I need to walk the walk

This is the time of the semester when I meet with my students one-on-one to assess their career goals and help them best develop their online portfolio to get them the job they want. I range from helping them build a website on a free tool to teaching them how to set up and manage a server – usually building a WordPress site but I have at least one student who wants to hand build a site using Dreamweaver. Each time I speak to a student, I remind them to document the work they are doing in our newsroom. The more they verbalize their work, the more interested a hiring manager will be when he or she sees this potential employee’s knowledge.

It’s a great idea, right? So why don’t I do that more often.

Obviously it’s because life is busy. But I should walk the walk if I’m going to talk the talk to my students.

Right now I’m helping launch a new content management system (CMS) for my newsroom. At the same time, we had one of the greatest engagement experiences with our audience during a major near-blizzard in our area. I blogged about the snow storm engagement on PBS’s MediaShift blog and I plan to write even more later in the week about that experience. But while I build the CMS, I’m thinking about where to go with our Facebook engagement. It’s really grown in the last month and I want to keep it going.

Now I’m pondering my next steps. There are two questions swimming in my head. Do we want to extend our brand into individual fan pages for our on air personalities? Do we want to start holding contests and other opportunities where our Facebook fans can win something if they click the “like” button?

Contests on Facebook
I talked to one of my favorite Facebook groups about my personal challenge when it comes to Facebook and offering winnings to people who like the page. I’ve seen newsrooms offer the chance for a free iPad and jump 14,000 fans. But I question how many of those fans will actually engage with the page. I realize a huge jump of 14,000 additional people would find at least a couple hundred of those fans engaging. But for some reason I love the organically grown community. You know, the kind that forms naturally because of similar interests and cares. The kind where you build a relationship that is founded on information and communication. I kind of see these prize drawings as a bribery. I’m saying bribery is bad, I just question that it’s the best option for a community’s foundation. In the last year, my newsroom’s Facebook page has grown from less than 500 to more than 5,600 fans. It’s a wonderful natural growth that really bloomed thanks to our snow storm coverage.

Personalities on Facebook
We have a couple of on air personalities who are already finding great interaction with our newsroom’s main Facebook page and their personal pages. I don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but I wonder if I’m missing anything at this point. We have a strong Facebook news page, but we also have one anchor who is getting even better engagement from viewers who are her Facebook friends. These are people who she friended as viewers instead of viewers who clicked “like” on a fan page. We’re working on security permissions so she feels comfortable asking questions en masse but also posting pictures of her family. I might continue my “organic” feel with this situation. Our hub of Facebook delivery will remain our current fan page while our on air personalities will be asked to use their personal pages with security or create a fan page if they don’t want to use their personal profile. I think as Facebook continues to change, I’ll continue to change how we reach out and connect with our viewers.

I also reached out on Facebook to ask many people who are working in newsrooms… It’s incredible to see the many different ways Facebook is managed (or not managed.) I’ll try to walk my walk and document our successes and failures more often.

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