Understanding User Habits Is the Secret to Understanding Engagement

Adapting to newsfeed changes isn’t enough. Companies need to be aware of why people engage with content there in the first place.


While there is a wealth of data about the amount of sharing, tweeting or interaction that occurs on social networks, it can be a little more difficult to understand why users do what they do. Why are certain retweets popular? What’s the primary motivation behind unfriending, or unfollowing Facebook friends and pages? And how are users impacting the content in their newsfeeds?

Margarita Noriega, writing for Daily Dot, distills the four main reasons we retweet quite nicely.

  1. To promote accounts and people, or to ‘boost the signal’ around those people.
  2. Sharing high quality, succinct information.
  3. To pass around jokes and humorous content.
  4. To build and engage with online communities.

All of these motivations could be a good strategy for businesses to employ, especially the last one. If you can build a community around your product or service, the bigger community could mean more brand advocates. Be wary of jokes though, they can cause trouble.

As for unfriending and unfollowing, high school classmates top the lists of unfriending according to Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver. While this data point isn’t particularly useful to marketers, the reasons for cutting the connection are. “The person they unfriended tended to either publish frequently about ‘polarizing’ political or religious topics or update their Facebook with ‘unimportant,’ ‘trivial posts,’” writes Dino Grandoni on The Huffington Post.

Indeed, if your Facebook page is showing a downward trend in followers, consider staying away from more controversial topics or bland updates. Controversies have the potential to damage a brand quite deeply.

Users have a lot more impact on the Facebook newsfeed than just unfriending and sharing. Their everyday habits shape the newsfeed at large. “At any given moment… there might be 1,000 different versions of Facebook running for different groups of users. Facebook is gathering data on all of them, to see which changes are generating positive reactions and which ones are falling flat,” according to Will Oremus, senior tech writer for Slate.

The impact of user behavior can not just be measured in rising engagement, or falling likes. Understanding usage patterns is as vital to any company as the content that they post. Adapting to newsfeed changes isn’t enough. Companies need to be aware of why people use the newsfeed in the first place.