client might respond with:

  • A discussion of which target audience is potentially interested in that content.
  • What social networks this content would most likely be a good fit for.
  • Which trending or seasonal topics one could tie in this content with.
  • When is the best (or worst) time of day or week to post that content on specific networks.
  • Why a specific strategy such as hashtags, post targeting, a series of tweets, or cross-promotion could work for this example.
  • Whether it is advisable to consider promoted posts for that content.
  • How to write the tweet, title or description so that search engines or news feeds understand the content.
  • A description of a photograph or illustration that could help get that content noticed on a particular social media network.
  • How you could turn that content into an opt-in resource so to collect email addresses.
  • The reactions one can expect for that content, including follow-up questions the social media manager should be prepared to answer.

If you hear these details or other specifics beyond “I’ll post it on Facebook,” then you are talking to someone who knows more than just how to make a post on Facebook. Proceed accordingly.

If you want suggestions for candidate questions, whether in house or outsourced, here are some great posts on this topic:

If you are interested in social media and digital media, I have a huge collection of resources on my Pinterest account.

This post was written in January 2017, updated in May 2017.


5 free resources to kickstart your social media plan

Womens Money Week blog post graphicBy Paula Wethington

One of the projects I participated in several times as a personal finance blogger was the National Women’s Money Week project.

Through that campaign, writers discuss the  money topic of the day from their perspective or expertise. The goal of the community discussions are to “help women move from financial fragility to financial resiliency.”

The Women’s Money Week 2017 project is from Jan. 1-7.

I’m no longer writing about personal finance. (Monroe on a Budget wrapped up in 2015, you can find a history of the project here). But my current favorite topic of social media is definitely applicable to the Women’s Money Week Jan. 3, 2017, theme of Entrepreneurship / Earning Your Worth / Making Money.

Social media for news reporting, special projects and personal branding is a skill I picked up on by experience and watching what worked for other people. At one point, I had Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages all branded to Monroe on a Budget. Facebook was a huge referral source to the site for a long time.

But my actual “day job” is newspaper reporter. Even before the personal finance blog wrapped up, I was applying what I learned to our newsroom’s social media accounts. And I was seeing good results.

I also think digital media is fun.

Following up on this experience, I looked for free and low-cost resources about social media and related topics. While you can now find master’s degree programs in digital or social media studies, that’s a bigger investment than I can make. Even the paid training I’ve taken has been carefully chosen and spread out so not to take a huge hit all at once. If you are an entrepreneur, or making a move into a new career, your goal of low budget training or subscription services certainly coincides with mine.

Therefore, this article focuses on free resources.

If you later decide to seek out paid training or hire a social media management agency to help out, now you’ll have some understanding of the topic.

1. Your public library

One of the first places I looked for information about digital and social media was my local library. About once a month, I’d find a book, or two or three, and settle in for an afternoon of studying in a cozy reading chair with a cup of mocha coffee nearby.

Yes, it is true that best practices change so fast that very specific strategies become outdated within a few months to a year. But it is also true that general topics such as copywriting, design and photography easily cross over from one genre to the next. Don’t overlook marketing and communications fundamentals. They can help you understand why certain social media tactics work – or don’t.

To explain: one of the first library books I read focused on Search Engine Optimization. That discussion explained why unsolicited pitches were arriving in my email, offering guest posts for my blog “with just a link;” or in the alternative, requesting link embeds from my posts to their sites. Something had always seemed odd to me about those emails. Now I had enough  knowledge about SEO strategy to see through the spammy, scammy, sleazy link requests.

Go find your local library and pick out a few books.

2. Hubspot Academy.

Are you interested in a course that explains digital marketing concepts as they are typically applied today? Take the Free Inbound Marketing Course offered by Hubspot Academy. You will learn how blogging, SEO and website setups such as landing pages can encourage potential customers to be interested in your products and services, and hopefully lead to sales.

The current version is a 12-class program with an exam. It took longer for me to work through the course than the hours listed, but you can stop and start as needed. I also picked up on the concepts faster when I took it the second time.

