White Paper: The French media's practices to increase their traffic coming from Facebook

Following on the results of a study carried out in January 2019 by Nonli’s Data Science team on Facebook engagement excluding clicks (reactions, comments and shares) generated by the post type link and based on the data analysis of posts published between 2016 and 2018 by 133 pages of the largest French media in terms of website traffic (local & national newspapers, magazines, TV, radio), we have decided to condense its results - most of which go against numerous widespread popular beliefs.

The fact that this document specifically focuses on the post type link on Facebook is justified by 3 main elements:

- the #1 social network in France is Facebook with 27 million daily active users

- type link publications generate direct traffic for the media - and therefore, revenue (through advertising or subscriptions)

- they accounted for over 84% of media publications on Facebook in 2018

The evolution of publication volumes

On average, 6,127 posts were published by page in 2018. It is 3 times more than 2016, where the average was 2,068. Amongst those 6,127 publications, 5,162 were post type link - i.e. about 84%. In 2016, they accounted for 80%, with 1,664 type link.

 

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This growth in volume is the reflection of an increase in traffic coming from social networks, however it is not proportional as the reach is continuously decreasing. We have observed with our customers a median reach of about 6% on Facebook in 2018.


Engagement analysis

Engagement per post and type of post

When looking into the data of the last 2 quarters of 2018, we notice that the median engagement per post, all types of posts considered, was 104 - accounting for 16 daily publications on average.

The publication types generating the most engagement are:

- Video: 145 - accounting for 1 post/day per page on average
- Photo: 112 - accounting for 1 post/day per page on average
- Link: 145 - accounting for 1 post/day per page on average.

The impact of daily volume of posts on engagement

With the increase of the number of posts published per day, the value of the average engagement varies from one publication to another. However, we notice it increases by 0.005% per additional published post on average, i.e. very marginally.


The total engagement therefore mechanically increases with the growth of the volume of posts.

 

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This analysis was performed on a range of publications from 0 to 60 posts per day per page. Very few media currently publishing more than 60 times a day on Facebook, the conclusions would not be relevant beyond this number as the amount of data would not be statistically significant - however, these results imply that the increase in the number of publications on Facebook represent a potential driver of traffic and revenue growth.

Engagement, impressions, fans and clicks

Not only does the daily engagement per piece of content grow with the number of publications, it also grows with the number of fans of the page that published it: the more popular a Facebook page, the more engagement its published content will generate.

Furthermore, we notice that the number of fans itself grows faster when we publish a lot - still for the 2 last quarters of 2018:

- those who posted over 40 times per day had increased their number of fans by 127 per day over 6 months - whereas when they published less than 6 times per day, they gained 3 fans/day - i.e. a 1:42 ratio.

- the pages that published over 40 posts per day at least 20 times per month had increased their number of fans by 22 times more than those who had published less than 6 times per day - 6.7% on average vs. 0.3%.

 

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Considering our previous conclusions: the more we publish, the more fans we gain; and the more fans we have, the more our content engages.

With our customers, we noticed a correlation between engagement and clicks: when the engagement of a piece of content grows, its number of clicks grows - in equivalent proportions - and therefore its traffic.

We also noticed that it is necessary for a piece of content to be seen one million times to generate about 20,000 clicks, i.e. have a click rate of about 2%, that corresponds to a final engagement of about 10,000 (engagement excluding clicks - i.e. reactions, comments and shares).

Engagement, frequency and publishing period

When analysing all the publications consecutive by less than a minute and by more than 30 minutes between 2016 and 2018, at an equivalent number of fans, we could notice that the time gap between two publications had no significant impact on engagement - whether we publish with a very short interval or not, the impact on the final engagements will be very low, independently of the time of publishing.

As for the publishing time and day, a granular analysis on several media helped us demonstrate that there is no universal truth in terms of best practices. We could observe that the trends from this perspective are dependent on the analysed pages.
Where the engagement of a given page will be better for content published from Monday to Friday between 5.00 and 20.00, another one will get much better engagement on weekends and evenings between 20.00 and 0.00 or at night between 0.00 and 5.00, whereas others will see very minimal variations from one day to another or one period of time to another.
Engagement is therefore highly dependent on the audience.

Certain results are also victim of self-fulfilling prophecies: given that certain pages almost never or seldom publish on weekends and between 20.00 and 5.00, their engagement is lower during these time frames.


Conclusion

Website revenues generated by traffic coming from Facebook happen via post type link of which volumes, due to the continuous decrease of reach on Facebook, need to keep increasing in order to not only maintain current levels of traffic coming from Facebook, but also grow that traffic.

Besides, provided that the number of fans increases with the volume of publications, the number of clicks generating traffic increases with the volume of publications.

Here are our recommendations:
- post more in order to grow both revenue and number of fans, it is a virtuous circle.
- test the times/days of publication - posting in “off-peak hours” and “off-peak days”, those can turn out to be unexpected sources of revenue
- the reach being in continuous decrease, it is necessary to post more at the risk of experiencing dropping or stagnant revenues
- multiply the presence and intensify the activity on different social networks, in particular those where your target audience is or when the subjects apply.


*the full study is available here