Journalists’ ability to use Facebook to write better sourced stories is improving, with new enhanced search capabilities. Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Associate Manager for Policy and a 2003 UW-Madison grad, reported that Facebook has a new search feature, as she spoke to SPJ’s Facebook for Journalists meeting on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.
“It just launched today,” she said, describing the new service, Graph Search. “As a journalist, this could be really exciting.”
Graph Search allows more personalized searches for information that has been shared by the searcher’s social connections. It’s still in beta, and is a work in progress. Go to https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch for more information, and to sign up for the waiting list for the service.
Use of Facebook by journalists continues to grow. “During the presidential campaign we saw journalists for the first time posting behind-the-scenes photos from the campaign trail on Facebook,” Harbath said. As politicians and other public figures start to post statements on Facebook and Twitter, journalists are now quoting those statements instead of press releases.
More and more Facebook users are getting their news via reports “liked” by their friends, increasing online media consumption virally. Facebook likes the increased usage and so do the media outlets. “It’s a win/win for everyone involved,” Harbath said.
Facebook groups can be a particularly handy tool for reporters. Harbath said that a journalist covering a beat can find groups to join that creates easy connections to others involved with the same topic. Or they can create an interest list on any topic that they’re interested in. “We use groups a lot at Facebook internally, to give updates to each other.”
Two of the top ways to successfully use Facebook are: 1) Keep the tone conversational and 2) encourage a response. Harbath noted that some journalists, such as Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, post about where they are traveling and solicit story suggestions.
Any media with over 5,000 fans can also target their posts by age, gender, interests, location, and other factors. National Public Radio has seen a stronger engagement with its stories when it uses geo-focusing. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns also used targeting. “You may have seen stuff in Wisconsin that no one else was seeing,” she said.