Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Industry Insight - PENNY RIORDAN Di­rec­tor of Dig­i­tal Con­tent Part­ner­ships

Chances are if you spend a lot of time on Face­book, you’re part of a group of some sort, whether it’s for a neigh­bor­hood, an in­ter­est or another topic.

Face­book has re­cently re­newed its fo­cus on groups, by ad­ding more features and data for ad­mins. It also just held a com­mu­nity sum­mit for the first time.

With more than 1 bil­lion Face­book users who are mem­bers of groups and more than 100 mil­lion users par­tic­i­pat­ing in ac­tive groups, it’s clear this fea­ture will be part of the so­cial me­dia tool for the long term.

Jour­nal­ists have started us­ing the tool too to con­nect with read­ers in dif­fer­ent ways. In Jan­uary, Nie­man Lab re­ported on the Bos­ton Globe sub­scriber Face­book groups, which was launched to en­gage with those read­ers on a more per­sonal level. Read­ers com­ment in the group about changes to the print and on­line ver­sion of the Globe, as well as re­spond to each other.

At GateHouse, sev­eral news­rooms have launched groups, in­clud­ing theJour­nal Star in Peo­ria, Illi­nois, and The Ledger in Lake­land, Florida.

The Jour­nal Star read­ers Face­book group is a pri­vate group where ed­i­tors share im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion and read­ers can ask ques­tions.

The Ledger has also started two groups, one on ed­u­ca­tion and one on food, within its cov­er­age area. The newsroom’s staff share rel­e­vant ar­ti­cles, and read­ers also ask ques­tions of other mem­bers.

With all of the ef­fort put into post­ing ar­ti­cles to a main Face­book page, is it worth put­ting ad­di­tional ef­forts to­wards a small Face­book group?

If you want to find ways to en­gage and in­volve your most im­por­tant read­ers, the an­swer is yes.

Groups pro­vide a few ways to de­velop re­la­tion­ships with your read­ers that are dif­fer­ent than your main Face­book page:

1. They al­low read­ers to con­nect with each other in a more pri­vate, smaller set­ting.

2. They al­low read­ers to re­ceive up-to­date in­for­ma­tion on topic they are es­pe­cially pas­sion­ate about.

3. They al­low newsroom staff to get feed­back di­rectly from more loyal read­ers.

If you want to launch a group for your newsroom, make sure you set it up through your page ad­min, as you can link to it on your Face­book page. Be sure to have staff set up to mod­er­ate, but also use the plat­form not just to share links, but to ask ques­tions of read­ers, or share about story ideas that you have.

Once you get it up and run­ning, be sure to let read­ers know how to join, and don’t be afraid if dis­cus­sion takes a lit­tle bit to get go­ing. Your read­ers will ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ent way to con­nect with your staff and your con­tent.

Penny Riordan man­ages dig­i­tal con­tent part­ner­ships for GateHouse Me­dia. She works out of the Cen­ter for News and De­sign in Austin. Prior to join­ing the com­pany, she worked at Patch. com, where she led so­cial me­dia, blog­ging and UGC ef­forts for the com­pany. She also launched a Patch site in Mary­land. Penny has also worked as a re­porter and ed­i­tor at news­pa­pers in Mary­land and Con­necti­cut.

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