Balancing Facebook Video Engagement in the News Feed

April 4, 2016

Written by NewsWhip
Facebook video

We all know that Facebook video is booming, but how can publishers make the most of the format to ensure consistent engagement?

At the ONA London conference last week, I talked about the rise in engagement with Facebook video for different publishers, including BBC, CNN, Vox and more.
The talk touched some of the findings from our data deep-dive into the video numbers that we’ve previously published on the blog. You can see my full presentation here.
Since then, some number crunching through NewsWhip Analytics has shown us that average share rates for video on Facebook far outstrip other formats, such as links and images.
Here’s what the average share rate looked like for each format in February, with data for each publisher’s main Facebook page.
Average share rates for Facebook video, February 2016One of the main issues that publishers face when addressing Facebook video is that the engagement rates tend to coalesce at the very top.
That’s to say that the most viral videos get traction, while the smaller ones take longer to pick up traction and engagement on social media.
This chart shows this trend for the three sample publishers:
Facebook video publishers, February 2016
For context, the comparative chart for links from the three sites in February:
Average Share Counts per Articles, February 2016
Of course, these sites are all producing more articles each month than native videos, but the variance in numbers is interesting.
In February, Vox’s five best performing Facebook videos accounted for 76% of their total engagements. Their most shared video featured editor Ezra Klein talking about Donald Trump, and was shared over 100,000 times, or almost 25% of the total.
[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/Vox/videos/485392998314974/” bottom=”30″]
The numbers go some way to illustrating the role that the Facebook’s algorithm potentially plays in the spread and promotion of video on Facebook.
While it’s obvious that Facebook have been promoting and rewarding use of native video in news feeds over the past two years, publishers are sometime left wondering how best to promote their videos to followers.
While we know that when a user takes an action on a piece of content in their news feed by commenting or sharing, there’s a higher likelihood of them seeing more content from that source in future, it’s unclear how much of a boost to future engagement these actions may lead to.
In short, publishers can leave themselves open to a lopsided engagement strategy with video if they rely too heavily on the success of their strongest videos.
And even at this level, the numbers aren’t all that unusual. Some viral sites see engagements of up to 90% for their most successful videos each month.
In short, aiming simply to ‘go viral’ is not an effective strategy.
NowThis Editor Sarah Frank shared some great advice for helping to combat this effect on Friday: by analysing the lower-performing videos, rather than the mega-viral, it’s easier to figure out how to improve for next time.


As publishers get more adept at producing and promoting video on Facebook, it seems likely we’ll see more even distribution of engagements – possibly at the expense of other formats.

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