Study: How People Are Engaging Journalists on Facebook & Best Practices

Earlier this year I conducted a study of Phoenix-area journalists regarding social media; among the findings was the heavy use of Facebook for information-gatering, searching for images and identifying potential sources for interviews. Facebook Journalist Program Managers Vadim Lavrusik and Betsy Cameron recently conducted a study looking at how people were engaging with Journalist Pages on Facebook, revealing more detailed insight into how journalists use Facebook to communicate.

“We hope that the findings, which focus on post dynamics, engagement and activity, will provide journalists with some best practices and insights on optimizing their engagement and distribution on Facebook to better reach their audiences,” they wrote in the blog sharing the results of that study. “We’ve also conducted research on how users are engaging with news organizations on Facebook and will be releasing the findings in the coming weeks. We hope that this serves as guide, but also a spark, for conversations about best practices in using Facebook as a journalist.”

Facebook Study Highlights:

  • Starting the conversation: Posts that include a question or call to action from the journalist received the highest amount of feedback.
  • Personal analysis is effective: Posts that included the journalist’s analysis and personal reflections had 20% more referral clicks than that of an average post.
  • Images work: Photos received 50% more likes than non-photo posts, and journalists who shared links that included a thumbnail image in the link preview received 65% more likes and 50% more comments than posts that did not include images.

Post Dynamics & Engagement

Inclusion of Questions and Calls to Action: While posts that included a question only accounted for 10% of the posts sampled on Journalist Pages, posts with questions received 2X more comments and 64% more feedback overall than an average post. The top posting styles:

  • Posts that asked questions or sought user input: +64%
  • Call to read or take a closer look: +37%
  • Personal reflections or behind-the-scenes posts: +25%
  • Posts with catchy/clever language or tone: +18%

Post length: On average, meaty posts from journalists get more feedback via comments and likes. The analysis showed that 4-line postings received a 30% increase in feedback over average posts and 5-line postings showed a 60% increase in feedback over average posts. However, 1-line posts show the greatest fluctuation, receiving the highest maximum feedback observed, at 15X higher than the average post. 5-line posts were a close second, showing a maximum of around 10X the average post. For journalists posting teasers for links or status updates on their Pages, this means both short and long posts can yield results but meatier posts on average generate more feedback overall.

Photos: Readers respond well to photos on Journalist Pages. Though uploaded Photos accounted for only 10% of the posts to Journalist Pages, they received 50% more likes than non-photo posts.

Links with Thumbnail Images: Links that include an image thumbnail in the link preview get more engagement on average. Journalists who shared links that included a thumbnail image in the link preview on their Page Wall saw a 65% increase in likes and 50% increase in comments on those posts.


Story Type & Daily Activity

Engagement by Story Type: Posts about education, politics and behind-the-scenes insights & analysis from journalists received a higher amount of feedback on average. Education posts got 2X more likes, politics received both 1.7X more likes and 1.6X more comments, and a journalist sharing their thoughts had 1.4X more likes.

Referral Clicks & Story Type: International news stories had 70% more referral clicks than that of an average post (ex. “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, CNN). Stories about politics received 60% more referral clicks (ex. “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, ABC). Posts that included the journalist’s analysis or personal reflections received 20% more referral clicks than an average post (ex. “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, The New York Times).

Daily Feedback and Referral Clicks: Journalists received the highest amount of feedback later in the week. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday had the highest amount of feedback — with Sunday receiving the highest amount of feedback at 25% more likes and 8% more comments above average. Referral clicks were above average Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday — with links getting 85% more clicks on Saturday and 37% more on Wednesday than an average post.

Hourly Feedback: Readers are active throughout the day. Feedback spikes occurred on Journalist Pages at the start of the day (7 a.m. & 8 a.m. showing a 30-40% increase); late in the morning (10 a.m. ET received 40% increase in feedback); later in the workday (4 & 5 p.m. ET showing 40% and 100% increases); and on into the evening hours (12 a.m. ET getting 30% increase and 2 a.m. ET getting 20% increase).