If you want to understand how and why specific content and formatting strategies get results for your business or a competitor, the Inbound course is worth your time.

3. Facebook Blueprint.

Another resource accessible from your desktop is from Facebook itself: Facebook Blueprint.

Earning a Facebook Blueprint Certification badge costs money. The annual, renewable exam and certification is meant for digital advertising professionals. But there are over 50 free webinars and modules in the resource collection for certification students — and you can access those modules for free! The topics include Audience Insights, Boost Your Posts and Direct Response Best Practices.

As explained by Facebook: “Blueprint eLearning is a series of free, self-paced online courses and learning paths teaching the best practices of Facebook marketing — perfect for small businesses, agencies, advertisers, graduates, MBA holders, or anyone wanting to market more effectively on Facebook.”

Poke around the collection and complete a tutorial or two.

4. Canva Design School.

Canva is a popular site for creating social media graphics fast and easy. It’s free if you use your own images or pick from their basic collections. The paid graphic elements are very affordable. You can create your designs via desktop or an iPad.

After you start using Canva, you’ll notice which of your favorite Facebook and Twitter pages use this tool. Some of the preset templates are quite popular!

What if you have no idea how to work in graphic design?

Canva has a collection of free tutorials in its Design School library with topics such as Building a Brand Kit, Marrying Text and Images, and Creative Color Palettes.

If you create just one image that looks good, I think you’ll be hooked.

5. Pinterest.

Did you think Pinterest’s practical usefulness was limited to cookie recipes and wedding theme ideas? Not so fast! The do-it-yourself culture on Pinterest also has extended to entrepreneurship skills and marketing concepts!

Create a board where you can collect pins on this topic – I started with Digital World, but also have some spinoff topics such as Public Relations.

After you create a board, search for keywords such as marketing, social media, or business goals. After Pinterest learns what you are looking for, it will suggest more to you via the news feed. After you pin an image from the web, you’ll see a splash page of another board that image was pinned to and perhaps you want to follow that as well.

Tip: You can create a new topic as a “secret board” while you brainstorm this and flip it to a public board later.

Bonus: Now for a little bit of money.

If you are willing to spend (some) money on a subscription or an online short course, look over the possibilities from these resources:

  • Hootsuite Academy – Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard service; and the related products include a collection of webinars. Whether you can stick with the free services or need to spend money depends on how many accounts you want to connect, the features you want and the courses you want to take.
  • Udemy – Webinars and minicourses in topics ranging from mobile phone photography to marketing fundamentals. There often are specials – sometimes as low as $10 a class. Put the webinars you want on a “wish list” and cue them up as you have the funds.
  • LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn members who have Job Seeker, Business Plus, and Executive LinkedIn subscriptions can access a collection of webinars and short courses as part of their paid service. Pay close attention to the expiration date of your trial or membership, as you may be locked out of a course before completion.

A tip of the hat to past and present participants and the organizers of Women’s Money Week. Look for hashtag #WMWeek17 on your favorite social media networks. I’ll be tweeting my favorite links of the campaign at @WethingtonPaula


6 steps to build your social media audience

By Paula Wethington

Six steps to build your social media audience

The first (and sometimes only) task  people think of when it comes to running social media accounts is posting content.

But that’s just one piece. The real work happens in making sure that content is seen by the people you want to reach! And for that, you need to build an audience.

The bottom line is: Social media requires a comprehensive strategy for best results.

Here are six steps I recommend for building an audience, listed in a sequence in which they will work most effectively.

And here is the discussion of those steps:

Define your audience

Who are you writing for?

In the marketing world, this question and the answer is called building a persona or avatar. You can research this in a number of ways that include collecting U.S. Census data on a particular city, hosting focus groups and pulling up audience demographics  via the Facebook ad manager dashboard.

Don’t ignore it, or you won’t have a direction to aim toward.

Here is a case study: When I was a personal finance blogger (I have a page on this site about the Monroe on a Budget project), I didn’t tackle every possible money topic.  Instead, I wrote for families who lived in southeast Michigan who were middle to low income; and as a result, living paycheck to paycheck more frequently than they would like. I thought their concerns and questions were overlooked by most national personal finance articles.

