October 25, 2012
Today, The Pilot hit a bit of a milestone. At some point in the night, we broke through the 2,500 mark for fans on our Facebook page.
Now granted, that's a small number compared to, say, Mitt Romney's 10 million fans on his Facebook page or the more than 300,000 who "liked" the Binders Full of Women Facebook page after the second debate.
Our number is significant in a couple of ways that are worth talking about. We started this year right around 1,500 fans. Since then, we've been working hard to improve the way we engage and connect with folks on Facebook, especially Moore County residents.
We're not just offering links to stories that are on our website or in the paper, which was our prior strategy and typical of many community papers as a way of driving traffic. We still do that, but it's just a small part. Rather, we've grown to use Facebook more as a two-way real-time communication tool.
For instance, yesterday, we received notice from the Southern Pines Police Department that there was a five-car accident at U.S. 15-501 and Morganton Road. We ourselves could hear the fire trucks tearing out of the station. We posted this alert on Facebook and dispatched a reporter to the scene. There, he called in updates, which allowed us here to update the Facebook feed to let you know the basics and how traffic was flowing through the high-volume intersection.
We also use Facebook to break news. Earlier this summer, when a man was arrested in connection with the murder of a popular Southern Pines resident, Lance Bullock, we broke that news on Facebook and updated it all afternoon. It was one of the widest read items we've ever posted. Most recently, during last week's funeral service for Army Staff Sgt. and Aberdeen resident Justin Marquez, we used the Facebook feed to post photos of his return to Moore County and his service, for all those who wanted to but couldn't be there.
We use Facebook to distribute your news, such as local high school bands winning honors at competitions, or photos of a surprise fox sunning herself on a Pinehurst sidewalk.
And we also use Facebook to have fun, to let you know of silly things going on, or issues currently being talked about. We even let you know what's going on inside the office here, because as a community newspaper we get a lot of interesting visitors and odd things that occasionally happen.
Facebook will never replace The Pilot, either its newspaper or website. Some newspapers have tried that and found nothing but failure. For us, Facebook is a supplement, yet another way to reach you. The average Facebook user spends seven hours a month on the site, according to several studies. Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money was, newspapers are finding they need to deliver news to where the people are. Facebook is that kind of place.
We're happy to hit 2,500 Facebook fans. When we met as a newsroom back in July to set some goals, we set 2,500 as our year-end goal, thinking even then it might be a bit audacious. At the time, we were around 1,800 fans.
But we're not stopping. Really, we're still early in to this process. We've got a lot of power in this amplifier of ours, and this one goes to 11.