Saturday, July 27, 2019

Facebook Pages for local news

How to use Facebook Pages to create a local news source for your community 

By Aaron S. Robertson, Publisher

First, a little background on where I'm going with this

Looking for your next big Facebook page idea? This might be one for you to consider: setting up your own community news and events page.  Here's my story.

I live in Muskego, Wisconsin, a suburban community in the metro-Milwaukee area. A couple years ago or so, I launched a Web site called DiscoverMuskego.com. See, I have a background in freelance journalism, writing, online marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO), and I had written for a couple of very local (to Muskego) news outlets a number of years ago that either faded into extinction or are barely holding on in name only today. As a result, one of the biggest complaints around Muskego for some time was that there were really no longer any viable, consistent, centralized, local news and happenings sources that residents and businesses could turn to. I sought to address that problem.

So I teamed up with a company that licenses a software program providing the purchaser with a prebuilt, ready-to-go, easy-to-use, somewhat customizable city guide template. The program came complete with a classified ads section, discussion forums, local business directory, real estate listings section, advertising spaces to sell banner ads, etc., etc. And that's how DiscoverMuskego.com was born. I also created a corresponding Facebook page to go along with the main Web site. But after a while, I realized that the site wasn't catching on as much as I thought it would, and a few people around town told me that the software template looked like it came from the Myspace era - in other words, it looked ancient! Meanwhile, I had to pay a monthly fee for the software program and the company's customer support, and I wasn't selling enough ads on it to justify the costs, so I eventually decided to scrap it.

Long story short, I developed a plan to rebuild and retool my idea, and today I have MuskegoWisconsin.com. I launched this version of my idea just a few short months ago. The Web site is in the format of a blog utilizing Google's Blogger platform (just like this Web site). The cost? Only $12 per year for the custom domain name (the Web site address)! The Blogger platform itself is free to use. I have a corresponding Facebook page by the same name, MuskegoWisconsin.com. And after spending less than $200 in the last month or so on Facebook ads to boost the number of likes and follows for my Facebook page, I now have over 1,000 fans and growing!

In addition to the Facebook page itself, I also currently have three Facebook groups linked to the page, which I carried over from the DiscoverMuskego.com days. They're called: "Muskego and surrounding areas - buy, sell, and trade SERVICES", "Muskego Wedding Resale and Discussion", and, "Muskego Fun Events and Happenings". Both the Facebook page and me through my own personal profile, are administrators of these groups.

And that's my story here in a nutshell. Now, let's get into more detail on how the heck this idea may apply to you and where I'm going with this...

Now, more details on the idea itself

If you live in a smaller city, town, or suburb with not much of a viable, consistent, centralized, local news and happenings source that people can turn to, this may be a great opportunity for you to capitalize on. All you really need are some decent writing skills, some patience, and the art of schmoozing - the ability to network, get to know people, and build relationships. It helps if you're already involved in your community. That's really it. From there, build a simple Web site (again, I like to use Blogger, which is entirely free, aside from $12 per year for a custom domain through Google Domains) and a Facebook page to go along with it.

Eventually, I would really love to begin producing my own original content for MuskegoWisconsin.com - human interest stories, profiles of notable people around town, highlighting businesses, you name it - but I'm only one person at the moment. Time constraints and other work commitments keep me from firing on all cylinders when it comes to this project. But in the meantime, I'm doing a lot of sharing of posts from other Muskego -area Facebook pages. I'm sharing news, events, and information from Muskego's library, police department, fire department, school district, senior taxi service, chamber of commerce, bars and restaurants, and other businesses and service organizations around town. If relevant, I'm sharing posts from other news organizations and happenings and events taking place around the broader metro-Milwaukee area. And so far, all of this sharing is fueling a lot of engagement from my Facebook page's 1,000+ fans. I'm getting a lot of emoji reactions, comments, and post resharing. It's been truly awesome and inspiring to see all of this activity. I can't wait to see the level of activity when I'm able to introduce more original content and features into the mix!

So there you have it. You can use Facebook Pages to create a viable news source for your community. It's fun, it's exciting, and it provides a valuable service to the community. Generate enough buzz and fans / followers, and you can then begin to start thinking of ways to monetize the operation through selling sponsorships and advertising.

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