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Archive for October 12th, 2012

2014 update: Facebook has changed its algorithm. While most of the advice in this post remains valid, the algorithm now favors links over photos.

Update: If you read the original version of this, please check the correction in bold. I was mistaken about rights to post AP photos on Facebook. 

Changes to the algorithm guiding the Facebook news feed make it more important than ever that newsrooms and journalists engage effectively on Facebook.

We don’t fully know how the changes work or what we should do about the them. Facebook has not provided much guidance on new best practices for news brands (they should do that; Facebook users share and interact with a lot of news).

Facebook + Journalists has been silent on this issue and the Facebook Blog hasn’t posted since January. I haven’t been successful in getting any on-the-record guidance from Facebook or in getting much private guidance that is helpful. This explainer on the Facebook news feed doesn’t even include a question on the recent changes.

The purported purpose of the algorithm is to deliver to people’s news feeds posts that Facebook thinks they will want. So if people are interacting with our posts (clicking on photos and links, liking and sharing our content, commenting), they will see more posts from us. If they are interacting with content of a particular type (sports content, for instance), they will see more of our posts on that topic.

Some have speculated that Facebook is hiding posts from news brands to encourage us to pay for promoted positions for our brands. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t expect that most newsrooms will spend much, if any, money promoting our posts. Presuming that some companies do pay to promote their posts, those promoted posts will get more prominent play in people’s news feeds than our free posts.

I don’t like Facebook’s changes either as a user or as a journalist interested in reaching Facebook users. I may blog separately about that. But whether we like the changes is irrelevant when it comes to how newsrooms should engage on Facebook. I don’t like the decline in newspaper advertising either, but I have to deal with its results.

News brands that have been getting significant traffic from Facebook have seen dramatic drops in our referrals. We need to make a better effort at posting engaging content and starting conversations. We need to experiment with strategies for generating engagement. We need to monitor how those strategies affect engagement. And we need to share stories of what works effectively.

I’m encouraging Digital First newsrooms to follow these practices. Some have proven effective in the past at generating engagement. Some of these practices have been used by DFM newsrooms in posts that have drawn effective engagement under the new algorithm. Clearly this advice is speculative to some extent, so we’re interested in hearing from you what generates successful results. (more…)

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