Decoding Facebook data to understand the true drivers of engagement, loyalty

Engaging the right audiences on Facebook does not have to feel like grasping at straws — you already possess the resources for a strategy that drives greater engagement loyalty. This was just one of the findings in our recent webinar with Keywee, Decoding Facebook Traffic: The data you need to build stronger engagement and loyalty.

Below, we break down the ways publishers can make the most of Facebook investments before, during, and after interactions with their audiences.

Thinking about strategy before Facebook engagement

Nearly 40% of our webinar participants said that they do not have a Facebook acquisition strategy. Our friends at Keywee explained why.

Inbar Yagur, Head of Marketing at Keywee, said that Facebook can be an extremely valuable way to expand your reach, but the difficulty lies in getting past the noise to understand the right approach for your organization.

A full replay of the webinar is also available here.

“The biggest concern people have is that bounce rates are high,” she said. “The issue isn’t that bounce rates are high … the problem is that you’re not optimizing for the right thing. If you optimize for the metrics that matter to you, you can get [the] audience you want and have them stick around.”

Notes from Chartbeat: What we know about engagement

We’ve seen that 45% of the visitors that load an article will leave within the first 15 seconds. Much of that behavior can be attributed to poor experiences — which can be fixed by taking real-time actions. Here’s how:

1. Combine quantity metrics with quality metrics

Pageviews and bounce rates in isolation will not speak to your typical reader journey. Combine that data with Engaged Time and Recirculation metrics so that you can quickly identify places to improve.

2. Be intentional with iteration

Jill Nicholson, our Senior Director of Customer Education, used Swiss publisher NZZ as a prime example of experimentation with intent. NZZ showed that layout and content adjustments increased its Average Engaged Time by 20 percent. We also noted that language composition matters:

  • Stories with more quotations have a higher completion rate. 
  • If the information in a story becomes too complex, readers will leave the page. 
  • Ledes (the first sentences or paragraphs of your content) are as important as ever. The wrong style of lede affects the bounce rate.

3. Measure your progress

Celebrating the wins alone will not drive results on your quality metrics. Publishers (or any content-driven organization, for that matter) that share the good and bad insights across teams will create a stronger culture of collaboration and improvement.

(Related: Using data to achieve interdepartmental goals more effectively: A Q&A with Eduardo Aguilar, Audience Manager for El Universal)

The primary avenues to optimize for Facebook traffic

Implementing and iterating upon a Facebook strategy is not as intimidating as it sounds. Start by selecting the optimization strategy that works best for your organization. Here are a few options:

1. Optimizing for CPC (Cost Per Click)

Optimizing your budget for clicks will get you, well, more clicks. If that doesn’t fit into your reader acquisition strategy, it will come at a substantive cost. In most cases, this approach causes an influx of low quality traffic. 

2. Optimizing for time spent

Organizations are understandably averse to low quality traffic. Fortunately, there’s a way to combat it — optimize for the time spent on site. Measure the amount of time your most engaged audiences spend reading. A predetermined marker (say, 30 seconds of engagement) gives you a streamlined point in time to fire a pixel. By using this strategy, you can ensure that the CPC stays the same while the visitor quality increases.

3. Optimizing for loyalty

In this strategy, organizations can retarget past visitors and determine a loyalty score. Since the loyalty score is unique to each publisher, it can be used as a clearer barometer for understanding reader behaviors. Look to your paid acquisition team to determine and share a loyalty score with the editorial team. This can inform both editorial and organic social media strategy, help content curation for the paid campaigns, and ultimately expand reach.

Notes from Chartbeat: What we know about loyal audiences

Believe it or not, mobile visitors exhibit more loyalty than their desktop counterparts, but visitors from platforms like Facebook are notably less loyal than direct readers.

mobile visitor behavior loyalty

Loyal audiences give you more chances for desired outcomes (like subscriptions or lead generation) because we’ve found they read 3x more content per visit than non-loyal visitors.

Driving subscriptions through Facebook traffic

Organizations using a sequencing strategy (described below) — which represents upwards of 60% of organizations, according to Keywee — have a better opportunity to ensure readers will stick around, which leads to a stronger subscriptions funnel, she said. In fact, Yagur noted that conversion rates can get as high as 35% using this strategy.

reader engagement funnel

Let’s explain the different phases of this funnel above.

1. Prospecting phase — Filling the top of the funnel

Here are some ways you can accomplish this:

  • Curate content that has shown to fill the top of the funnel
  • Consider or look to your metered paywall model
  • Focus on evergreen content, with a particular eye on your “zombies”

2. Consideration stage  — Targeted content and lead generation

This is defined as “showing your value.”

  • Target your readers’ interests and consider the content that brings them to Facebook in the first place (more on that below)
  • Use your newsletters or email marketing, which are the best channels to showcase your authority on topics

3. Conversion stage — Targeting + content curation

Here’s where you can place content behind a paywall in a targeted way, such as:

  • Metered
  • Non-metered
  • Targeted by section

This can also be accomplished through a strong content curation strategy. In this case, it’s important to showcase your strongest, trust-building content where you offer the most value.

(Learn more about paywall models: Paywall model breakdown: The current landscape and new frontier)

Notes from Chartbeat: More on platform-based reader preferences

Our previous research shows that the source of traffic affects the type of content people consume:

Importance of retention

Retention strategies can alleviate concerns about high risk users (new conversions, free trials, promotions about to expire) or zombie subscribers (users that have been offline for longer periods). Certain types of content are more effective in this regard, such as:

  • Creative/Content trends
  • Longform
  • Opinion
  • Local news
  • How-tos and guides
  • Balance between COVID/non-COVID

Notes from Chartbeat: What we know about retention

When it comes to determining the most engaging content to retain audiences, Facebook readers exhibit unique qualities. Here’s what our data tells us:

  • Facebook readers are hard to recirculate, but those who view a second page are more likely to return
  • On mobile devices, few readers see recirculation widgets at the bottom of an article
  • Carefully chosen, positioned, and placed related links can promote onward journeys

We also see the importance of building a profile for social success. This means looking beyond a topic and analyzing your best social content from a reader’s perspective, such as your:

  • Emotional tone
  • Lede style
  • Story structure
  • Use of visuals

(Related reading: 3 social media tips from Chartbeat that will enhance your presence across channels)

What we know about the pre- and post-engagement journeys on Facebook

Organizations can use what they already know about their engaged audiences to expand their reach through social platforms such as Facebook. Here’s a few tactics to keep in mind as you’re taking an initial dive or revisiting your acquisition strategies: 

1. Quality Facebook traffic can be easier to acquire once you determine the best campaign strategy for your organization. Regardless, the goal should be to create long-term loyalty.

2. It’s best to take a segmented approach to move users down the funnel — this encourages cost-efficient, high-quality subscribers.

3. Choose content that emphasizes your unique value — this provides differentiation from your peers.

4. Facebook traffic has declined since its coronavirus peak, but remains one of the largest drivers of traffic to content. There’s still opportunities to use what we’ve learned about readers to optimize for those behaviors.

5. Social traffic, unlike search, tends to cater towards the emotional side of content. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon publishers to create and promote content that is suited to the human and emotional preferences of Facebook readers.

6. Encourage loyalty by optimizing your stories for quality metrics such as Engaged Time and Recirculation, which can complement the quantity numbers that often drive decision-making.

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