How Journalists Are Using Facebook to Share the News

facebook-communityFacebook is a treasure trove for journalists — with the ability to message almost anyone and search for people based on location, college, employer and interests, it’s a great platform for finding sources. Just this April, Facebook even launched Journalist Pages.

And now, a new study released by Facebook offers advice for journalists who are building their brands, promoting content and culling for sources on the 750 million-strong social networking site. Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalist program manager, and Betsy Cameron, a data analyst, compiled the data to “provide journalists with some best practices and insights on optimizing their engagement and distribution on Facebook to better reach their audiences.” Major findings and tips are below.

What You Post Affects Engagement

amanpour1When crafting your posts, there are a number of things to consider. Here are some ideas on optimizing posts (along with how much more engagement they spur, as compared to an “average” Facebook post):

  • Ask a question. Posts that include a question or call to action receive the highest amount of feedback and spur dialogue among fans.
  • Give a piece of your mind. Offer some analysis and reflection — these posts get 20% more referral clicks than those without it.
  • Look closer. Asking fans to “take a closer look” or to “read” increases engagement by 37%.
  • Invite them in. Fans are more likely to feel a connection to a journalist if they feel that they know the reporter more. Offering your own perspective and taking fans “behind the scenes” gets 25% more engagement.
  • Be clever. Posts with puns and other catchy and clever language get 18% more engagement.

While brevity is emphasized on sites like Twitter, and one-liners are appropriate for Facebook, journalists get better feedback and engagement when their posts have a little more substance and reporting in them. Consider this:

  • 4-line postings see a 30% increase in feedback over average posts
  • 5-line postings showed a 60% increase in feedback over average posts

Diversify Your Post Content

As you probably learned in Facebook Marketing 101, consumers like multimedia, such as video and pictures. Since a journalist’s job is to report, it helps to go beyond the written word and really show readers what you’re seeing. Images get 50% more Likes than text posts, and links that are posted on the wall with a thumbnail image in the preview get 65% more Likes and 50% more comments than posts that are sans thumbnail.

Despite the better engagement on photos, only 10% of the content on Journalist Pages are photos.

Coverage Trends

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What gets people talking? Education, politics and your own thoughts. Here’s a breakdown of content subjects and how they perform as compared to the “average” Facebook post:

  • Education posts got twice as many Likes.
  • Politics received 70% more Likes and 60% more comments.
  • Journalists sharing their own thoughts and analysis saw 40% more Likes.

But there’s more to Facebook than comments and Likes — you want your audience to share your content with their own network. Here are the stories the tend to do well (again, relative to the “average” Facebook post), along with an example post from a journalist that exhibited good engagement.

  • International news stories see 70% more referral clicks — “For 60 years, Pakistan’s military has focused obsessively on its rivalry with India. Large elements within that military appear to be switching obsessions…” – Fareed Zakaria
  • Politics stories get 60% more referral clicks — “I’m sitting down with President Obama tomorrow for an exclusive interview – click below and tell me what you think I should ask.” – George Stephanopoulos
  • A journalist’s own insights and commentary get 20% more referral clicks — “For all of you high school students accepted into college – congratulations, but think about deferring for a year and taking a ‘gap year’ – I did…” – Nicholas Kristof

When to Post

Reporting is a 24/7 job, but Facebook activity comes in waves. While you can’t determine when news will happen in order to achieve optimal engagement, you can strategically promote your content — like an upcoming special report — to a more engaged audience at certain times.

Journalists tend to receive the highest amount of feedback later in the week, from Thursday through Sunday. Sunday has the best engagement, with posts seeing 25% more Likes and 8% more comments than an “average” post.

Referral clicks are highest on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday — links posted on Saturday get 85% more clicks.

While it’s no surprise that Facebook is a non-stop consumption site, there are certain hours that spike with activity and feedback. Not surprisingly, early morning hours see high engagement, as people want to know what’s going on in the world before they start the day — links posted between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. see up to a 40% spike in engagement. There’s another spike around 10 a.m., and then another toward the end of the workday at 5 p.m., presumably when people are getting ready to shut down the office computer and head home. Night owls who are trolling Facebook around midnight and 2 a.m. EST also spike feedback on Journalist Pages.

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