The recession hit shortly after I started that project. The demographic I had chosen as a niche audience was affected seriously. Any helpful content in an accessible format was of high interest. That specific combination of time / place / circumstances gave me plenty of angles to consider, research and discuss.

My question before writing anything for that project was always “Does this apply to my audience?”

As a result, it was a hugely successful site in terms of page views.

Create and curate content for that audience

You have messages you’d like to get out on specific dates or times. But you’ll need to find more content to choose from than just what you want to say.

Here’s a case study: One of the organizations I belong to is my high school music alumni foundation.

We host a hall of fame awards banquet on an every other year schedule. That event gives us the following discussion points: how to nominate someone, who will be honored, how to get dinner tickets, photos from the event, who made donations and where the money goes. The annual marching band alumni night that we help promote for the high school also provides these discussion points: announcing the date, photos and videos from rehearsal, photos and videos from the event.

We clearly needed something to talk about off season. We wanted our page to bubble up in the news feed from time to time, so that our school’s alumni will be more likely to see and remember announcements of our events.

The consensus was to look for content from other pages and sites to include on our Facebook page. Curation is the social media phrase that applies to this concept. To give a direction of where to look and what to post, our alumni board decided that the theme would be “music in our schools.”

An obvious choice was photos, videos and announcements about our school district’s music department. For example, a “share” that did very well was a video clip of the marching band at an away football game that a newspaper photographer posted on her journalist page. We’ve also decided to post concert announcements from nearby schools and the local college; and also share funny memes about music that we found on other Facebook fan pages.

Are our Facebook page fan counts going up? No, but the engagement and reach to actual people is noticeably higher with the use of curation. And that’s a huge boost to our visibility as compared to two years ago. It’s working.

Research the best timing for that network

I scoffed at digital content timing when I was a personal finance blogger. Reason: I didn’t want to fret about deadlines as I must do on print media assignments. Digital media to me meant 24/7, freeflow posting whenever content was ready.

But I have since learned some content CAN and should be scheduled. Facebook in particular is very sensitive to timing. I have noticed even a half an hour’s difference on timing can be noticed in the reach count on our newspaper’s account.

How do you determine the best timing when you are growing a page, or have inherited an existing page where you don’t yet have a feel for the audience? Here are some suggestions:

  • Review three or four charts that can be found via Internet search (I have some  pinned on Pinterest) that show best timing / worst timing on social networks.
  • Look over the Facebook page insights section of your pages to find the chart that shows what times your audience is online. Don’t schedule new content when you know the audience isn’t as likely to see it. It’s just not going to work.
  • Run your pages through the free Likealyzer tool to get more specific analytics on Facebook timing.

Another resource is using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite that can suggest posting times. Just be sure to review the results in case you want to override the automation – a particular topic might be seen as too late for the slot Hootsuite picked.

Now that you understand the news cycle so to speak on your social accounts, designate which time slots are your “prime time slots” for each day of the week on your active pages. Schedule content that is most likely to get likes, comments or shares for those times.

Bonus timing trick: Do you manage more than one social media account where the audience and content choices overlap? Time the posts with similar keywords fairly close together. To explain: I’ve noticed my reporter page on Facebook gets higher reach when I post a story on it about 15 minutes after that same story goes live on the newsroom’s main Facebook page.

Participate in the social community

Content curation is the perfect prelude to participating in the social community. Here’s why: it forces you to accept the fact that you are not the only voice that deserves to be heard.

The detail that makes social media unique among communication genres is that it is  a conversation (two way) rather than broadcasting (one way). Your friends, fans, competitors and yes, even trolls, will give feedback through likes, reactions, shares and comments.

How and when you reply to the community members indicates that the social media account is run by a real person or a team of real people. This interaction between the business, organization or brand and their fans is called “community engagement” or “community management.”

This does not mean every consumer or business complaint needs to be handled publicly on Facebook. Encourage people to use private channels to relay specific concerns or issues to you.

But as you watch the conversations and trends, community management can help you fine-tune the content and timing choices you made at an earlier step.

