Hopefully by now you’ve climbed back up off the floor after reading about Facebook’s latest change to its news feed algorithm.
In case you missed it, Facebook says it wants to go back to its core. A Facebook VP explained,
“Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family.” So expect more photos and posts from your Facebook friends about their kids, parents, last night’s dinner or an invite for a birthday party.
Who loses? News organizations. Facebook is going to give content posted by media organizations low priority versus posts from a user’s friends. This will hurt stations’ digital platform. Facebook has become the top referral engine to station revenue platforms and the loss of referrals will hit sales folks hard.
This is a digital wake-up call. Facebook was like crack to our media platforms. We couldn’t get enough and now we have to live through withdrawal. Facebook is NOT totally out of the picture as a referral engine, but you have to be smarter about what you post. We’ve seen over and over again that Facebook users are not into crime, car accidents and fires that engage newsrooms.
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of Product Management, told Adweek, “Users want their news feeds to inform and entertain. And while what’s informative and entertaining to one person might not be to another. The Facebook team is working to provide more personalized recommendations that will appear higher up.”
This is exactly what our quantitative and qualitative research has found. Users are not clicking on many of the stories newsrooms live on.
How can you continue to use Facebook as a referral engine?
Here are some thoughts. You can track to see which are the most effective with your Facebook tools.
- Create a posting menu for the staff. Post weather and traffic information in the morning. Stop some of the crime reporting unless it has a broad impact. Use the “who cares?” test. Would your spouse, sisters, brother, child, mother, father, best friend be interested in the story? If not, then why post it? However, breaking news that has an impact on the community should be posted, including severe weather information.
- Writing is absolutely critical. Some stations post on Facebook like they’re writing for Twitter. Please stop. You CAN use more than 140 characters. Write in a more conversational style that engages. And don’t make the copy posted on the top of the link exactly the same as the link’s headline.
- Create an internal structure that enforces your focus on posting what engages your users. Evening Facebook users are heavy users but they are NOT looking for straightforward news. They want more lifestyle information. Some content needs to differ from market to market. Use your insight and create a tracking model. Again, we can help you with this.
- Encourage staff members to share stories posted by the station. The algorithm will push up content that gets higher shares.
- Encourage staffers to post stories from your website on Facebook. Facebook can tell the difference between a post from a media organization versus a post from a person.
- In subtle terms look for ways to encourage users to share news posts. “This post might be interesting to your friends…” “If you know someone with this problem you might want to tell them about it…”
Will these work? Data will tell you. Facebook has been rather easy until now as a referral engine. Now we’re going to have to really work for it.
What else can do you do?
Do what we do best. Create relevant content and get it out to the masses – including Facebook. Here are some steps to consider:
- Make posting relevant, engaging, contextual content a high priority for your platforms. The simple house fire and car accidents are not what users want. Focus on content that will provide context to major stories. Post fresh investigative/enterprise content on your sites. Make lifestyle/family event/weekend planning a priority. At the end of stories on your website encourage users to share the story on Facebook.
- Take a serious look at your apps. Most station apps are nothing more than an RSS feed from the desktop site. Yet mobile users may have different content needs than the desktop user. Example: Traffic should always be highlighted on the app home page. If people are in the car or heading someplace, they want to know what traffic to expect. Many station apps push content from the website that hasn’t been updated in days. For example, entertainment content. We can monitor your apps for these issues.
- Push Alerts. Create a push alert strategy. More is NOT better. Push alert writing is as critical as the top story for the newscast. They must engage viewers with content, be clearly written and NOT a tease just to get people to open the app. You can actually connect your station personalities with push alerts – we can share a best practice to help with this.
As the dust settles we can work with you on revising your digital strategy. It’s critical to focus on the content culture at your station and how to push it out on all of your platforms as seamlessly and as efficiently as possible.