facebookBy Natasha Tynes

How can journalists tap into the power of Facebook to crowdsource reporting and interact with readers? The average users spend an estimated “25 minutes daily on Facebook,” according to Vadim Lavrusik, Journalist Program Manager at Facebook. How can news organizations and journalists raise user engagement?

IJNet attended a recent Facebook Journalism Meetup held at the American University in Washington, DC to answer these questions. The meetup featured a presentation on “Facebook and Social Journalism” by Larvrusik and a panel discussion with Ian Shapira from the Washington Post, Mandy Jenkins from the Huffington Post, Bryan Monroe from CNN and Laura Amico from Homicide Watch.

Here are our top six takeaways.

1. Open a personal page on Facebook. Separate your personal life from your sources. A good example of how journalists use Facebook pages to interact with readers is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Click here to open your personal Facebook page.

2. Don’t forget to use the Search option on Facebook. You can see what people are talking about in real time with public status updates.

3. Use the direct message feature. Don’t be afraid to direct message people you don’t know who might be a source for the story you are working on. People might respond to you and not to other journalists simply because you connected to them on a personal level using a platform they are very familiar with: Facebook. Laura Amico from Homicide Watch said that some of the victims’ families that she connects with prefer to talk with her via Facebook Chat instead of over the phone.

4. Avoid automated feeds and update your Facebook page manually. According to Lavrusik, “automated feeds get two to three times less engagement than manual feeds.”

5. Use the newly launched Facebook Questions for higher audience engagement. A good example is how NBC’s Dateline asked their fans on Facebook last month to vote on the episode that they wanted to watch. Keith Morrison’s “The Haunting” earned the most votes and aired that week. Click here for more information on Facebook Questions.

6. It’s all about apps. Facebook provides a number of free useful apps including the Live Stream box, the Contact US form, Facebook Insights, among others.

Facebook recently announced plans to reach out to journalists by providing them with training on how to better interact with their audience via Facebook. The page Facebook+ Journalists, run by Facebook employees, serves as a community for journalists on Facebook and provides useful resources.

This post originally appeared on the International Journalists Network.