Growing your traffic on Facebook is one of the key planks in a successful social media strategy, but it’s easier said than done. Facebook remains the single most important source of social media traffic for publishers around the world, accounting for around 13% of all pageviews according to the Social Media Index, a free tool we’ve developed to track traffic to publishers’ websites from social media platforms. To put this figure into context, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Pinterest combined make up only 1.6%.
So how can you make the most of Facebook as a traffic source? How should you format your posts? Does adding tags increase clicks? When should you share your posts? In the aggregate, the answers to these questions can add substantial numbers to your traffic. We know, we’ve done the research. Our Data Science team are always on the lookout for tests to run, numbers to crunch and trends to analyze, and the fruits of their labour are our white papers, rich in insights into the best strategies to maximize social media traffic.
Here are 7 key recommendations derived from our research covering all aspects of posting, from how to format posts to whether to tag them and when to share them, all designed to help you take your social media strategy to the next level.
Facebook post format
So, you’re putting together your post. What should it look like?
1) Don’t overdo the emojis: We all love an emoji, and they’re a great way of forming a connection with your audience, but they’re best used sparingly. Our research concluded that including a single emoji in a post had significant benefits with those posts generating a 29% increase in pageviews over their emoji-less counterparts.
But these benefits steadily diminished with each extra emoji used, to the extent that posts with 3 emojis performed worse than those with none. In our white paper, we also looked at other variables such as positioning and the performance of certain popular types of emoji to develop a comprehensive guide to using emojis on Facebook.
2) Focus on link posts for more traffic: One of the most difficult aspects of developing a social media strategy is contending with Facebook’s algorithms.
In line with changes to its News Feed algorithm, in 2017 Facebook announced that publishers should share a mixture of link and photo posts, contradicting earlier advice to simply do what made most sense to each publisher. The advice seemed simple enough, but is there a specific ratio of link posts to photo posts that produces the best results? We looked into it and reached some surprising conclusions.
Partnering with 11 leading publishers from around the globe, we conducted the largest ever scientific study on the issue and discovered that, in fact, Facebook’s own advice was incorrect: introducing photo posts produced diminished performance compared with sharing only link posts in the 4 key metrics we studied.
Tags on Facebook posts
Your post is looking good. Should you tag it?
3) Think twice about that Breaking News tag: Theoretically, using Facebook’s Breaking News tag should be a really handy tool to draw a reader’s attention to important content. But does it really work? Our experiments determined that it did, but it came at a cost. Surprisingly, while articles tagged as Breaking News outperformed their predicted performance, overall traffic levels remained stagnant, or even decreased.
Why should this be? It seems that the effectiveness of the Breaking News tag is actually detrimental to other content, producing a so-called “cannibalization effect” which induces worse performance from non-tagged articles. Essentially, the Breaking News tag draws attention away from everything else.
4) Forget interest tags: Using data from some of the largest publishers worldwide, all Echobox customers with many millions of Facebook followers between them, we looked at the effect of Facebook’s revamped organic targeting tool Audience Optimization. Specifically, we wanted to look at the impact on click-through rates (CTRs) of interest tags which Facebook billed as extending the reach of publishers’ content through more granular targeting.
We decided to put this to the test through training a machine learning algorithm to scan an article and produce a relevant and optimized interest tag (which was then reviewed by the page owner to ensure accuracy).
Our results showed that interest tagging has no effect on CTRs, neither positive nor negative. In fact, we found that even randomly tagging posts with irrelevant tags had no effect, either. None.
Timing and resharing
You’re ready to post, but when should you? And should you reshare?
5) Get specific, there is no standard best time to post: There are many people who’ll tell you that they’ve discovered the best time to post; a time when everyone is online and checking Facebook and clicking through to your website, and if you post an article at that time, your CTR will go through the roof. They haven’t. No two publishers are the same, so why would they have the same peaks and troughs in audience engagement throughout the day?
Our study showed that each and every publisher has various best times to post throughout the day that are specific to them and that these times can constantly change due to numerous factors. The only way to truly ensure that you’re choosing the best timing for your posts is to use an AI-powered social media management tool that continuously runs calculations on a minute-by-minute basis, ensuring that the right content goes out at the right time.
6) Be careful about post spacing: As we’ve mentioned before, one of the toughest aspects of developing a social media strategy is dealing with Facebook’s ever-evolving News Feed algorithm designed to promote content which matches certain criteria. One of the most impactful but little known aspects of its workings, we discovered, was that the algorithm actively penalizes publishers who post at certain intervals — whether too often or too infrequently.
The intervals subject to penalization are non-linear and vary from publisher to publisher, meaning that there isn’t one specific interval within which all posts perform well. But we’ve got you covered. We’ve developed the world’s first Facebook Grader for publishers to determine if their post spacing is helping or hurting them, and to analyze how their Facebook Pages are performing overall. Free to use, simply input the URL of the Page you want to examine, and we’ll send a report to your inbox detailing how that Facebook Page shapes up. Give it a go!
7) Reshare content, it’s incredibly effective: Making sure you have enough content to post throughout the day can seem forbiddingly difficult, but it’s really important. Leaving large gaps in sharing means that there are long periods where you aren’t maximizing your Facebook traffic. We looked at the benefits to be gained from resharing previously published content through a large-scale study involving 600 of the world’s leading publishers such as The Guardian, Le Monde and Conde Nast.
We found that, on average, reshares will garner around 67% of the clicks they did the first time around, making them a free and efficient means of driving additional traffic. Moreover, our study showed that for around 1 in 8 publishers, reshares actually outperformed their predecessors. Incredibly, over half of all publishers we studied failed to take full advantage of resharing, with 55% resharing under 10% of their content and an average reshare rate of just 8%. Read our white paper for a step-by-step guide to how to best incorporate resharing into your social media strategy. When done effectively, there is no easier way to generate more traffic.
That’s it! Following these steps will help keep your Facebook shares prominent in the News Feed and save you time in the process. But there’s a way to save even more time and keep ahead of any potential changes to Facebook’s algorithm. Over 1000 of the world’s most reputable publishers rely on Echobox to grow their presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Get in contact today and see what Echobox could do for you!