Connecting to readers, and helping readers to connect to each other, through social media has become an integral part of the Daily Herald's mission as a community newspaper.
In addition to our main Facebook page, DailyHeraldFans, our social media staff manages Facebook pages for our editorial board and various groups, as well as pages on other platforms, including Instagram and Twitter.
These projects keep us in touch with readers -- and them with us -- and help residents of the suburbs share information with each other to better enjoy their communities and learn more about their neighbors.
And, often, they also lead beyond the confines of social media discussions into full-fledged news stories.
Social media is a wealth of information and potential story ideas. From complaints about what is occupying a vacant storefront, to complaints about neighbors, to restaurants opening and closing. People love to share news on social media, especially in niche suburban Facebook groups like the many we run.
But details often are lacking or people share rumors, and that's where we come in. We take a tip suggested on Facebook and thoroughly vet it. We get information from our sources, talk to reliable people in town and write a trusted article people can read to get the information they are curious about.
We run business accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we share our content with those who choose to follow us. People can interact with our posts, by commenting and sharing our content.
But we also run and moderate various Facebook groups, including Suburban Teachers, Suburban Wildlife, Prep Sports, Good News From the Suburbs and more. Our most popular groups center around suburban towns, where residents come together to discuss everything, ask for recommendations and report traffic accidents and crime.
These are called our "Everything" groups, and towns include Schaumburg, Palatine, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove and Mount Prospect.
We love hearing from our followers on social media, and sometimes, we ask questions to get feedback and opinions from people. How do people plan to celebrate the holidays this year? Are you excited for the first snow? Will your kids get vaccinated?
Some questions result in so much engagement we can't keep up. Other questions require us to heavily moderate responses because responses get too heated or nasty.
Sometimes, we follow up with a commenter for more details and then quote them in a story we are building around the heated topic. Often, we are just curious to hear from all of you, to know what you talking about and interested in.
What types of posts get strong engagement? Controversial topics like masks, vaccines, school board fights, the building facade in Naperville that people thought was ugly, to name a few. But also, people doing good things, helping, donating, volunteering.
Not all interactions are productive, but commenters are very good at asking questions of each other, offering a differing viewpoint and challenging others to see their point of view. That's always a good thing, even if not everyone agrees in the end.
The Daily Herald's vision -- aside from the famous Hosea Paddock adage to "Fear God, tell the truth and make money" -- is to be the voice of the suburbs. Our social media presence does much to advance that goal.
Our job is to foster democracy, help build a sense of community, bring people closer together in an enormous digital landscape and listen. By listening, we can learn how best serve our readers and communities.