This year is already turning out to be one of the most tumultuous ever for News Feed. Algorithm changes impacting what users will see on Facebook have come fast and furiously. And as a content producer, changes around what defines “Engagement” – and how to get it – are among the most important to social-media survival.
If you manage a social media presence for a news outlet, clothing brand, or your local church, the concepts are all the same. The content you publish to Facebook needs to engage your audience. If a user sees your post in their Newsfeed and then scrolls right past it, then that tells Facebook, “They’re not interested in this Page’s content.” Red flag. Not good, right? This is where monitoring your Engagement Rate is important… you don’t want to be losing clicks to your site because your post wasn’t engaging enough! And let’s be honest… Referral Traffic is the focus of many newsroom’s social strategy.
What is Engagement Rate?
There is an insight you can measure inside Social News Desk called “Engagement Rate.” You can see this number in both the “Post Stats” and “Engagement Over Time” widgets within the SND Analytics Suite. In the image above, you can see how the Engagement Rate changes over the course of a month for a local news outlet. Engagement Rate is a percentage calculated by dividing the total per-post average of engaged users by the total reach of all posts for the day. An engaged user is someone who likes, comments or shares a post. And reach is simply the number of people who had that post appear in their News Feed.
Think of it like this: You sell oranges in the local farmer’s market. Over the course of the entire day, you see 1,000 people walk by your stand and look at the oranges. Only 5 people buy 1 orange each. That’s a rate of .5%. Would you consider that a “good day” at the Farmer’s market? Or, perhaps, would that tell you your product is not very good, or you’re not selling enough variety?
Now, consider this concept surrounding the posts you put out on Facebook. For many posts by a local media outlet, you’ll like get reach numbers over 1,000. How many engagements are occurring on those posts? If your content isn’t engaging, people aren’t going to be drawn to it, nor will they engage with it! While this post isn’t necessarily about the concept of quality over quantity, in terms of the content you put out on Facebook, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible importance of being very selective in the content you put out. Why?
As Facebook was making changes to their Newsfeed algorithm, their analytics tool, CrowdTangle was analyzing how engagements impacted one of the most important goals of Facebook strategy in a newsroom, and that’s referral traffic to your website (a.k.a. click-throughs). In January, Facebook introduced new signals to News Feed to prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. As news outlets, you know that your stories have the power to drive these conversations and interactions. In turn those conversations and interactions turn into referral traffic back to your site. CrowdTangle said, “We analyzed content from publishers following these changes and have found that there is still a positive and significant relationship between post engagement (reactions, comments, and shares) and outbound clicks on post links.”
So, how does all this turn into actionable best practices for you? First, good, engaging content is key. The second, and probably the most critical is to get your audience engaged in that content by having well-written & accurate headlines, eye-catching images and a post that builds interest. This is possible to do without stepping into the realm of engagement baiting, which is a big no-no with Facebook.
What is Engagement Bait?
Engagement Bait… while tempting, this is a big no-no from Facebook’s perspective. Here are some examples of what “Engagement Bait” means to them.
Facebook defines “Engagement Bait” as: “content that seeks to take advantage of the News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach.” So, telling people to “Like if…”, or “Share if…”, etc. is bad, and Facebook is doing something about it. Facebook says, “Publishers and other businesses that use engagement bait tactics in their posts should expect their reach on these posts to decrease. Meanwhile, Pages that repeatedly share engagement bait posts will see more significant drops in reach. Page Admins should continue to focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories that do not use engagement bait tactics.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your audience. Asking a question about a story isn’t engagement bait, you’re simply asking a question. For example, if you’re doing a story on the local city council meeting, and they’re talking about funding for a new park. One council-member says something you know a lot of people are going to agree with, while others aren’t going to like it. So instead of quoting the council-member in your post text, simply ask the question: “What do you think of what Councilman Roberts said about Engagement Park?” Not many people attend the city council meetings, so what does a user who sees this post have to do? Click on it, read it, form an opinion, come back and talk about it. Engagement, engagement, engagement, all from asking a simple question.
Now, not all posts will need a question, but for posts that may not be as engaging on the surface, prime the pump by asking simple questions so users click your link, and visit your website!