Apply free / organic growth strategies

One of the most common tactics when launching a new Facebook page is to send invites to your friends.

This is a start, but will get you only so far. I’ve seen numerous pages launched by friends, family and co-workers that have stalled out at 250 fans or less. Two pages that I can think of from that list never hit 25!

Why is that? One reason is you won’t have a large enough pool of people to work with among your friends. The Pew Research Center has reported that half of all Facebook members have less than 200 fans. Then consider the fact your Facebook friends may have very different interests. Some might live in in another state; even another country.

Twitter has a similar challenge in that the average number of followers per account, according to a blogger whose topics includes collecting Twitter statistics, is only 208.

How do you get complete strangers interested in what you have to say, enough to the point that they also will “like” or follow your social media account and push your fan counts past 200?

This is why social media strategy needs to be understood in a building block format. Go back to the first step in which you defined your audience. Provide content those people would be interested in. Post it at the times when they are most likely to see it. Let them see there’s a real person running the account.

Now we are going to grow a social media audience beyond your initial reach with the following tactics:

  • Be consistent in screen name and profile photo choices along with choosing similar cover art for each social network you participate in. This approach, which is one of the first steps in branding a social media presence, will help people recognize you across the Internet.
  • Follow new people every week on Twitter. I’ve seen recommendations of anywhere of following 10 to 50 new accounts a day. You want slow and steady progress. Don’t try to add too many all too fast, or Twitter might temporarily lock the account. And yes, I saw that happen once on a friend’s account! This was handled quickly with a password reset, but oops!
  • To find new people, look over the active accounts you are following. Which accounts are they following, or are followed by, that are active and on your topic or interests?
  • Remember that your Twitter follow is more likely to be noticed when someone has only 500 follows or less as compared to someone who has 5,000 or more follows.
  • Unfollow inactive accounts after 30 days. This makes room in your Twitter limits for new accounts. As your list evolves, you are also teaching Twitter who and what you are interested in.
  • Learn how to find an account’s “Twitter lists,” which is a substream of Twitter accounts. Some are automatically created from hashtags and therefore full of spam or inactive accounts; but others will be a gold mine as you find people you could also follow.
  • Build your own Twitter lists. People who are placed on public lists will get a notification – it’s a great way to let them know you exist. The private lists are for your viewing only – it’s a great way to keep a closer watch on the competition.
  • Have your Facebook page follow other pages that are related by niche or community. Page follows are not as valuable to some social media managers as profile follows, but there is a valid reason. Pages don’t often interact with each other. Those inactive likes might skew analytics and the community engagement rate. If you seek out pages that post content you can like, share, tag and comment on as a friendly page, that’s helping to build community in both directions. Those page owners might follow you back, and some of their fans will too.
  • Review the analytics on posts you made on Facebook. Did you notice that there are people who have liked that post but have not yet liked that page? Send them a page invite. Here’s a how-to on that very successful and FREE strategy.
  • Page invites and follows are like saying “hello” to new people at a cocktail party. So while you are doing that, consider whether there is a photo, link, post or event that you can “pin” to the top of your Facebook and Twitter profiles to provide more information about who you are or a project you are working on. That pinned content is like giving someone your business card at a cocktail party after saying hello.
  • Finding your target audience on Instagram can be a challenge with so many people setting their accounts to private. On those accounts, you can’t see who they are following or are followed by. But I’ve found an Instagram audience grows organically with a clever and liberal use of hashtags. I brainstorm or look for three to five relevant hashtags on each Instagram post; other people add twice that number to their images.

Consider paid ads on the social network

There’s nothing wrong with using sponsored posts across social media. After all, this advertising support helps create and build the networks you are relying on  for marketing strategies.

But don’t waste your money! Study up on the best practices for paid content on that particular network.

Then go back to the first step of defining your audience. Decide who you can target  among that group, and what information or offer would get their interest. And consider when THAT group of people be MOST interested in seeing THAT promotion?

