How to drive Facebook shares and comments on your web content

June 26, 2018

Written by NewsWhip
facebook algorithm analytics

How can your web content spark shares and comments on Facebook, over a simple like? We look at the data.

Recently, we’ve taken a deeper dive into stories, and the specific audience behaviors that they drive.

We’ve looked at dark social on the web vs. Facebook, and whether news publishers see virality with the same news stories. In this analysis, we decided to look even deeper.

If your story prompts a simple like, well, that’s better than no engagements, but it can be agreed that a share, or a comment, is more meaningful, both as feedback on how your content is doing, and as a way to distribute your content even further.

So what sort of stories are more likely to drive shares or comments? We turned to our database to find out.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we examined:

  • The differences in top stories, when ranked by Facebook likes vs. shares or comments
  • How this varies across different publishers
  • What percentage do shares and comments drive, when compared to likes?
  • What you need to know for creating share-worthy content

Let’s take a look. To explain our methodology, we looked at Facebook likes, shares, and comments on articles posted by publishers to their domains, between May 1st and May 15th, 2018. 

How often is the top liked story, also the top shared or commented story? 

For this analysis, we looked at 20 publishers, across mainstream news, to niches in politics, sports, and pop culture. For 14 of the 20, their most-liked story was also either their most shared, most commented, or both. Only five of the 20, or 25 percent, had the same story as the most liked, shared, and commented story.

This shows that stories differ in which types of interactions they encourage. Here’s a look at one publisher that had different stories across its most liked, most shared, and most commented article:

Fox News top stories Facebook
Only three of the publishers had completely different stories rank #1, including Fox News, but we can start seeing how different stories make readers react differently.

In fact, looking at the top ten, only three made the top ten lists across all three metrics. 

What drives likes vs. shares or comments? 

So now that we’ve seen that publishers’ top stories aren’t unilaterally the same when broken out into specific metrics. What causes these differences? What sort of story do people want to share with their friends and family, or to make a comment on?

Across both mainstream news and niche publishers, we saw a few trends emerge in the data. Likes tended to accrue on stories that readers approved of, or agreed with.

HuffPost top stories
Breaking news, across hard news and pop culture moments, tend to be universally engaging across the three metrics. Engagements, across likes and shares, also occurred on stories that had a level of confirmation bias.

For shares, people were likely to share stories when the content was relatable, personable, immediately applicable, or actionable.

CNN top stories
Commenting behavior was a bit similar to shares. We again saw comments driven by content that was relatable and actionable, such as product releases or things that people could comment to share with their friends or with a personal experience or opinion of their own.

Delish top stories
Unsurprisingly, the most commented stories also generally tended to be ones that were controversial or provoked outrage in readers. This could be anything from an article on pickle-flavored soft serve (from Delish, above) to a potentially racist prom dress.

NY Times
It’s also interesting to look at the numbers themselves. Shares are clearly less commonplace than likes, but comments number quite highly on the top commented posts. 

What percentage do shares and comments drive, when compared to likes? 

Generally, a story will drive more likes. It’s much easier to passively like a story in your news feed, than to take the action of sharing the story with your network (and identifying yourself publicly with it), or to type a comment.

The Hill stories
However, our analysis shows that for the top commented stories, comments far surpass the number of shares, and will almost equal the number of likes of particularly controversial or political stories.
These stories had the highest percentage of comments in our two-week analysis of 20 publishers.

top commented stories
These stories are driving a disproportionate amount of comments. Again, it tends to be on immediately applicable stories, like those about deals or product recalls. Controversial or cautionary stories also drive a high amount of comments. 

What you need to know for creating share-worthy content 

As publishers need to rely more on the merits of their content, rather than algorithms, it’s key to understand your audience and how they’re relating to a story.

What makes someone want to share a story with their personal network? Here again are a few of the trends to consider for whether content is shareable:

  1. Breaking news. Digital consumers expect to be up-to-date on everything, and stories with a sense of urgency get them sharing
  2. Emotionally charged content, particularly stories that provoke outrage
  3. Stories that speak to readers’ confirmation bias
  4. Stories that are relatable to readers’ everyday lives or experiences
  5. Content that is actionable, that might have something to try or do, or even to stay away from

For a look into how your web content (and your competitors’ content!) breaks out across likes, shares, and comments, take a demo of NewsWhip Spike

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