Coverage of the 2012 Republican primaries is relying on Facebook to improve stories about the issues, the candidates and the voters.
Political scribes, voters, news junkies and activists are using social media to seamlessly interact with the campaigns and the candidates, share behind-the scenes flavor with readers and gauge how voters are reacting to events in the news cycle.
It’s not unlike what major brands and commerce sites on Facebook are doing to encourage engagement with fans.
The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, has a few Facebook tips that political reporters can use as they cover the 2012 elections.
But really, these are general tips that anyone with a Facebook presence can employ to maximize their exposure and boost interaction with their key audiences.
Review Facebook Ads
A look at a candidate’s Facebook ads is a lesson in how the campaign is targeting local voters.
Republican presidential candidates are using multiple Facebook advertising tools to micro-target specific demographic groups.
Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty used sponsored stories. Romney and Rick Perry have developed applications that supporters can download.
Use Facebook Search
Use Facebook’s search tool to quickly gauge what voters, activists or campaigns are saying about developing news and events.
Read Facebook Fan Pages
Members of Congress are using Facebook and Facebook fan pages in myriad ways to share their views on specific legislation, engage with constituents in their district, or even document their votes on bills.
Reviewing the information shared on Facebook is one way to determine how transparent and accessible a candidate is.
Review a candidate’s Facebook page, as well as the pages of political groups and causes, to find engaged supporters who may be willing to speak with you.
Facebook has become a great way for candidates to identify highly enthusiastic supporters.
For example, Jon Huntsman, developed a top supporters program on Facebook, that ranks and rewards his most ardent fans.
Notice Facebook Updates
Buzz for major campaign announcements is often created on sites such as Facebook.
Tim Pawlenty used a Facebook town hall to announce his exploratory committee.
And Poynter notes that, days before Rick Perry announced his presidency, he began updating his Facebook bio and interests.
Engage With News Hounds
Journalists and their employers ought to enable the subscribe feature and post links to stories.
Consider live streaming your election night coverage or other political programming, as CBS News and NBC News have done.
Our Election Tracker
Of course, journalists should remember our Election Tracker 2012, which offers a constantly updated look at the Facebook status of the presidential contenders, members of Congress and state government leaders.
Can you think of any other Facebook tips that can improve 2012 election coverage?