We look at the performance of five sites that don’t feature in our monthly rankings, to see what Facebook engagement is looking like for some well-known publishers.
Our monthly Facebook rankings tell us a lot about the nature of social distribution, and the ways that publishers are using social media to engage with their audiences.
Each month, the 25 sites that make it into the blog come from a wide variety of backgrounds: entertainment and celebrity stories perform strongest, alongside quizzes, lists, and (sometimes dubious) stories that are destined to go viral.
However, the very top rankings don’t show the variety of publishers that are now achieving significant levels of engagement on Facebook every month. Many of these sites produce high quality content every month, and their Facebook standings are impressive in their own right.
Looking at the news filters in Spike every day, news stories, as well as opinion, analysis, features, interviews and longform pieces of content attract huge interest on Facebook. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that when comparing to the enormous share figures at the very top of the table, but they are substantial nonetheless.
So what’s behind this growth? We reckon it’s a mix of two things. First, Facebook’s News Feed tweaks, which suggests content based on click-throughs, and also has cut out a lot of spammy content and images. Secondly, it’s the growing savvy from publishers as to how to use Facebook to present their content in the best possible ways. From the Financial Times’ 60 second news roundup videos, to BBC World’s user-generated footage of breaking news events, there’s been a big increase in the number of news publishers seeing Facebook not only as a place to attract clicks, but also to engage their audiences in a meaningful way.
Based on exclusive January data from Spike, here’s how five news sites are doing on Facebook.
The US national broadcaster returned an impressive volume of engagements in January.
Their most popular story in January was titled ‘Trapped In His Body For 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free‘, the story of a South African boy who lived through a mysterious illness. Other popular posts featured diverse content such as a piece on writer Laura Ignalls Wilder (86,000+ engagements), an appearance of the rare frilled shark off the Australian coast (90,000+ engagements), and a feature about how George Orwell’s Animal Farm led a radical Muslim to moderation (45,000 engagements)
It’s intriguing to watch how a radio station can adapt its offering to the web, and particularly a social audience. NPR often provides written transcripts alongside the audio of their segments and clips, while they’ve also been looking into how to increase the shareability of audio clips.
Of course, NPR have long advocated strong social strategising. They frequently share tips and experiments on their must-read Social Media Desk Tumblr. In a recent interview, former NPR social media strategist Melody Kramer explained:
“We’re thinking about social in a really forward-thinking way. I know a lot of times, I hear from people who work at other news organizations that they’re going to steal ideas from the Sandbox. But I don’t think of it as stealing. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned or what we’re thinking about.”
It’s a very healthy attitude for a newsroom to take to social media. This was the NPR Facebook engagement breakdown in January.
Time have sprung up our tables over the last year as they shifted their site to a more mobile-friendly format. Last month, they had over 5,782,000 Facebook interactions up from 2,520,000 in February 2014, the month before they launched their redesigned site.
Along with their new format, they’ve also been pushing their stories hard on Facebook, with a very frequent post rate on their main page. It almost looks like a Twitter feed – but has been adjusted ever so slightly for the relevant audience.
Time’s most popular content is the among the most diverse of our top publishers. From Harry Potter stories and Frozen thinkpieces, to 2016 election news reporting and big op-eds around current affairs, Time’s content mix is a lively lot.
3) National Geographic
Previously better-known as a magazine staple and a cable TV giant, National Geographic is now a phenomenally successful publishing brand on social media. On Instagram, hundreds of thousands routinely favourite their breath-taking shots of nature, while their stories attract thousands of comments, shares and likes on Facebook.
Big stories in January included a piece on a pair of adventurers that climbed up the frozen Niagara Falls (90,000 interactions), a story about a planet that has rings 200 times the size of Saturn’s (82,000+ interactions), and the rescue of an orphaned elephant calf (61,000 interactions).
Their photos of the day feature is particularly popular with Facebook users, indicating that the National Geographic’s famed photography still has the power to intrigue readers in the social and mobile era.
But what’s really impressive about the National Geographic on Facebook is their average interaction rate per story. Each post is ravenously interacted with by the NG’s huge Facebook audience.
Here’s a chart to illustrate how eagerly each piece of their content is shared:
Of course, that’s helped by their huge number of fans across Facebook. Another good reason to keep turning new readers into subscribers. Here’s the National Geographic’s Facebook breakdown for January:
4) The Verge
One of the best-known names in tech news, Vox Media’s tech site the Verge seems to grow in stature with each passing month. That’s reflected in their impressive Facebook (and Twitter) standing every month. They’re consistently one of the best-performing stand alone tech sites on Facebook and Twitter.
Their blend of tech news, features and reviews make for popular content in a time when tech has never been more important. It’s now such a big area, encompassing business, lifestyle and science, that it’s probably not fair to still refer to the likes of the Verge as ‘niche’ sites. They also get a very impressive average share rate per story.
Verge content does seem to appeal to tech-obsessed readers though, and in that sense, they know their audience inside-out. Here were their most shared stories last month:
Here’s their January breakdown:
5) Manchester Evening News
The Manchester Evening News mightn’t be the best-known publisher on this list, but that makes their inclusion all the more impressive.
With over 4,245,o00 engagements in January alone, they were ahead of the likes of Business Insider, TMZ and the New York Post in terms of overall engagements last month.
They’re consistently pretty high up in our list of Facebook publishers, so it’s not just a once off. The MEN social media team seem to have really nailed presenting their stories on Facebook, and knowing how to encourage engagement and discussion.
Of course, it helps that two of the biggest professional football clubs in the world are located within their beat. Many of the most liked stories for MEN are Manchester United and City related. These were the stories that got the most Facebook likes in January:
Despite that, a lot of the most shared stories are old-fashioned local news pieces. It indicates that the Sports news seems to attract more Facebook interest, while news and other content is more likely to be shared from the website itself.
With the Manchester Evening News, there’s a real lesson for regional publishers in how to reach new readers using social media.
If you’d like to know more about the social performance of any publisher, feel free to get in touch with us.
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