People enjoy using Facebook to share and connect with friends, family, and their favorite brands. More recently, however, we’ve seen a spike in the number of people turning to the social network to stay current on the latest news. According to a new study from Pew Research, out of the 64 percent of American adults who use Facebook, 30 percent use it to keep up with news. Although this is a relatively small portion of the population, it’s enough to have forced news organizations to adopt a more tech savvy approach in terms of marketing.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen local TV news stations use social media to extend their coverage and conversation with viewers. The tradition of establishing an emotional connection with viewers has been adapted for the second screen, whether that be online or on mobile. Facebook Pages, in particular, are a great way for news organizations to share stories, connect with viewers, and create an ongoing dialog around current events.

Thanks to upgraded features, like Timeline and public embeds, your Facebook Page can also help you distribute content and inform existing fans while reaching new audiences. And through new tools released by Facebook — such as trending topics or the Public API feed — both national and local news has found it easier to leverage the real-time conversations happening on the social network.

As more news stations turn their attention to Facebook for breaking stories, here are a few best practices to consider when crafting your social strategy.

Share Breaking News

This seems like an obvious tip, but it bears repeating. People turn to social media for current events because they want to be informed about news as it happens. When a story breaks, use “breaking” or “breaking news” in your post. According to Facebook, stories that are identified as breaking news received 57 percent higher engagement. Obviously don’t cry wolf by labeling every news story as breaking.

More important than just identifying breaking news is the content that follows. Be sure to keep your Facebook fans updated as the news story develops. You can use this API to force a rescrape of your stories, ensuring that they look great in News Feed as well. When news organizations posted multiple updates in quick succession during a news event, they saw a 10 percent increase in engagement.

Turn on Follow

In addition to your news team’s primary Facebook Page, you might have a news anchor or two whose personal profiles have become popular destinations for viewers to interact and get updated on aired stories. In this case, we recommend encouraging those individuals to turn on Facebook’s Follow feature. This way anyone who’s more comfortable using their current profile can enable readers to keep up with public updates without having to add them as a friend.

Take WGN’s Nancy Loo for example. Although she’s part of a bigger news team, Nancy has also established herself across social media platforms. She provides followers with breaking story details and candid experiences inside her life as a journalist. Her February Facebook post in which her camera man got plowed in received 150 Likes, 27 shares, and almost 20 comments. This is a great way to build awareness while showing off the lighter side of local news.

The Follow functionality can be turned on in Settings. Just click “Followers” in the left column and next to “Who Can Follow Me?” choose “Everybody.” You’ll also want to make sure that your profile is findable on and off Facebook by enabling public search in your Follow settings.

Watch Your Tone

Facebook is people driven. Let your audience know there’s a person behind the posts by publishing them using a personal voice. You can encourage readers to become part of the conversation by including prompts and asking questions. To optimize this experience, make sure that you use the “reply” feature on comments to answer back. Posts that include responses from the news Page receive 14 percent more comments than posts that don’t.

Additionally, don’t just state a story’s headline and expect the post’s engagement to sky rocket. What specifically do viewers need to know about the story? Is there an important angle to be aware of? Include those details and provide some extra analysis to really draw in followers. Posts with analysis received +20 percent referral clicks, and five-line and four-line posts with analysis received +60 percent and +40 percent more engagement, respectively.

In addition to the best practices we highlighted above, you also want to be sure that you’re sharing stories visually with photos and videos. Other tips include rewarding your Facebook audience with exclusive content, targeting your posts based on interests and location, and use Page Insights to learn what content your followers care about the most. For more information on how news organizations can utilize Facebook’s tools, check out the Media on Facebook portal.

[Image credit: Ben Sutherland, Joel Olives, Pascal]