Your promoted content doesn’t have to be selling a huge purchase; and that  might come across as too pushy anyway. A perfectly valid use of paid social is a free download in exchange for an email address you can send information to later. Another practical use is to promote an event you are hosting in real life.

Or consider this example that would be of interest to a news organization: You just put a lot of time and resources into a special report. On your website, you have embedded referral links to background articles, photo galleries, video clips, a call to action, etc. so that you can easily pick up maybe five or ten page views and maybe even a paid customer on a typical read.

You just need to pull in that first view.

Answer: you can push that special project to a bigger audience via paid social.

If you’d like to see other social media strategies and tips that I’ve collected, check out my Twitter feed at @WethingtonPaula and a whole bunch of topics I’ve curated on Pinterest.

This post was updated May 18, 2017








How to change a Facebook page name

How to change a Facebook page nameBy Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

Did you set up a Facebook brand, organization or business page – or inherit one – and wonder how to get the long string of numbers out of the URL?

It’s a common challenge, based on what I’ve seen for pages for small businesses and volunteer organizations. And no, it’s not a good workaround to tell people to “just search for ….” Have you actually used Facebook’s search bar?

If you still have the default numeric string that was assigned at the launch of a page, let’s make your Facebook presence easier for customers and clients to find and remember. A vanity URL provides a more professional appearance and is easier to find, even if you don’t have a check mark that indicates Facebook has verified the page.

First, as Facebook explains, make sure you are an admin on the page. Some people who are authorized to post as the page are not at the highest level called admins. Go into the settings and look through the section called the page roles. If you aren’t listed as admin, but perhaps editor or something else, talk to whomever is admin to get this accomplished.

Then before you get started, come up with two or three options for the name, using Facebook’s guidelines for user names.

Ideally a user name and page name on Facebook are the same. For example, you’ll find my journalist page on Facebook with page name Paula Wethington and user name @paula.wethington. You also want the Facebook name to be the same you are using on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., to the best extent possible.

Keep the name short but understandable, don’t add a tag line or slogan, and don’t use abbreviations that could be mistaken for something else. And make sure you will be happy with the user name in the long run! There are limits (disputed as to how strict they are, but they do exist) on how often you can change this.

The differences between user name and page name are:

  • The user name is the URL and what appears after the .com.
  • The user name will appear on the page under the page name.
  • The user name will appear on the page with @ in front of it.
  • The page name is the title of the page.
  • The page name is how people look for you in the search box.

These instructions on how to update both are for desktop:

  • Click on about.
  • Find the “page info” link on the about page.
  • Now you are in the section where you can edit the user name and page name.
  • Give your first choice a try.

If you’re looking for social media tips, I have a huge collection on my Pinterest account including an entire section on Facebook.

This post was written in December 2016 and updated in June 2017.


Here’s how to decide between groups and pages on Facebook

how-to-choose-between-facebook-group-and-page-formatsBy Paula Wethington

About two years ago, the communications officer for a small organization I belong to set up both a page and a group on Facebook. His intention was that the page would be the “public face” of the organization while the group is “members only.”

Over time, the page has pretty much stalled out while the group is humming along with conversations and content. While I told my friend I thought trying to run both would be confusing given how people usually interact on Facebook, I did leave it up to him. The result is this: I have a closely watched case study in which format works better for small, niche organizations!

What Facebook option should you choose for promotional and marketing efforts on behalf of your organization, business, brand, project or campaign?

Consider using page format if:

  • You have a steady source of content that is of interest to people beyond a core group of members, customers or volunteers.
  • You are willing to accept the likely scenario that only 5 to 10 percent of your page fans will see any given post in their news feed.
  • You wish to share content from other pages to your page in a way that sends a notification to the other page.
  • You wish to schedule posts for the best time or day for the content to be seen and reacted to.
  • You wish to use the “pages to watch” function to monitor friendly or competitor pages for top performing posts along with comparable pages’ engagement and growth rates.
  • You wish to like or interact with other pages as your page.
  • You think someone might create an unauthorized page for that brand unless you claim your name. This could be important, for example, for public officials.
  • You have a physical location where people might want to “check in.”
  • You wish to use the Reviews / Star Rating feature.
  • You wish to use the paid / sponsored post options to get a message in front of people who might not already like the page.
  • You wish your content to be public by default.
  • You would like to use Facebook Live video as with the brand logo.
  • You would like to use Facebook’s “Call to Action” buttons that have messages such as “Call Now” and “Message Now.”
  • You want access to analytics via Facebook Insights that tell you how well a particular post performed in terms of audience.
  • You wish content to be seen publicly as from the brand, business or organization; but allow behind the scenes notes that indicate which admin or editor made that post.
  • You have two people who can be trusted as top-level admins on the page with permissions that include ability to delete the page.

