Q&A: Why Michigan Radio Lets 26 Staffers Post to Their Facebook Page

Apr 8, 2014

Succeeding on Facebook isn't an easy task. Your station posts are competing with every other post from every other page that your fan has liked, from baby pictures to other local news outlets.

To get a better idea of how one station does it, we asked Michigan Radio senior reporter/producer Mark Brush a few questions about how they have cultivated an active community on their Facebook page. Brush and News Director Vincent Duffy are the main managers for the Michigan Radio Facebook page.

This Q and A has been condensed and edited for length. 

Who runs Michigan Radio's Facebook page?

A post from November 2013 when Michigan Radio reached 20,000 likes
Even though we have "managers" for Michigan Radio's Facebook page, I would describe the overall management of the page as "flat." Staff members have latitude to post content, or to pose questions, that they find interesting. As a result, the responsibility for maintaining the page is shared. 

We have 26 staffers who can access and post to the page at any time. There's a spirit of collaboration on the page, rather than a structure of command and control, and this structure has worked to give the page a diverse voice. 

So I, or someone on my team, will promote our posts on the page; our news director and assistant news director will post breaking news updates; our web producer will post news stories in the evening; our program director and news director will wade into messages left directly on the page; we all watch wall posts; our marketing manager will post on upcoming events or humorous public radio finds; and our weekend hosts interact with the audience during their shifts.

How do you choose what and how to post?

We trust our staff to represent the station well and to engage with our audience online.
The content we post varies widely: We promote and publish our stories; we offer breaking news as text (without promoting a breaking news post); we post photos; we post content from others we find interesting; we ask questions that will both inform our reporting, and that just helps us start a conversation with people; and we'll post humorous status messages from time to time (often based on the-not-so-funny Michigan weather).

We trust our staff to represent the station well and to engage with our audience online. We also communicate with our staff about what works well on Facebook, and what doesn't work so well. We share success stories, and we share horror stories .

For the most part, this has worked really well. Sure, we occasionally fail (typos, double posting a story, someone starts a conversation and then leaves the building), but we typically learn from these mistakes and move on.

Any tips to share about what has worked and what hasn't worked for you?

The biggest thing that has worked for us is to trust in our team. As a group, we publish diverse content with a diverse set of voices that represent Michigan Radio well. That's something that might be hard for an individual to do. Managing and growing the page is easier with this sense of shared responsibility.

How about some examples: Why do you think these three stories did well on Facebook?

This came from our weekend host Rina Miller. Rina has a real wit on-air and she'll let it come through on our Facebook page as well. You'll also notice that it's not promotional in any way. It's just straight text. We've noticed in the past that straight text posts get a bigger initial reach than posts that are promoting something. 

We'll use straight text posts for breaking news as well. Our philosophy is that it's a public service, and we're meeting our audience where they are. We'll come back to the thread to add our news post into the conversation when necessary. We aren't there to promote in these situations, we're there to inform.

This is an example of something that our marketing director found that he thought our audience would appreciate. Again, the status message reveals some personality behind the post.

This is an example of post promotion. A good headline coupled with a clear status message. Someone reading this will have a clear understanding of what the story is about. Even if they don't follow the link, they've picked up a little information. Stories about wolves, and other "charismatic mega-fauna," do quite well with our audience.

How do you deal with Facebook's constantly changing algorithms?

We don't think about those algorithms too much. We did notice a drop off a few months back, but we didn't change our approach. If we have a down week, that's o.k. We stick with what works. I think the variety of items we post - promoting our stories, asking questions, posting photos, sharing interesting tidbits, and posting breaking news - insulates us a bit from the changing algorithms. The amount of interaction we have with our Facebook community also helps. The Facebook community knows there are real people working on this page, and that we're not just there to promote our material.

Follow Michigan Radio's friendly staff posts on Facebook. Michigan Radio is also part of the Local Stories Project. Read more about that project.