How Journalists Are Using Facebook Subscribe

January 25, 2012 at 11:59am

By Vadim Lavrusik, Journalist Program Manager & Betsy Cameron, Data Analyst

 

In September, we introduced Subscribe as a simple way for public figures to allow people to subscribe to their public updates on Facebook. For journalists specifically, Subscribe has enabled each journalist’s community of viewers and readers to get public updates in their News Feeds without having to add that journalist as friend. They can simply subscribe. 

 

Since its launch, thousands of journalists have enabled Subscribe, with news organizations like Washington Post (90+ journalists using the feature) and The New York Times (50+ journalists using the feature) leading the way. The average journalist has seen a 320% increase in subscribers since November 2011, according to our analysis of a sample of 25 journalists across a variety of outlets who enabled subscribe in September.

 

The sample included local, national, and international journalists from various news organizations and primary forms of media. From journalists like CNN's Don Lemon postingbreaking news about Jon Huntsman to The New York Times Moscow bureau reporter Michael Schwirtz posting live videos as he covered recent protests, journalists have been using Subscribe to keep their audiences better informed through Facebook as well as keeping up with sources.

 

So where is the growth coming from? Social and interest-based discovery. People discover journalists to subscribe to on Facebook through their friends in News Feed; Facebook search; our “people to subscribe to” recommendations engine (which shows you who your friends are subscribing to and recommends journalists based on your interests); and other organic discovery mechanisms, such as simply seeing who your friends have subscribed to.

 

Content Breakdown

Based on the analysis we conducted, here are some of the trends we're seeing in the type of content journalists are producing on Facebook, as well as what content receives above-average feedback. Let’s start with content types:

  • Questions and Input: 25% of posts contain a question to the reader (either rhetorical or soliciting input/reactions). In an earlier study, we found that posts that sought input received 64% more engagement (comments, likes, and shares).
  • Links: 62% of posts contain a link (either to one of the journalist's own stories, or to something else of interest). And when reporters include analysis with the links, those links receive 20% more referral clicks on average.
  • Call to Action: 30% of posts contain “promotional” language – “read my link," “check out my interview with,” etc. Posts with a call to action receive 37% more engagement than an average post.
  • Photos: 12% of posts were photos. Posts with photos receive 50% more likes than posts without photos.
  • Videos: 13% of posts are videos (from the scene of reporting, or a behind-the-scenes look at the process of reporting a story). 

What Works?

So of the content that journalists are sharing, what actually works? There are several types of content that seem to produce above-average feedback from subscribers:

  • Commentary and analysis on current events and breaking news receives 3x as many likes and 2x as many shares as the average post. Also, highlighting controversial stories on debatable subject matter can double the number of likes and shares the post receives.
  • Reader shout-outs can increase in feedback by as much as 4x. Also, asking for recommendations can lead to a 3x increase in comments above an average post.
  • In-depth analyses on global issues can yield a 1.5x increase in likes and 2.5x increase in shares.
  • Powerful photos can yield an increase of a 2x inengagement (likes, comments and shares). Also, behind-the-scenes photos resulted in up to a 4x increase in engagement (likes, comments, shares).
  • Humor in posts or a humorous picture can yield a 1.5x increase in likes and almost 5x increase in shares. Humor often shows the lighter and more personal side of the journalist, which is likely why it results in higher engagement.

If you’ve noticed trends in how your audience responds to the content you post or you have innovative use cases to share with others, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

For more about how to better use Subscribe as a journalist, please check out our resources below: