By ALISON AGUDO
Facebook recently launched a Journalists on Facebook page in an effort to increase the professional presence of journalists on the social media site.
Perhaps a result of Facebook competitor Twitter’s success in connecting people professionally, Facebook is hoping that instead of seeing it as increasing workload to maintain yet another professional platform, journalists will see the journalist’s page as a productive and efficient way to make their job easier. With more than half a billion users, it’s clear that Facebook has an audience if you know how to reach them.
According to CNN’s Tech page, Facebook has hired Vadim Lavrusik, one of Mashable’s community managers who also teaches social media for journalists at Columbia University, for the position of journalist program manager for the new page. His new job will include responsibilities such as building relationships with reporters and news outlets, organizing journalism-related events (the first one will take place in Palo Alto in April 2011), advocating for the use of Facebook as a “reporting and promotional tool” and maintaining the Journalists on Facebook page.
Facebook also wants to increase its overall newsgathering role by actively finding ways to increase actual news on users News Feed.
Through his previous job at Mashable, Lavrusik often encouraged readers to use Facebook as a sort of digital White Pages by seeing the social media site as a way for reporters to get in contact with sources. As a journalist, I have used Facebook numerous times to find people and, because so many people have a Facebook account, it actually ends up being a very useful resource on more occasions than not.
Despite users increasing their privacy settings, Facebook still allows you to send a message to a user even if they have completely locked their page, so as a reporter you still have the option to contact someone without friending them.
Interestingly, CNN points out that last fall Facebook attempted to acquire Twitter for $2 billion, but was turned down. Perhaps the launching of the Journalists on Facebook page is a direct result of their inability to acquire the current leader in professional social networking. If you can’t beat them, join them.
The increasing attention to social media networks for professional purposes is an interesting turn for journalists. No longer do you need to hide that you’re on Facebook or Twitter in the office – in fact, often its encouraged. The effectiveness of connecting reporters and sources and media organizations through social media is undeniable, so it was probably only a matter of time before Facebook caught on. In true Facebook-fashion, it’s likely that the company’s steps to improving its professional platform will change drastically over time, improving with suggestions from users and feedback from organizations.
While I have been on Facebook for years, I fought getting a Twitter account because I didn’t understand the potential. Now that I’m on it and use it as much, if not more than Facebook, I can attest to the fact that in this profession, it’s just a part of life. I’ve had job interviews that included questions like “What’s your Twitter handler? How many followers do you have? How often do you tweet?” There’s no way around it, and it seems Facebook has come to that same conclusion. The only thing to do now is to encourage journalists to utilize these resources to their advantage – don’t be left behind because it’s not going away.