Facebook’s Study of Journalist Page Engagement Reveals Page Post Best Practices

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By Josh Constine Comment

Facebook today released the results of a study it conducted on what types of posts by the Facebook Pages of journalists performed the best. Among the highlights: Incorporating personal analysis in posts increased referral clicks by 20%, and including a thumbnail image when posting a link boosted Likes by 65% and comments by 50%.

While these findings are for Pages of journalists, the best practices they illuminate can be useful for the admins of any type of Page.

Regarding the methodology of the study, Facebook’s journalist program manager Vadim Lavrusik tells us “We looked at 25 journalist pages that included a variety of both local, national and international journalists. They also ranged in primary media focus (TV, web, radio, newspaper, etc.) We selected a group of journalist that we felt offered a diverse sample of subject areas, media focus, and both US and international journalists. We looked at 2-weeks worth of data.” The sample size is relatively low, so there is potential for some inaccuracy in the data.

Turn Off Your Auto-Publisher

The most important finding is that posts saw 20% more referral clicks when personal analysis was added to a post’s description, opposed to just publishing a headline, blurb, and thumbnail.

The ability to include a longe description of what’s behind a link is one of the fundamental differences between Facebook and Twitter. While journalists and other content publishers may not prefer spending the extra time crafting Facebook posts, the benefits in traffic driven that this study shows should convince them the effort is worth it.

Pages that automatically cross-post Twitter updates or that auto-post when an article is published to their website should consider switching to manual publishing. Having a human writing copy specifically to accompany a Facebook post makes the news feed story seem more organic and personal, and therefore more compelling and clickable.

Photos Draw Feedback

When a link is pasted into Facebook’s publisher, it’s formatted into a rich feed story that includes a thumbnail image when possible. Facebook’s study shows that posts that display a thumbnail image receive 65% more Likes and 50% more.

It’s believed that by getting more feedback on its posts, Pages improve their EdgeRank — the algorithm that determines how prominent a post is in a user’s news feed. By courting feedback, Pages can increase the number of users that see their posts past the somewhat disheartening average of 7.49 news feed post impressions per day per 100 fans.

Therefore, Page admins shouldn’t manually strip out the thumbnail unless absolutely necessary. If the publisher can’t find an image behind the link to thumbnail, admins should consider adding an image to the web page, or marking up their site with Facebook’s Open Graph tags such that a site logo is pulled in as the thumbnail.

Post Length and Timing

For post by journalists, Facebook found that 4-line posts received 30% more feedback than average and 5-line posts received 60% more. This means that Pages looking to court feedback should generally publish long posts, though these may have lower click through rates because some users will skim past a dense block of text.

Engagement with one-line posts, on the other hand, fluctuated greatly but displayed the highest maximum feedback of any length, with some receiving 15 times the average. Therefore, when appropriate for the content, one-line posts can be the most engaging, likely because they take so little work on the reader’s part to consume.

In terms of timing, Facebook’s study showed that posts on Thursday through Sunday had higher engagement rates. Posts on Saturday received 85% more clicks than average, and those published on Wednesday had 37% more.

However, these figures may be less generalizable because of the cultural norm of reading news on weekends. Buddy Media’s report on engagement by day showed significant fluctuation by industry, so Pages outside of journalism will need to track their analytics to determine the best days to post. Facebook’s reports of engagement spikes at 7am and 5pm match Buddy Media’s data.

Every Page’s audience is different, so the best way for any Page to determine how to post more effectively is to follow their Page Insights. Pages can thereby modify their strategy based on trends in performance for different content, tone, length, and timing. Still, the findings of Facebook’s study should help point admins in the right direction.

For more strategies on how to get the most clicks, Likes, and comments out of your Page’s posts, visit the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s complete guide to marketing and advertising on Facebook.