Drinking from the Facebook learning fountain

Curt Yeomans

Curt Yeomans

Did you know a “breaking news” posting on Facebook gets 15 percent more attention than an ordinary news-related posting?

Did you also know interactions with a Facebook post go up 20 percent when a journalist provides analysis — not opinion — in the posting?

These are some of the nuggets of information I gleaned at this past weekend’s Excellence in Journalism conference co-hosted in Anaheim, Calif., by the Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

More than 1,600 journalists gathered at the Anaheim Marriott from Saturday until Monday to go all geeky about our profession. And it wasn’t just to get free bowling socks from CNN, although that was certainly a popular perk.

Thank you, CNN, for the socks, by the way.

I tend to think, regardless of what others may say, that the Society of Professional Journalists has the best professional development offerings around for newspaper reporters. They are second to none.

This is the second one of their conferences that I’ve attended, and both were great. This year’s was by far better than the 2008 SPJ conference held in Atlanta, though.

It’s incredibly refreshing to be surrounded by people who are freakishly excited — obsessed even — about the work we do.

One of the most insightful speakers I got to hear from was Vadim Lavrusik, the journalism program manager for Facebook. His presentation was fascinating. He went over some of the new stuff Facebook was rolling out, and how journalists could better use it.

Did you know most non-journalists who follow journalists on Facebook do so more to get to know them better as people than to get the latest news updates? Well, that might actually be a redundant question if you’re a non-journalist who follows a journalist on Facebook because you probably already knew that.


He also gave out some tips on how journalists could improve interactions with their readers, such as using hashtags in posts, having Facebook question and answer sessions with followers and asking for their feedback.

If you noticed earlier this week that I solicited feedback from Clayton News Daily Facebook followers on what we should use as a common hashtag, you can thank Vadim for that. He inadvertently put the idea in my head to engage readers that way.

I tend to agree with the idea of engaging readers about such things. It gives you guys a little sense of ownership in how we use our Facebook page. Clayton News Daily readers can look at our posts and know the #ClaytonNews hashtag was born from their own ideas.

And yes, that hashtag will be used in every post. Hashtags have an important role to play for us. Facebook followers can use them to follow specific content. That’s why Facebook added them.

And all of the Twitter users are standing up right now and yelling out “We did hashtags first!” Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Trending topics lists are expected to come soon on Facebook.

Lavrusik’s presentation also shook me free from some conventions about posting that I’d heard before. One was that posts should be spread out and not done in quick succession because readers don’t like being inundated with a lot of posts at the same time.

That’s not true, said Lavrusik. Readers don’t care how quickly you send out posts. There are 2,200 posts created each day on Facebook, he said.

That’s a lot of people posting about the world. Perhaps that’s why the mini feed is being rolled out to allow users to get live news feed updates from sources they choose.

I think I learned more about Facebook in one hour with Lavrusik than I ever thought I’d learn in a lifetime. Thank you, SPJ, for offering this class at the conference.

I just can’t wait for SPJ and RTNA’s Excellence in Journalism 2014 to arrive. It will be held in Nashville, which will mean I won’t have to fly on a plane to get there.

Opryland, get ready for the coming of the journogeeks.