White paper: The impact of messages on the engagement of posts published by the French media on Facebook

Following the results of two studies conducted in September 2019 by Nonli's Data Science team on engagement excluding clicks on Facebook (reactions, comments and shares) for all types of posts combined and based on the analysis of posts, excluding posts that do not contain a message, published during the 2nd quarter of 2019 for the first study (which focuses on the analysis of message characters), and from 2016 to the 1st quarter of 2019 for the second (which analyses the terms of the most engaging messages), on the pages of 133 of the most important French media in terms of web traffic (PQN, PQR, Magazines, TV, radio), we have decided to condense the results.

The fact that this document focuses particularly on Facebook publications is justified by 2 main elements:

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

- Facebook is the social network on which the media are the most active and through which they directly generate web traffic and revenue.

Character Analysis

Engagement by length of the message

The analyzed messages are between 1 and 2960 characters long.

Posts that did not contain any were not considered because they often consisted of a preview of another publication that contained a message whose size could only be determined manually for the volumes of posts included in our study.

The posts that generate the most median normalized engagement are those with messages between 1 and 15 characters. They engaged 1.7 to 3.3 times more than other publications over the same period.

Beyond 15 characters, we observe a variation in engagement from which no trend can be identified.

Characters Media Messages 1

Engagement of messages containing links

We wanted to analyze all the media considered here, as well as specific cases in order to qualify our conclusions.

In the 3 cases studied, the differences are clear but the results diverge:

- All media considered: 33% more engagement when messages contained links,

- L'Équipe: 146% more engagement when messages contained links,

- Les Echos: 133% more engagement when the messages did not contain a link.

 

Characters Media Messages 2

Engagement of messages containing emojis

Once again, we wanted to analyze all the media considered, as well as specific cases in order to qualify our conclusions.

Once again, the results diverge:

- All media considered: 37% more engagement when messages contained emojis,

- La Provence: 6% more engagement when the messages did not contain emojis, but taking into account the error bars, this difference is actually not significant,

- Le Figaro: 29% more engagement when the messages did not contain emojis.

 

Characters Media Messages 3

 

Engagement of messages containing hashtags

As previously, we have used all the media covered by the analysis, as well as specific cases to qualify our conclusions.

Once more, the results diverge:

- All media considered: 9% more engagement when messages contained hashtags,

- Libération: 90% more engagement when the messages contained hashtags,

- Mediapart: 157% more engagement when the messages did not contain hashtags.


Characters Media Messages 4

Terms analysis

For this part, we have decided to focus on the terms, in order to identify if some participate in generating more engagement than others, for the main pages of 6 specific media: Le Monde, La Provence, Le Figaro, 20 Minutes, Le Parisien and BFM TV.

It should be noted that the terms in question are roots of words - such as "mort" for words such as mortal or mortality. Some terms become particularly meaningful when they are combined like breaking news by combining the roots "break" and "news".

We could identify that some terms tended to appear at the top of the ranking for a majority of pages. These are either generic terms or terms that relate to a particular news item.

The terms horror, death, child, animal or Macron are among the most common in engaging messages, while the most prominent compiled terms are yellow vests, presidential election and breaking news.

As for the categories or subjects to which these terms are related, they are mostly those about miscellaneous news, politics, law enforcement, weather or money.

The rankings of terms per page studied are shown in the graphs below. 


Terms Media Messages 1
 
Terms Media Messages 2

Terms Media Messages 3

Terms Media Messages 4

Terms Media Messages 5

Terms Media Messages 6
 
 

Conclusion

Of all the publications studied in the second quarter of 2019, messages of less than 15 characters are the most engaging - the introduction of a link, emoji or hashtag in the message is linked to an engagement that varies depending on the content as well as the page and its audience.

As for the terms related to strong engagement, it appears that some terms and topics have a strong propensity to engage with different audiences, whether these topics are related to specific categories of information or events (such as yellow vests or the presidential election). 

It is interesting to note that the compiled terms specific to some media seem to be related to less engagement.

Our recommendations are the following:
- opt for posts with short messages,
- regularly test different types of messages with your audience,
- vary the tests to see if the results differ.


*You can follow the following links to access the studies on characters and terms.