How Journalists can build informed communities on Facebook

The XII edition of International Journalism Festival 2018 has begun this Wednesday in Perugia, Italy. The Italian Facebook Head of Media partnerships, Livia Lacolare, highlighted the importance of values on Facebook. “Friends and family are among our first priorities “.

The session covered a variety of topics, beginning from a general analysis on how to engage communities through Facebook, and hence applying it to the current International Journalism Festival occurring in Perugia.

Livia Lacolare stated that the purpose of Facebook’s newsfeed is to inform its users on a large scale. Yet, besides informing, Facebook’s newsfeed also aims to cover the entertainment sector as it happens to be a general and shared interest if the users.

Facebook is not only for individuals, governments or organization, Facebook for all people across the globe, so they can enjoy their freedom and free to post and share their ideas equally on Facebook platform. The platform is defined by a vast spectrum of users, that vary from individuals, to governments to organizations. Facebook is for all the people across the globe, and it aims to grant everyone the freedom of sharing and posting ideas.

The Head of media continued by stressing the importance that the company gives to genuine and authentic communication among its users, yet tailoring the newsfeed according to the users’ preferences. The Social network sifts information with the mere objective of avoiding topics that may result uninteresting or annoying to the user. The more specified and relatable is the information that the user receives, the higher will be the quality of the time spent on the web.

At the end of the talk, Miss Lacolare candidly conceded a series of recommendations on how to engage the audiences on Facebook pages and groups. She began by highlighting the importance of moderators and admins, and the relevance of their interactions with the public. Their role is also defined by seeking for meaningful interactions. This can be done by tackling relevant topics and by engaging the audience through live sessions.  Facebook conceals an exceptional community engagement feature that may turn extremely fruitful if appropriately used by the admins. A final recommendation by the Italian Facebook Head of Media was: “do not engage in baits” (alternative: beware of baits). These may come in different form and nature, such as: vote baiting, react baiting, share baiting, tag baiting, share baiting, comment baiting and so on. (very extenuating list)

Closing the parenthesis on group administration, miss Lacolare engaged a discussion on the importance of live videos, as they foster 6 times more interactions and 10 times more comments than regular videos. From there, she expanded upon a series of useful tips before going live.

Firstly, it may be useful to apprise in advance, the followers about the broadcasting time. Catchy descriptions are a surplus. Secondly, it is a matter of practical importance to ascertain the presence of a strong connection, and to make sure people can see you and hear you . Where possible, interactions with the audience during live sessions are of utmost importance. Otherwise, you can always respond after the live session. Remember to give people time to join you. Interact with viewers, manage the conversation with pinned comments. And perhaps, invite your friends to go live with you, and ask other pages to share the video. Once the live session id over, it is essential to remember to save the video so that it can be viewed and shared afterwards. Perhaps, update the description so that it may be more understandable for the latecomers and ultimately remember to review your live content strategy and to always show your face.

Next to Livia Lacolare’s discussion, it was the turn of Sarah Brown, Facebook’s EMEA Training and News Literacy Manager, who expanded on the importance of building informed communities through Facebook groups. The talk began by describing the composition of a Facebook group and the logistics behind it.

Hence, facts and figures regarding Facebook groups where presented.  One billion people use Facebook groups monthly. As the previous speaker, Sarah Brown also treated the audience with a series of  tips on how to create a successful and engaging community group. As in real life, manners appear to be essential. Brow stressed the importance of welcoming and thanking people for joining. As an admin, it is also important to elaborate an accurate description of the group. Asking questions may a be a good way to foster engagement among the audience. Yet, this can also be done by asking for suggestion in the group, and encouraging journalists (external experts?) to interact with the group itself.

A last point that was stressed was the importance of security as the group members increase. This may be improved by appointing community-rules, turning on membership approval, involving moderators or turning off the comment section wherever arguments appear to be too heated. Brow exemplified such scenarios by mentioning case studies such as news groups, traffic information groups, story-telling groups from all around the world. Some more concrete examples were resources such as and FT Books café. She also discussed few case studies regarding the traffic information group, newspapers groups to collect stories from different part of the world and Facebook group of the US talking about Obamacare. She presented few examples and resources like (building community and civil discourse) and FT Books café. She also suggested tips for group as group admins to use all features to make your group more colourful and attractive.

Muhammad Ittefaq