Consider using group format if:

  • You need to rally volunteers and staff around one big project or event a year.
  • You would like to set up a “exclusive access” perk for fans with information or  offers they can’t find anywhere else.
  • You expect or need members of that group to see as many updates from you as possible.
  • You would like to restrict or limit via public / private / secret settings on the group who sees your posts. For example, the women in my family set up a secret group to discuss my daughter’s wedding planning details.
  • You wish to give all members the option to start a conversation or post a link.
  • You would like admins to individually approve or review someone before adding them as a  member.
  • You have a smaller organization that relies on a core group of people to make things happen.
  • You would like to share and edit documents among members. This has been a successful tool for a professional group I belong to as the document files are we share include lists of our social media handles.
  • People who might wish to network on a specific topic but are not likely friends on Facebook for reasons such as living in different communities.

Both options have these advantages:

  • Both are free to create.
  • Multiple administrators allowed on both.
  • Event pages are available on both.
  • Photos can be shared on both.
  • Pinned posts to feature an introduction, FAQ list or current projects are available on both.
  • Removing individual people from the page or group; or from the admin team, is quick and easy on both.
  • Both provide a valid and practical way to use Facebook by entities that are not actual people.

Specific challenges for pages:

  • Getting a message seen by as many people as possible will require some use of sponsored post features and / or leveraging “viral” topics that are applicable to your audience.
  • A page cannot be a member of, or interact, with a group or profiles; only individual profiles can do so.
  • Pages can be frustrating to admin on mobile device. Even if you install the Facebook Pages app and you still will need to log in on desktop occasionally to see all the analytics or use all the page functions.
  • If you have a significant number of fake or inactive fans, that lack of response can backfire in terms of Facebook thinking your page content is not of interest.
  • People can “like” a page but adjust their news feed views so that they don’t see everything from you. The default, after all, is not “see first.”
  • Even a “see first” toggle on preferences doesn’t guarantee your content will appear in a fan’s news feed quickly.
  • Content can and does appear hours or even days later in many fans’ news feed.
  • Live blogging / frequent updates in a short amount of time such as discussing a sports event in progress doesn’t work well with the unpredictable news feed timing. Consider using Twitter for that purpose.

Specific challenges for groups:

  • It is difficult to promote a group to people who are not already members or friends of members.
  • Groups can not interact as their own entity with other groups or pages.
  • People can be members of a group, but decide to turn off notifications.
  • Admins have to interact as their individual profile, not as the brand or project.

I’ve been involved in digital media on a professional basis since 2006. You’ll find social media tips and tricks on my Twitter account – @WethingtonPaula and in the Digital World board on my Pinterest account.





How to turn Facebook post likes into page likes

How to turn Facebook post likes into page likesBy Paula Wethington

During spring 2016, a number of social media managers were in a bit of a panic regarding an apparent Facebook glitch, and here’s why:

The free, but not widely-known, “page invite” function on Facebook had disappeared. And no one could figure out how to access it.

The wailing on networking groups and even a Twitter hashtag campaign #BringBackInvites resulted because so many admins who used page invites to build their Facebook page audiences loved it.

After that feature returned a couple of weeks later, a number of social media managers who had not applied the tool or had been inconsistent in use started adding page invites to daily / weekly checklists. After all, it was clear from the wailing (read: consensus and experience of others) this was too good of an opportunity to ignore.

After comparing statistics before and after in which I applied it on pages, and getting feedback from friends who have tried it on their pages, this is definitely a strategy I recommend.

