';

These Were the Biggest Election Day Publishers on Facebook

What sources did people share their news and election analysis from as the count unfolded? We look at the top ten publishers on Facebook over 48 crucial hours. 

It goes without saying that this election was a social news phenomenon.

As we noted earlier in the week, media distribution was unlike other elections, simply for the number of US (and global) adults that now use Facebook as a news source. Analysis of exit polls, state declarations, candidate statements and electoral breakdowns were all shared and accessed through Facebook, and we’ve recorded huge engagement numbers in Spike since Tuesday.

In the aftermath, we took a look at the sites that had the most engagement and impact in Facebook news feeds as the story developed.

We timed this to look at the 48 hour period starting when polls opened on the East Coast, throughout the day of voting, into the count, election announcement, and aftermath.

To narrow things down, we limited our search to mention of ‘Trump’, ‘Hillary’, ‘Clinton’ or ‘Election’ in the headline only. Applying those filters, these were the sites with the most engagement on stories mentioning any of those terms in the headline over the 48 hour period:

The Biggest Election Day Publishers on Facebook

Two sites – the Huffington Post and NBC – managed to get over 1 million engagements during the time frame. These were big numbers for both publishers, particularly considering that it doesn’t even take into account the engagement around their native videos. USA Today also saw a huge gain in their engagement numbers, with over 951,000 total interactions on their election content. To put that into context, in just 48 hours, that’s 9% of the engagements that the entire site achieved for the month of August.

Next came Breitbart, catering to a vast Facebook audience elated by Trump’s victory. Their coverage was enough to attract over 920,000 engagements during the time period, with the large audience on their main Facebook page engaging heavily with the site’s live election coverage.

Not far behind Breitbart was CNN, which managed over 884,000 engagements on its election coverage. We saw that their coverage of Putin’s reaction to the election was the highest performing piece of content for the site, with almost 50,000 engagements.

It’s interesting to see BuzzFeed so high in these rankings. When we looked at BuzzFeed’s coverage in the run-up to election day, we found that election-related articles accounted for just 5% of their total Facebook engagements, as well as editorial output. During election day and its aftermath however, things changed significantly, with over 812,000 engagements on election related articles proving enough to put them into sixth place overall in our rankings. That adds up to almost 56% of the total Facebook engagements on their English articles over the two days.

Another potentially surprise entry in the top ten charts was UK site the Independent, which had over 480,000 engagements on its election coverage. That’s largely thanks to their high output over the two days, with many sharp and short posts, and plenty of opinion pieces that had good traction, particularly in the news feeds of those opposing Trump’s election.

In terms of the articles that picked up heavy engagements, IJR’s ‘Donald Trump Stuns the World and Wins 2016 Presidential Election‘ was the most engaged article of the top ten sites, with over 137,000 engagements as of this morning. Our system picked that up at 2.42am ET, and it got a huge boost when shared by Ben Carson’s official Facebook page about an hour later. Spike showed the story performing eight times better than the average IJR story on Facebook.

However, beyond the IJR article and the New York Times’ lead story on the election result, the election results themselves were not the main focus of engagement on Facebook. Instead, stories focussing on unusual angles, op-eds and analysis was what got people sharing. Unsurprisingly, the most successful of these stories spoke strongly to either side of the election outcome.

BuzzFeed’s focus on the reaction to Clinton’s concession speech was shared heavily, while Breitbart’s round-up of celebrities that reacted badly to Trump’s win saw 25,000 engagements.

Meanwhile, NBC’s most popular story of the night was an upbeat story titled ‘Despite election stunner, a few bright spots for LGBTQ community‘, which focussed on the election of the first openly LGBTQ Governor of a US State. That post picked up almost 60,000 engagements in the 48 hour time frame.

 

How sites performed on average

 

Next, let’s look at average output and engagement rates for each of these ten sites. Here’s how the sites stack up based on average Facebook engagements with all their election related articles over the 48 hours.

Average Facebook Engagement on Election Coverage

Here we see why BuzzFeed managed to score highly in the overall rankings. They have an impressive average engagement rate that they were able to leverage to improve social visibility.

However, BuzzFeed’s average pales in comparison to IJR, a center-right site whose readers shared and engaged with abundance as the count developed. That resulted in a singularly impressive 7,800 average engagements for each of the 78 election related stories the site published over 48 hours.

In second place, the New York Times also did very well in the average engagement stakes. Their Exit Polls story, first published at 9.10pm ET, continued to gain significant engagement throughout the night as states declared their preference. According to our data, the article ended up performing 11 times better than the average NY Times story on Facebook, and over 22 times better on Twitter.

Rounding out the averages table were the NBC network and Fox News, large networks that produced a lot of content over the two days, some of which went viral, and much of which seems to have been lost in the whirlwind of content audiences were exposed to.

With engagement levels around the election showing no signs of slowing down, it looks as though Trump’s election is set to become the defining social news event of 2016.

Please get in touch with NewsWhip you have any questions about the data in this post.

Note: The numbers referenced in this posts represent real-time snapshots of the 48 period for each site. Growth in engagement on all content published in the timeframe will have the possible effect of changing overall rankings.

 

spike-strapline-3-1

  • Thanks for the in-depth coverage of the elections on social media, Liam.

  • E.V. Debs

    Could the IJR’s ratings been boosted by “bot” hits?

    How can you characterize them as “center right?” They may not be wrapping themselves in “Don’t tread on me flags,” carrying AK-47s, or giving Nazi salutes, but they’re pretty damned right wing otherwise. Dressing nice and combing their hair doesn’t make them otherwise.

    • Gabriele

      Hi E.V.! Thanks for the comment. I believe Facebook is now tackling the bot issue that has been seen by a number of publishers, but beyond that, there’s no high-level way to tell how many of a publisher’s engagements come from bots. As to IJR’s characterization, that’s how the publisher categorizes itself, so we were quoting the stance IJR says it’s taking.

      • E.V. Debs

        Thanks!