Question and answer sessions on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great way of showcasing some of the FT’s best journalism and journalists. Often when there is breaking news or we have an in-depth report on a particular topic, we will bring it to life by getting our lead writers to spend time taking live questions from our readers.
Martin Wolf, our chief economics commentator, went on Facebook to answer questions about a particularly punchy piece he had written about Abenomics being unworkable. Facebook was the best platform to use – it is not only easy to set up as well as moderate a Q&A under it, but it also allows for longer answers. Detailed economic points are not easily condensed into Twitter’s 140-character limit.
Our Facebook audience is quite different to our FT.com audience – it is younger and contains a larger proportion of women. But just like our FT.com readers, they expect a high-level discussion. The questions they asked Martin were very high quality, and we were keen to share the discussion – which had gone far beyond Martin’s original piece – with readers without access to Facebook.
SAMdesk allowed us to take the entire discussion outside Facebook and repackage it inside a fresh FT.com story which sat outside the paywall. The tool allowed us to create a timeline-like summary and curate it manually, by having full control over which pieces of content would appear in it, and more importantly, in what order.
We wanted to be able to serve the Q&A to FT.com readers who would then comment, recommend and share the curated timeline across social media. The content would then also be available in the FT’s search archive. All elements of the conversation were timestamped and hyperlinked, allowing readers to jump back to any part of the discussion in Facebook at any time.
This Facebook Q&A drew one of the biggest audiences we had for a live social media session that the FT has done and Martin enjoyed engaging with audience directly. The FT.com summary afterwards attracted several thousand additional readers.
This multi-part, multi-platform approach to a story is a great way of bringing in reader input to a story and extending the lifespan of articles. The FT plans on getting more writers to converse with readers on important as well as topical issues.
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