Stuck in Facebook page jail …


Hello, I’m Andy. I’m a journalist.

The job is pretty obvious: I talk to people. I listen. I observe. I find out what people are talking about and then I try to separate fact from fiction for a story.

That’s what the job was before social media. That’s what the job is since social media.

So why does Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 750 million members, encourage journalists to create pages that basically leave us on the outside looking in?

When I had a work-only profile, I befriended nearly 2,000 members of my community, glanced at their updates and photos, exchanged direct messages and even, in a couple of spontaneous midnight sessions, received tips during facebook chats. The experience built trust and helped me connect with many reliable sources.

When I made the knee-jerk decision to convert to a shiny and new journalist page earlier this year I quickly realized that a page gave me none of those options. I can’t reach out to anybody. I can’t message anybody. I can’t even tell them I’m there. I just write on my wall and wait for someone to visit. If I’m really lucky they’ll “Like” me or my posts. It’s Facebook page jail.

(To make matters worse, the conversion didn’t work properly, leaving me with some weird and dysfunctional profile-page hybrid that I had to scrap entirely and start over again. I learned the hard way that it’s very difficult to get your friends to follow you over to a page.)

I like and appreciate what the folks at Facebook + Journalists do but all of the helpful tips in the world aren’t going to overcome woeful infrastructure that seems completely arbitrary. Facebook needs to address these issues or someone else will.

Actually, someone else already has. Not only has Google+ surmounted the problem, they made it look easy. Using the circles, I can post new pictures of my children to just my relatives in Indiana and then turn around and post breaking news to everybody. No switching accounts. No special, inexplicable rules. I’m a member of the community, just like in real life.

I am keeping my Facebook page for now, mainly because my newspaper is focused on expanding our presence there. The page will allow me to share and promote more with my coworkers. But, so far, that’s really the only advantage (oh wait, I can also create polls, yay) over blowing up the page and starting a new profile.

I’m also holding out a little hope that Facebook will address the issues, but now that it’s busy catching up to Google+ on multiple other fronts, who knows …

Do you have a fan page? What are your thoughts?

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24 Responses to “Stuck in Facebook page jail …”

  1. Hi Andy, I hear ya’

    While I am not a journalist, I do manage a few Facebook pages for business client accounts and am continually frustrated that I can’t engage with individual people as a page – especially those that “like” a page.

    Defeats the purpose for me.

    I’m impressed so far with Google+ and see great potential to interact with others within a specific interest group. I love having everything in one spot – especially the Sparks area, where I can set alerts for Andy Paras and keep up with you =)

  2. Andy,
    This is exactly why I haven’t converted the C4W group page to a fan page on fb and don’t know if I ever will. I love the camaraderie and personal interaction that all the group members can have with us as well as with each other. Can’t do that with a fan page!

  3. 3 Marsha

    So Andy, can’t you go back to the old way you had the facebook page set up? If the Center for Women has interaction, why can’t you?

    • From what I remember when I converted, there is no going back. I’d have to start anew. Center for Women is a group. Amanda, would there be an advantage to me creating a group? Groups seem to have a lot more freedom. I know some groups have made me a part of their group without even having to ask my permission. It all seems so arbitrary.

      • The group page limitation that I don’t like is that you can’t link it to any other social media accounts so have to do posts separately – which is a pain and group members get a notification each time there’s a new post by an admin or group member. Individuals can change their notification settings, but most folks don’t know how to do that, so they get annoyed. Sounds like there’s no perfect solution. Interested in seeing how Google+ does, but don’t think it will outshine fb.

      • I like Google+ so far, but even if it’s biggest accomplishment is to get Facebook to stop being complacent I’ll accept that.

  4. Good points, Andy.
    I just set up my Facebook page this week and I’m already seeing the limitations. The people who are interested in my personal finance column might have no interest in my coverage of the Charleston port, people interested in ports coverage might have no interest in my stories about green energy, and so on. Sounds like Google+ circles would address that.
    Have you tried it? I thought Google+ wasn’t widely available yet.

  5. 9 Yvonne Wenger

    This is so true: “I’m a member of the community, just like in real life.”

    You’re so far ahead of so many journalist on the social media front. I am grateful for your blog so I can learn from you!


  6. Very good article Andy. I love social media because it enables me to get outside of my comfort zone and meet new people and hopefully interact with them online and during meetups. The only reason I have a FB account is because I love Texas Holdem and Scrabble. I also have met some very nice folks through FB and if I were to dump that account or deactivate it I probably would lose that connection. I love how simple G+ is and how easy it is to use. I also love that there are NO games, no ads and there are not a lot of advertisements and junk that you have to HIDE or ignore. As for invites, how do you get them? I would not recognize the ability to send an invite if it showed up, or would I? I think when Jared Smith added me the other night I received 28 invites that I promptly gave away.

  7. 14 Ron Barnett

    I didn’t know your journalist page was different, technically, from your personal page, Andy. Looks like I’ve got a lot to learn. Good blog!

  8. 15 Topaz

    So true. It’s one of the biggest limitations of a business page. Some of us like to interact and add friends on our business pages just like we would with our personal profiles. I guess some businesses would go crazy with trying to add people if they did that, ruining it for everyone else. I’ve heard of people using their personal profiles for their business and getting their accounts deleted. That is definitely not worth the risk. I will be curious how Google+ handles this. I’ve received two invites, but they said they are not adding more members right now.

  9. Google+ will be offering biz pages, or so I’ve read. I am hopeful they will address some of the shortcomings mentioned here. Great post Andy!

  10. 18 Cameron

    I have a fan page for Cottage Industrialist, which I had hoped would be more interactive, but it’s hard work to cultivate real community on Facebook, I think. Especially because FB has some whiny algorithm that deeds when and whether friend’s or liked pages’ posts show up in the feed. A page I sometimes interact with on Facebook is Run Like A Mother: The Book (that’s a mouthful), and they manage to have a very active following. I would probably participate more over there, except that, for unknown reasons, Facebook has stopped pushing their updates to my news feed. And you know, out of sight,out of mind.

    Re the tumblr v wordpress question you asked on G+, I think there are positives and negatives of both. I have used every major CMS out there, and I know that WordPress has a large, loyal following, but there is so much about it that is harder than necessary. If you need complete customization, I get it. But other systems are much easier. And given the topic of your first blog post, I think tumblr would have been a really interesting choice for you because of it’s community features. Yes, it can be used to quickly and easily post hipster meme photos, but I have used it for much longer form writing which has led, in turn (by virtue of the ease of tagging/following tumblrs) to my being able to engage with minimal effort with people whose interests are very aligned with mine ( / There are a number of journalists using it effectively to break stories, curate news, and build community interaction (shortformblog, as one example). Not that this won’t do exactly what you want, I just thought I’d be a lone voice defending tumblr against the charge of base hipsterism. Defense lawyer’s gotta defend, ya know?

    • Thanks, Cameron. My decision to go with wordpress didn’t have anything to do with tumblr. I do think wordpress is unnecessarily difficult at times but it’s meeting my needs.I hope to improve the look eventually, perhaps even add some photos :) … but right now I’m just trying to get out as many ideas as I can while they’re still fresh in my head.

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