The very name of Facebook’s news feed has begun to feel slightly ironic in recent weeks as the presence of news articles has noticeably diminished. This is the result of major changes to Facebook’s algorithms, which now prioritise posts from friends above those from pages, and particularly above those from news pages. In the face of these changes you will probably have noticed that the share of traffic your publication’s website receives from Facebook will have dropped significantly, so what can you do about it?
Audience engagement has become a much more interesting field all of a sudden. The advice can no longer be boiled down to “prioritise Facebook above all else.” I am not going to pretend that I have all the answers, but here are some tips that should help to continue to grow your audiences despite Facebook’s changes.
Still use Facebook, but differently
The first thing to point out is that Facebook is not completely dead as a means of distributing news. The articles are still there, you just have to scroll quite far to find them, rather than being presented with them among the top three or four items in the feed.
The best place to post articles on Facebook is in relevant groups. The advantage they have other the news feed is that most of the members of the group will receive a notification when you make the post (unless they have turned them off). Obviously the two important things to bear in mind with this are: 1) make sure you only post the articles in groups that are appropriate for this, and 2) don’t do it with every single article you publish, because that will just annoy the people in the group.
Diversify your social media presence
You almost certainly all use Twitter in addition to Facebook, but Twitter has a key weakness: far fewer people use it than you’d think. I personally love Twitter and spend hours on it every day, but the same is not true for the general population.
Last year Facebook exceeded 2 billion users, meanwhile Twitter still has fewer than 350 million. Articles posted to Twitter can never reach anywhere near the amount of people that they do on Facebook. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use Twitter for distributing articles, but just be aware of its limited reach.
In terms of which other social media platforms are useful for distributing news, there is some debate about which of them are particularly viable. Instagram has a massive user base with 800 million monthly users, but it only naturally lends itself to sharing stories where an original photo or image is a key part. The real strength of Instagram for publications is Instagram Stories, which can be very useful for covering events that you report on in real time.
The main advice I can give with this part of digital strategy is to experiment with different platforms and see what happens. Now is the time to experiment, while you work with a publication that isn’t dependent on its ad revenue to survive.
Search Engine Optimisation was already hugely important and probably always will be. Simple elements of SEO can go a long way, such as: making sure the keyword appears in the title, the URL and the first paragraph, keeping articles below 1,000 words, and putting the keyword in the image’s caption and alt-text fields. Plugins for WordPress sites can help with this.
Experiment with content and monitor analytics
The only way to know if something will work is to try it and then to monitor the effect it has on your traffic. Simple analytics like the jetpack plugin for WordPress are useful, but it is much better to use more advanced software such as Google Analytics in order to properly gauge your audience and its interests. This way you can chart any significant changes in your traffic.