While it is a “your mileage may vary situation,” it is incredibly effective at getting more for your efforts. You’ll like and use the page invite feature if your goal is to get the most out of a Facebook advertising budget — or if you are faced with running a Facebook page on no budget at all.

The theory behind the page invitation is that you have already identified someone who likes your content through their like or reaction face. Assuming the content is representative of what you do on a regular basis, the chances are good they’ll like the page, see more of your content, share it with their friends and the usual “like and share” attention sparks even more likes.

It’s a pretty darn effective way to build up that page fan number with the people you want to reach.

So here’s what to do:

  • Identify your target audience. Decide who that audience will be with the help of marketing research you may have on your brand or client. Alternatively: Study the Facebook Insights on your page to learn who the fans currently are.
  • Research, write or find content that your target audience likes. Collect and make a list of content ideas for that target audience. The choices can be a sponsored post, organic content that complements trending topics, content that is curated and shared from friendly pages, or reposts from “viral content” search tools. Whatever. And while you may also get comments and shares that a valuable in their own right, that’s not the primary purpose here. The goal that your intended audience, and particularly people who do not already like or know about the page, will respond on Facebook with a like / love / haha/ wow/ sad / angry face.
  • Schedule that content for high impact times. Start with reviewing studies and infographics that are on the Internet discussing on “best timing on social media,” look over the timing data in your Facebook Insights admin dashboard or use the Likealyzer tool to pull a report on your page or competitors’ pages. You want as many views as possible for this carefully chosen content so that people see it and react to it.
  • Look over who has reacted to it. I recommend getting on desktop for this step rather than relying on mobile view for most administrative details, reason is that you can see a lot more of the administration dashboard. Go to your page’s timeline and find a post that is doing well. Take a look underneath the post where you find a row of reaction faces and some names along with “and 10 others.” Click on that list of names. You will see a pop-up page with a list titled “Invite to Like (name of page).”
  • Facebook inite menuClick on the “invite” button. From that pop-up page, click each person you wish to invite to your page. I’ve tested it, as have others, and we found the invite came from the page rather than from you individually. There was some feedback from another social media manager about a situation where the page invitation was presented as invited by a friend; but perhaps she wasn’t following this exact procedure.
  • Be aware of daily limits. Facebook has limits as to how many page invites you can send in a day. I’ve sent out up to 75 a day, divided among two pages, with no problem. Others said they hit a warning around 100 invites sent. Don’t panic if Facebook says you hit a limit for the day. Just come back another day. And here’s why:
  • You can send invites from older content. The invites you send don’t have to originate with posts that were sent today or recently. They can be from an older video, photo or status post. Get into the Facebook Insights section of your page and find where it lists “your most recent posts.” Now click the link that says “see all posts.” You’ll generally see about three months’ worth of posts. Click on one of your popular posts, find the reaction faces and get that pop up window to appear. Tip: you can find video and photo content from farther back than three months by looking under those tabs instead of under the post tab.
  • Watch to see what happens. New page likes will result fairly within a day or two from invites you sent out. Some potential contacts will wait to see what other content you post before deciding, or maybe they aren’t on Facebook very often. It will probably be a week or two before the impact of a batch of invites levels off.
  • Impress your boss or client. Track the numbers of new likes from week to week, and show your boss or client the results with your new strategy. You can say “I’m doing some work behind the scenes” if they ask how you got the numbers to go up so noticeably; or you can sit down at a computer and show them this strategy in five minutes. That is entirely up to you.
  • When NOT to send invites. Do not waste this feature on bad content or strategy. If the Facebook page has stalled out for reasons that include having an admin on vacation or the posting timing is off for your audience, that is not a time to send page invites. If the cover photo is dated, the business address is wrong, the “call to action” button sends people to a dead link, or you want to pursue getting a verified check, resolve all those details first. You need to give the new contacts a reason to like your page and stick around.

I have a lot of social media tips – including an entire section on Facebook – collected and posted on my Pinterest account.

This post was written October 2016 and updated in June 2017.