143 new likes: How being consistent helped a hyperlocal news site to finally get Facebook

Posted: April 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Journalism, social media | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

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At the start of March, partly inspired by my boss David Higgerson’s post about doing Facebook right, I decided to get Blog Preston’s Facebook page into shape and see what would happen if I gave it the same amount of love and attention as our Twitter feed.

Blog Preston is the hyperlocal news site I set up in 2009 to cover community news, events and much more in the city of Preston, Lancashire.

Our Facebook page had always been ticking over (on around 550 fans), powered first by a combination of RSS feed from the blog and then through a “ah, crap, I really should post this story to Facebook” strategy.

Looking at our analytics, we still get more traffic from Twitter – where we have over 5,000 followers – but Facebook is rapidly growing in the referral stakes. So at the start of March I decided to see if I followed the simple steps below to see what kind of impact it would have on the number of people liking the page and most importantly engaging, commenting and liking our Facebook status updates:

– Pictures. I would try to post more pictures with updates rather than relying on Facebook to pick a picture from a post.

– Writing the status updates. Instead of just using a combination of the headline and first paragraph I’d inject a bit of character into the updates and write them for Facebook.

– Scheduling. I’d try to think about when our audience would be using Facebook, what type of stories they’d like and at what time they’d like them. Also, I’d try to avoid swamping updates. Previously I’d often post out three or four links in quick succession when having chance to update the page.

So what happened?

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You can clearly see the point when we got it right and suddenly our reach and interaction went up – but our post numbers stayed consistent.

So here’s a few highlights:

1. People love to talk about things which have opened/closed. Any post about new shops opening, new developments or the closing of shops/buildings were always doing well in terms of their likes, comments and shares.

Take this post about the closure of an independent store Orbit, the re-opening of a pub or a new block of student flats down one of Preston’s main shopping streets. I tended to post these types of stories with a strong image and ask a question along with it to try and provoke a response.

2. Introducing posts is always a good idea. Rather than posting a headline you write the status in a personal and conversational style, so looking at Facebook insights the posts with over 3% ‘virality’ i.e. people writing about, talking about or using your post as the basis for a conversation and sharing it, started like this:

“While Friargate might be bustling today for…”
“Bit of breaking Preston Bus Station news for you”
“Looks like Bernie Blackburn has been up to..”
“Brrrrrrrrr! It’s cold out there”
“Did you see this in St George’s Shopping centre?”

They tend to start off with a question, statement or something that gives the Blog Preston page some personality rather than just repeating what’s in the story.

3. Pictures, pictures, pictures. After the purchase of Instagram it’s obvious the direction Facebook is moving in and posting photos with an update are crucial to getting interaction, particularly likes, and a reaction from your fans. I started using the highlight function too as a way to really make use of some of the great photography we have from our co-editors and contributors.

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4. Break news. We’d always thought of Twitter as the place to break news but actually Facebook is a much better medium. The chances of someone having their news feed open in Facebook is higher than someone seeing something in their Twitter feed. We broke the news about the escaped prisoner Brian Lynch being on the run on our page and it went viral, and we followed up by posting at after 11pm about an offer for Preston Bus Station by a local businessman being rejected by the city council – it got far more traction on Facebook than Twitter because, I’m convinced, there are more people logged onto Facebook at that time.

5. As your reach grows, so does your ability to find stories. I started trying to use the page as more of a person, so liking and commenting as the Facebook page itself. We also have an inbox functionality so anyone can send a message to the Blog Preston page. We had one reader who sent us a message about how an independent store, opened in 1972, was closing down. We were able to get a photo and find out what had happened. It’s proved to be one of our most popular posts for March and also one of the most talked about stories we’ve posted on Facebook.

6. Scheduling. Pre-writing and scheduling status updates has been our biggest weapon on Facebook. It’s fairly recent for Facebook to let you schedule updates, but it allows us to pre-write them and space out our posts. The key thing is to be prepared to rip-up your scheduled posts if something breaks – otherwise you can end up looking like a prize idiot if your future status’ don’t make sense.

7. Overall fan numbers. We started out at 550(ish) likes at the start of March and we finished on 693. Considering the Facebook page has been running for about three and a half years, to put on 143 fans in 30 days is a good achievement and one I believe is down to our consistent posting, tone of updates and making it clear we’ll provide updates which enrich your timeline and not just clog it up with guff.

So what’s next for our Facebook page? I still feel we can improve the amount of liking, commenting and sharing of other fan pages on Faceook. I’d like to try and get the page up to 1,000 likes in the next three months but most importantly it’s about sticking at it and recognising that putting the story on Facebook needs thought put into it – not just bunging a link on.

Do you run a Facebook page? Do you have a hyperlocal site? I’d be interested to hear your techniques on Facebook fan pages…

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5 Comments on “143 new likes: How being consistent helped a hyperlocal news site to finally get Facebook”

  1. 1 Media, Community and the Creative Citizen said at 3:26 pm on April 8th, 2013:

    […] The results of this experiment – and the seven lessons Ed learned – are worth reading. [READ MORE] […]

  2. 2 #Tip: Try these tips to boost your hyperlocal Facebook page | Editors Blog | Journalism.co.uk said at 5:05 pm on May 1st, 2013:

    […] See how it worked for him and the detailed highlights of what made his month long campaign a success in this blog post. […]

  3. 3 Shelby's Auctions said at 9:34 pm on May 1st, 2013:

    I have a Facebook page but, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really tap the DFW market as much as I want. I’m going to use these tips to try and ramp up our reader engagement and “likes”. Thanks!

  4. 4 David Brazeal said at 5:37 pm on May 2nd, 2013:

    Great list, Ed. I especially like #2. I’ve found the same thing — if you introduce your post, rather than auto-posting or simply copying a link — engagement goes WAY up.

    The big advantage of my Facebook page is that it makes my hyperlocal site more personal. People who read my stuff feel like they’re interacting with a person instead of an institution (like “the newspaper”).

  5. 5 edwalker.net » Blog Archive » Notes and thoughts from #tal13: Keeping the hyperlocal mojo, hyperlocal social media usage and loving where you live said at 10:38 am on September 29th, 2013:

    […] Many of them similar to a post I wrote earlier this year about spending a month really focusing on growing Blog Preston’s Facebook page (just gone over 900 likes, […]


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