Facebook as Major News Source: You Stand to Benefit

Social media about cocktail conversation not content? Really?

Do you know that Facebook recently became the fourth largest source of traffic for News and Media sites, after Google, Yahoo!, and msn? (Source: Facebook Largest News Reader? Hitwise Intelligence.)

Interesting numbers in that report, well worth a read – and I agree entirely with analyst Heather Hopkins: “Facebook could be a major disruptor to the News and Media category.”

 Much of what is being written about Facebook as a trusted news source in people’s lives resonates with what we’ve thought (and said) for quite some time about the platform’s 400-million-strong-and growing, engaged readers. (Not particularly smart of us, you’d have to be blind to miss Facebook’s traffic-driving power in this regard. People see, read, and share links all day, every day, on Facebook. And that’s a lot of people.)

Here’s what Steve Rubel, noted writer and digital media analyst (with the enviable job title of Director of Insights) had to say in his recent post, Facebook Could Eat the Web (italics are mine):

In addition to using Facebook to check in on what my family, friends
and colleagues are up to, I have been using it as a newsreader for
months
… This is something that the company suggested everyone do here. Although
I suspect that most users haven’t taken the steps to create a
dedicated news list as Facebook suggests, there’s no doubt that the
social network is becoming a critical source of information
.

This is not limited to Facebook, although the numbers do show the platform leading the way. From Ken Doctor at the Niemen Journalism Lab, The Newsonomics of social media optimization:

A recent study I did with Outsell said that 44 percent of news readers say they use social networks to share news and information. Of those, half use Facebook to do it; one in five use Twitter.

…Clearly, there’s something big going on here. In my book, I characterized it as Law #1:
“In the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor. The old
gatekeepers are disappearing. We’ve become our own and one another’s
editors.”

Great. Facebook and Twitter deliver a lot of readers. Terrific. I’m a busy lawyer, what does this mean to me?

A lot, actually. Especially if you are one of those lawyers who’ve come to see the value of showcasing professional expertise by producing and dispersing legal content (ie, putting online your own articles, blog posts, alerts, commentary, favorable decisions, briefs, etc.). You are, afterall, a member of the new media – with your particular legal expertise and your ability to show it in your writing.

Remember those days not too long ago when you figured out that email was actually a valuable communications tool? And then – stroke of brilliance! – you realized that if you collected the email addresses of clients, colleagues, and prospects to send regular news and analysis, that would be a terrific way to stay in touch (and market your service)?

And remember when you learned that every “subscriber” to your blog’s RSS stream was in some way not unlike every subscriber to your email newsletter? (Both opted in to hear from you – both vetted you as a source of good information. Both said, yes: tell me what you know.)

When we talk about the content sharing strengths of Facebook, we are, among other things, talking about this. Only, now it is on steroids.

As I have said many times before, I am a big fan of Facebook business pages because they’re the latest and greatest to allow meaningful engagement between readers and producers of content. (Mashable.com was quick to note this after last year’s page changes.)
 
Calling a reader in Facebook a “fan” doesn’t seem to sit well with some professionals – and yet these same people are growing more comfortable with words like “tweet” and Twitter and Flickr and … other cute Web names some of which end in an exclamation point.

Fact is, on Facebook pages, our fans are also our readers, should we choose to think of them that way.

Anyone who becomes a fan of a Facebook page that promises to deliver regular, substantive, tasteful, informed, expert content is opting in (think email signups, RSS subscriptions) to hear from us.

And then there is the engagement. With email newsletters, engagement was limited: delete it, reply to it, forward it. (Think back to the days of the giant email forward – usually something funny, shared between friends.) Otherwise, who knows which emails we like, which ones move and inform us?

With blogs came a big leap forward in terms of engagement: you could write comments (you could begin conversations) and you could (with a click of a button or the cut and paste of a link) share the post with friend and colleagues. 

Facebook’s engagement is exciting because, in many ways, it brings a new level of viral transparency. When I “like” a shared link (video, news story, legal article) in Facebook, everyone connected to me sees that. I don’t need to forward it; I don’t need to click any additional buttons. I just “like” it and people see it.

If I want to, I can also “share” that piece of content by mailing to friends, or posting it onto my own profile. Similarly, when I comment on something on Facebook, all of my connections are also made aware of it – and so begins the easy, viral process of drawing in new people to new content. (“If Adrian likes it, I’ll check that out, too…” – click.)

Random sample: here is a snapshot taken from my Facebook stream at time of writing. I’m already a fan of Justia’s Facebook page – but if I wasn’t, that piece of news (showing my friends connecting to it) would draw me in:

Screen shot 2010-02-11 at 2.17.21 PM.png

Activity on Facebook leads to increased exposure. Take advantage of it. Give people something to talk about.

We’ve seen the power of information sharing on Facebook both in our analytics and in the anecdotal evidence filtering back to us. Most recently, for just one example, we featured a new JD Supra article on one of our subject-specific legal news pages (Immigration Law) and within half an hour the attorney who’d written the piece was contacted by a reader (who’d read it on Facebook) who was looking for help with an immigration issue.  

So, what to do? A handful of suggestions:

  1. Set up a Facebook page and regularly program it with useful content that showcases your expertise (including content from your blog, if you have one).
  2. Post your work on JD Supra, because we’ll also do this for you, via our subect-specific news channels/pages.
  3. Install the JD Supra Legal Publishing application on your page and profile (of course I’m going to say this! We created the app and the above pages to leverage the viral quality of the Facebook platform).
  4. Encourage your contacts, clients, and readers to connect with you on Facebook via a professional firm page.
  5. Use social media to make new friends and to converse. But also use it to deliver content that breaks the ice on your behalf and creates new friends, new contacts (new clients!) you otherwise might never have met. While you’re busy at work being a lawyer, no less.