Here’s what dark social really means for your content


By   |   June 12th, 2018   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Digital Journalism

Social Media Data, Monitoring Social

Your web content can still go viral on Facebook. We take a look at what dark social reveals about top stories, for 25+ publishers.

Despite this year’s change to Facebook’s algorithm, our data has shown many publishers and brands doing considerably well. Much of this comes down to dark social and peer-to-peer sharing behaviors.

According to data from GetSocial, dark social sharing is twice as big as public sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and other channels. Dark social is the shares that don’t occur publicly, such as sharing a post via a messaging app or email.

We wanted to dig deeper to understand the organic audience patterns happening between social users and web links.

What differences are there in how audiences engage with publishers between web and natively on Facebook? How much can a publisher own their domain traffic on Facebook?

To find out, we used NewsWhip Analytics to dive into 30 different publishers, across news and niches, across legacy publishers and digital natives.

We looked at:

  • How many engagements do top link posts drive vs. articles?
  • Which link posts go viral on publishers’ Facebook Pages and how does that compare to the top link on their domain?
  • Which publishers see more engagements on their main Facebook Page than on their domain?
  • What percentage of a publisher’s Facebook engagements come from a single Facebook Page?

Let’s dive into the data.

 

What percentage of a publisher’s Facebook engagements come from a single Facebook Page?

 

Across different publishers, some links go massively viral on their main Facebook Page alone, while others see most engagements come from organic shares beyond the Page.

For example, Delish saw 2.46 million Facebook engagements to its web articles published in May. Its link posts on the Delish Facebook Page drove 2.35 million engagements, so nearly that entire 2.46 million we saw on the web.

When it comes to Delish’s content, much of the sharing of link posts is happening right from the publisher’s main Facebook Page. We saw that this tended to be the case for viral publishers and those producing a good deal of other types of content such as videos and photos.

link percentage Facebook

On the flipside, legacy publishers are seeing more of their web articles’ engagements occur beyond their main Facebook Page.

This mimics what recent reports have shown regarding traffic sources to publishers’ websites. While more readers are going to these news sites directly or via Google, they’re then sharing the content outside of public Facebook Pages.

link percentage Facebook low

These were all notably less, only seeing up to 28 percent of their web articles’ Facebook engagements come from link posts in May. It makes sense to see publishers that have built very established brands on this list.

 

Which link posts go viral on publishers’ Facebook Pages and how does that compare to the top link on their domain?

 

Different links go viral on a publisher’s website vs. their Facebook Page. The top ten Facebook link posts were never identical to the top ten articles on a publisher’s site, in our analysis.

Across 25 of the publishers, we saw the median was almost five, so about half of the links would be the most engaging both on their main Facebook Page and outside of it.

UNILAD had the most overlap between its top performing articles and the links shared to its main Facebook Page. Delish, People, the Hill, and NPR all also had the majority of their top performing content overlap.

The smallest overlap came from Teen Vogue, 24/7 Sports, VICE, NBC News, the Daily Mail, and the LA Times which only saw two or three of their top ten stories overlap. (Click for full size)

 

We left out ATTN:, Cheddar, and NowThis, as the three social-first publishers had an entirely different strategy. Their top performing link posts often were for other publishers or their other Pages’ content, such as NowThis Her.

There were a few notable differences in what went viral on websites vs. Facebook Pages. On the Facebook Pages, we saw breaking news, emotional stories, and content that was more applicable and relatable to readers, drive the most engagements.

On the web, more straight-forward stories or announcements tended to accrue engagements, along with stories that were more serious or related to “big picture topics”. Emotion did play a part here as well, but the stories weren’t as overtly provocative as they were on the Facebook Pages.

 

How many engagements do top link posts drive vs. articles?

 

So, just how many engagements can a specific article drive when compared to a top link post for these publishers? We took a look at the top for both the publisher’s website and for their main Facebook Page (click the image below for full size).

The biggest discrepancies were seen with the LA Times, NBC News, Washington Post, Business Insider, and NPR. For the LA Times, the top web articles had 26.5x the engagements as its top Facebook link post.

The ones with the smallest differences were the aforementioned viral publishers, which have the dedicated audiences on their Facebook Pages, like ComicBook.com, the LAD bible, NTD TV, and IFL Science.

 

Which publishers see more engagements on their main Facebook Page than on their domain?

 

Viral and Facebook-first publishers tend to see more total engagements on their Facebook Pages than they do to their web content. This makes sense, given their investment into video and other types of native content.

In fact, ten of the 30 publishers we analyzed saw more engagements to their main Facebook Page than to their website. These were primarily viral publishers, niche, or social-first publishers like the LAD bible, ATTN:, Cheddar, NowThis, UNILAD, and NTD TV, along with Delish and ComicBook.com.

There were a couple of surprises though, both Bleacher Report and People also saw more engagements to their main Facebook Page than to their websites.

 

What to remember

 

It’s a good idea to understand where all of your shares are coming from, and how to best optimize content for your distribution channels.

What may prompt web users to share with their personal network of friends on Facebook, isn’t necessarily the same as what will catch their attention on your Facebook Page. The same applies to the various platforms, such as Pinterest, Reddit, and LinkedIn.

As more platforms emphasize organic audience behaviors in their algorithms, it’s necessary to figure out what will get users sharing directly from your website.

Check out NewsWhip Spike to get an understanding of where your social shares are coming from, on web, Facebook, and more. 

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