Share Rocket recently completed an analysis of six months’ worth of Facebook data from all of the stations, sub-brand accounts, and journalists we track across the country. Our goal was to better understand Facebook engagements trends, as well as determine if there have been any significant changes in the average engagement of each content type that power the News Feed.
As we highlighted last month, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, “Ranking,” is based much more on user behavior than it is particularly boosting certain forms of content above others. However, after Facebook Live was launched, it was clear that Facebook was creating incentives to go live by sending out notifications for live videos and placing them at the top of the feed.
Below are the high-level findings from our research:
- Video is still the most-engaging content on the site by a very wide margin. The average video had more than 160 more engagements per post than the next-closest form of post, links.
- Link posts have been impressively steady over the last six months, staying between 255 and 276 engagements per post in every month. Publishers that have been hoping for a big boost in engagement from link posts to get more organic reach and drive more users to their own site are likely disappointed, as the trend is flat.
- Photos saw a large increase in average engagement from May through September, but took a slight downturn in October (as did all other forms of post).
The average engagement per post for four categories of Facebook posts made by broadcasters and publishers from May through October 2017. Tap/click to zoom.
Let’s take a look at each month individually and briefly track the changes over the last half-year:
We began tracking this data in May, a month that was fairly low in total engagement compared to the months ahead. All four types of posts were below their average engagement over the six-month analysis and there were more than 4 million fewer engagements in May than any other month.
When we first pulled the data, we thought this month may have been an outlier in how big the difference was between that type of content and links/photos. It turned out, it was actually second-lowest month for video in terms of engagement per post.
May was the lowest performing of the six months for photo posts with 179.4 engagements per post. Photos began a steady increase from May through September, a month in which they actually had more engagement than link posts. However, a nice benefit to Facebook photo posts is it is very easy to copy a photo with a caption (and a link to your site, where applicable) to Twitter and Instagram, as well.
May was also the lowest performing month for status posts. However, it is important to keep in mind that status posts are not common post types for most broadcasters and publishers, so we’ll focus less on those in the months ahead.
In June, the Pages Share Rocket tracks posted the fewest posts of any month in our analysis and generated the second-lowest amount of total engagement.
Engagement in June was slightly up for all types of posts, but we observed video posts skyrocket to well over 400 engagements per post. Video in June had the second-highest engagement per post of any month of content in our analysis.
Unlike a big spike in September, this June video spike is harder to attribute to specific news events. One notable video event was James Coney’s testimony before the U.S. Senate about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Photo posts also had a decent increase in engagement per post, but still remained well behind its six-month average. Link posts were basically unchanged from May to June.
In July, there were about 8,000 more posts than in June on Facebook, and they drove nearly 10 million more total engagements, pushing the overall average engagement per post higher.
Video post engagement dropped slightly in July and was the only form of post to decrease in engagement per post from June.
Photos saw the biggest month-to-month increase in our analysis between June and July, with statuses receiving a similar increase (at least in terms of percentage). The increase helped put photo posts on a similar level to link posts when it comes to driving engagement. There were about 4,000 more photo posts in July than in June, and they delivered more than 7.5 million more engagements for the month.
July had more link posts than in both May and June (close to 370,000), which resulted in more than 101.5 million engagements. Link posts drove at least 100 million engagements in every month from July through October.
Beginning in August and peaking in September, we saw a big increase in Facebook engagement. In August, there were about 273,000 more posts than in July, and they generated more than 30 million more total engagements than the previous month.
Video rebounded from its June correction in July, with about 15.8 million engagements than the previous month. Video posts remained the undisputed engagement leader.
Photos continued to increase slightly in engagement per post. There were about 18,000 more photo posts than the previous month, and they generated an additional 8.86 million engagements.
The average engagement per post for link posts remained virtually unchanged from July to August, but in August there were about 23,000 more link posts than the previous month, generating about 5.8 million more engagements.
September was the month both overall engagement and engagement per post peaked in our analysis. This was largely driven by the massive natural disasters in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
Share Rocket tracked more than 159,000 video posts in September and they generated about 77.9 million engagements. In terms of total engagement, video still trailed well behind links (about 104 million vs. 77.9 million), but the engagement per post battle was no contest. The average video post outperformed the average example of all other types of posts by at least 200 engagements.
Photos once again saw a nice month-to-month boost in terms of engagement per post, hitting a high over the months we analyzed and finishing ahead of link posts (which was the only time that happened). There were actually fewer photo posts than in August, but they generated nearly 3 million more engagements. Clearly, it was a big month for visual content on the platform.
There were slightly fewer link posts than August and they generated slightly less engagement than the previous month, so the engagement per post for those was flat.
After the peak of September, October results showed engagement was lower across the board. We noted the trend a few times in our weekly top 20 market reports on this blog. There were about 6,000 more total posts in October than there were in September and they generated about 28.4 million fewer engagements.
The engagement decline was most dramatic in video, which dropped an average of 131.3 engagements per post from month to month. This was likely the market returning to more average levels from the September high. Video generated about 23.6 million fewer engagements than the prior month.
Photo posts were also down substantially but did not see the same decline as video posts. Photo posts were still well above their six-month average in October. That may be a sign some of the growth in engagement per post we’ve seen in that category over the six-month period is here to stay.
Link posts also saw a decline, but still generated more than 101 million engagements in the month. There were about 17,000 more link posts than in September and they generated 2.7 million engagements, leading to the engagement-per-post decline.
Here are the average engagement-per-post numbers for each type of content from May to October 2017:
All in all, this data confirms the trends that social teams at most broadcasters and publishers have seen. However, the data reaffirms that video is a key to success on Facebook.
This six-month analysis supports a Facebook strategy that prioritizes native video posts, as they drive nearly double the engagement per post than the next-closest post type. Secondly, Facebook appears to be giving link posts the second-most engagement (on an engagement per post basis). This should give publishers confidence that Facebook still values posts that drive publisher web traffic.
Share Rocket will continue to monitor post type engagement in the days and months to come in future reports. Stay tuned to our blog and subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.