Obviously the newspaper industry is struggling. Industry analysts, journalists and online marketers are frantically scrambling to come up with a smart solution to monetize content and compete with quick and agile bloggers. But while the ship is sinking, social media can act as a great short term solution to keep things afloat. While the newspaper industry certainly will need a strategy in order to survive in the long run, Facebook is offering a very viable (and affordable) short term solution to boosting traffic and page views.

Why social? Just because everyone else is doing it?

Well, yes. Sort of. With Facebook’s +500 million users and Twitter’s +145 million users, social media is a platform that offers a massive potential audience. According to a recent Nielson study, nearly 23% of U.S internet users’ time online is spent on social networking. That’s above games, email, watching videos and performing searches. Not only does social media have a huge audience, but it is changing the way that people are finding and consuming news. This is why newspapers should be involved in the most cutting edge and exciting tactics there are to offer. Yet when I search Facebook, it’s very difficult to find more than a handful of newspapers that are doing a decent job.

Facebook in particular can be especially beneficial to newspapers for a few reasons:

What can newspapers do to increase social media traffic right now?

Research has shown that people who tend to “like” articles have 2.4 times as many Facebook friends than the average Facebook user.

Facilitating the process of sharing content through the use of social plug-ins is a critical step to getting more traffic. But many publishers have not yet realized their full potential. For example, for the “like” plug-in on your home page, using the button with faces has a 2-3x higher CTR than without faces.

Furthermore, it doesn’t always make sense to have the “like” button on all content. For newspapers specifically, it is critical that the feed installed is the “recommendations” plug in as it wouldn’t be appropriate to like an article on Facebook about the most recent airport security threat.

What can newspapers do to engage with their social media audience?

So while everyone scrambles to save the newspaper, Facebook is a short term solution just waiting for newspapers to take advantage. Get in there and promote content, customize and engage with readers, advertise, whatever, just get started. For more great stats on publishers and Facebook, check out Justin Osofky’s presentation on Scribd.