Unpacking the Facebook newsfeed

Unpacking the Facebook newsfeed

Public relations practitioners should have a rudimentary understanding of the Facebook newsfeed. It’s an important form of media connecting 40 million people in the UK.

I ran a workshop at the PR Week’s PR360 Conference in London today about the best way for public relations to work with Facebook. Here's a copy of my presentation.

It’s not possible to have a conversation about Facebook at the moment without acknowledging the ongoing data privacy and fake news issues. Facebook is under fierce scrutiny from the media and governments around the world.

Facebook in numbers in the UK

Whatever your view it remains a powerful form of media for organisations seeking to engage with the public. There are two billion people on the platform worldwide and 40 million adults in the UK.

More than 1,000 signals make up how the Facebook newsfeed algorithm serves 300 stories each day.  It’s important for public relations practitioners to have a rudimentary understanding of how the algorithm works.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an update to Facebook in January to address the issue of fake news.

Groups versus brand pages

The changes promoted content from friends and family and groups over brand pages. Video content is promoted over all other forms of content.

Zuckerberg has recognised that Facebook users want to engage around communities as they do in real life.

There are two ways of building or engaging a community on Facebook. An individual can create a group around an interest or topic, or a brand can create its own space.

Brand paradox: pay to play

It’s an issue that plays into the Facebook brand paradox that we’ve seen play out over the last five years.

Facebook has built its business model by encouraging organisations to build communities on the platform.

Over time Facebook has throttled organic reach to the point where content posted within a community typically reaches less than three per cent.

Facebook’s business model is predicated on brands paying to promote content to reach a wider audience within their own communities.

Stories promoted on Facebook

Facebook shared the types of content that would be promoted in the newsfeed in a webinar for publishers in February.

  • Affinity: friends, family and close friends
  • Engagement: post bounce driven by reaction, comment and shares
  • User generated content: events, recommendations, reviews and check-in
  • User choice: stories so compelling people opt in
  • Video: Facebook wants to be an entertainment platform

My tip is to use these insights as the basis of strategies for engagement on the Facebook platform.

Recommendations for brands

Here are my three recommendations for using Facebook as a means of public relations engagement.

#1 Pay to play: budget against goals

You need to pay to guarantee reach as a brand on Facebook. Using Ad Planner to explore the cost and return on investment for an activity.

#2 Groups: listening and conversations

Explore relevant groups by location and topic. Listen to the conversation and determine whether you can add value. Engage with the admin and explore the opportunity to engage with the community.

#3 Test and learn from your data

Explore your own page data. Could you engage active members as influencers through their own networks? What content works and what doesn’t?

Further Information

I wrote a primer shortly after the latest newsfeed changes that contains more information about this topic.

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