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What Newsrooms Need To Know About Facebook’s Algorithm

Nothing is ever written in stone at Facebook headquarters. The company prides itself on innovating and changing quickly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to keep up. And as Facebook begins to exceed Google in referral traffic to news sites, this is a race you definitely want to be in. 

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First, there are no rules

For years, it was widely held that photo posts did better on Facebook. It was easy to see why. Back then, if you posted an image, the photo itself was about 6 times larger than it would be if you had posted a link with a thumbnail image. Because of this, everyone started posting photos (only) and putting their links in the captions.

Facebook definitely noticed. And didn’t like the unnatural workaround. So in 2013, Facebook changed the way link posts look in the News Feed and in 2014 went a step further by saying it would prefer users to post links as links.

So… everyone stopped posting photos and started posting links. And guess what? There became a void of photo posts. Some savvy Page owners then started to report getting higher engagement on photo posts than link posts simply because there was such a disproportionate number of link posts. Here we go again.

The problem is, too many newsrooms try to give Facebook what it thinks the company wants. When in reality, what you should do as a content creator on Facebook is post what your AUDIENCE wants. The rest will take care of itself.

Data is the key. Track and measure engagement on your posts and the patterns will become more clear. Does your audience prefer links or photos? Do they like crime or health news? Your results will be different than any other newsroom in the world. They will be unique to you.

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Second, authenticity wins

Facebook rewards original content. You want more reach and engagement? Create better content – especially if it’s something your audience has never seen before. Unique videos and stories written just for social media can perform extremely well. And Facebook is grading you on HOW GOOD your content really is. If someone clicks your link or plays your video and immediately exits to return to something else on Facebook…it’s a signal that your content was bad.
If that same person had stuck around to read your article or watch your entire video…it’s a sign you’re doing it right! And you’ll get rewarded by Facebook with extra organic reach.

With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Third, it’s a team sport

Your audience is diverse and your content creators should be too. By taking a team-approach to social media, your newsroom will create the most interesting content and attract the largest audience. But in order to keep it all organized, you’ll need to put systems in place to handle account access, analytics tracking and user permissions. And you’ll need to communicate the newsroom’s strategic goals to the entire team so there’s consistency and a strong point of view for your news brand. The more people you’re able to have contribute to your content on Facebook, the easier it will be to create posts that perform well in the News Feed.

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Ultimately, Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm comes down to three things: How old the post is (Time Decay), the amount of engagement it’s getting (Weight), and how much your audience usually likes your content (Affinity). Consistently putting out great content takes care of all three. And (spoiler alert) it’s what you’re already good at!

Looking for more great social media strategy tips for newsrooms? Each of our Social News Desk clients is matched with a social media specialist for ongoing coaching and strategic support!

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Kim Wilson

Founder/President
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