The following are answers to a question posed by Greg Manset (via Facebook, naturally):How can journalists use Facebook?
- As a great way to find contacts. For example: say you cover the health industry and you add 20 of your contacts to Facebook – by looking at their friends you may be able to find other contacts you wouldn’t otherwise have met. Now, you obviously have to be careful you don’t add whistleblowers or anonymous sources and risk their anonymity, but for most day to day work this can be really useful. I should add that LinkedIn and Twitter can be used in the same way.
- Secondly, Facebook is a great source of special interest groups, however obscure. Whereas previously as journalists we may have looked for large ‘official’ organisations to comment on a story, now we can get a further perspective from those who are mobilising using social networking platforms. The HSBC student loans story is a great example of this. This is particularly important as stories are increasingly pushed by people outside of traditional pressure groups.
- A third way to use Facebook is as a news source itself via the feed of your friends’ status updates. This can be more miss than hit, but there’s always the chance someone will mention something they’re doing which is newsworthy, or post newsworthy images. Either way, even if they never do, it will improve your relationship with contacts if you show you’re interested in their life!
- Finally, setting up your own group(s) on Facebook can provide a useful organisational and distribution tool for stories. The OJB Facebook Group, for example, is often one of the first places I look for when seeking help on a story (e.g. if I need someone to translate from another language, or give a non-UK perspective on an issue). It’s also a community that can feed into the news agenda of the site, suggest ideas, leads and treatments. As journalists become increasingly stretched, being able to tap into support networks like these is becoming increasingly important.
PS: For a great blog post on Facebook vs LinkedIn for journalists see http://slewfootsnoop.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/fight-fight-fight-linkedin-vs-facebook/