Every firework needs a light. For social media, Facebook was that spark.
However, before plunging into the application’s social sharing prowess, as well as its news reporting capacity, let’s first examine the history of the platform.
The history of Facebook
While Facebook wasn’t the first of its kind — the beginnings of the social media medium can date all the way back to 1994’s Geocities according to Dr. Anthony Curtis (2013) — the web application quickly took over as the biggest. Launched in 2004, the platform soared to become the most used social network worldwide with more than 200 million users by 2009 (Curtis, 2013).
The story of Facebook’s origins is well-documented. Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg began the social networking website back in 2004, though as stated by Nicholas Carlson, the fashion in which the then-Harvard sophomore accomplished this achievement came under scrutiny soon thereafter (2010). Several of his classmates claimed Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, though the assertion was put to rest in 2007 when the two sides settled out of court (Carlson, 2010).
With the ligation behind him, the 20-something entrepreneur then transformed Facebook into the Internet colossus it is today through a constant process of software modification and acquisitions asserts Rachel King (2014). From FriendFeed (Kincaid, 2009) to Instagram (Rusli, 2012) to most recently WhatsApp and Oculus (King, 2014), the platform has continually strived to add to its product.
“Matched by Facebook’s ambitious but nascent Internet.org initiative to connect everyone worldwide to the Internet, the Whatsapp deal essentially represented Facebook’s plan to form a social infrastructure conglomerate,” King stated (2014). “Previous acquisitions such as Parse, Gowalla, and (most famously pre-Whatsapp) Instagram, among others, certainly play into that.
“The finish line (if there is one) is not just solidifying Facebook as a preeminent social media company, but rather as a social media empire.”
Considering the fact that the application’s user total eclipsed 1.11 billion in 2013 (Curtis, 2013), Facebook may have already realized that.
Facebook as a social-sharing platform
Needless to say, the outlet has become a torchbearer for social media. A reason for that is due to the amount of user activity Facebook generates.
According to Craig Smith (2014a), the average number of items shared daily by Facebook users lands at 4.75 billion, and that’s just the start.
- More than 750 million people actively use Facebook on a daily basis states Jeff Sonderman (2011).
- The average user spends an estimated 25 minutes a day on the site, according to the company’s journalist program manager Vadim Lavrusik (as cited in Tynes, 2011).
- Sixty-six percent of millennials — 15 to 34-year-olds — use the software (Smith, 2014a).
“We know more than 750 million people actively use Facebook and 200 million tweets are sent each day. But what exactly motivates the frenzy of online sharing?” Sonderman stated (2011). “The common thread is that content sharing is all about relationships. Sharing is driven by our desire to shape or maintain relationships with other people.”
Thus, it makes sense that a web application based around social networking and relationships would be so apt to social-sharing — a note that can’t be lost on reporters, especially in this digital age claims Jane Sasseen, Kenny Olmstead and Amy Mitchell (2013).
“Facebook, with its 167 million active users in the U.S., remains the most important of the social media sites for sharing news,” Sasseen and others stated (2013).
Reporting through Facebook
The journalistic connection should be clear. With so much user activity taking place on Facebook, where else can a news organization look to most effectively spread its content via social media? Therefore, within this platform, media has found a home (Sasseen et al., 2013).
Sasseen and company (2013) found that:
Audiences now consume more news through social media than they did before. A June 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 19% of Americans saw news or news headlines on a social network “yesterday,” more than double the 9% who’d done so in 2010. The acceleration is not just among the young. Roughly 34% of those aged 18 to 24 said they saw news on a social networking site yesterday, up from 12% in 2010, and so did 30% of 30-to-39-year olds, up from 19% in 2010.
That information goes even further for those who receive news from mobile devices reports Sasseen and others (2013):
Some 47% of smartphone users said they got news through a social network “sometimes” or “regularly.” Some 39% of tablet news users did so as well. Determining exactly how much traffic social networks overall are now driving to news sites is difficult, though it accounts for a growing share of the audience, according to both Pew Research surveys cited above and Pew Research analysis of Nielsen data.
The outlet provides reporting benefits as well. Since 2011, Facebook has worked towards developing features that can help reporters locate story sources and information, break or update developing news plus encourage audience engagement (Millian, 2011; Lavrusik, 2013).
“A lot of journalists don’t have a professional presence on Facebook yet,” Millian quoted Lavrusik as saying (2011). “They think it’s another thing they have to add to their workloads. …It can actually make your job easier.”
“The goal is to build programs that bridge the gap between journalists and Facebook.”
That goal has been achieved. From CNN to USA Today to The New York Times, professional media organizations and reporters have developed an active and vibrant presence on social media’s largest platform. As the research shows, Facebook has become a part of today’s profession.
As a result, for high school journalism teachers, the question becomes: how can student reporters effectively and efficiently be taught how to utilize Facebook? READ MORE