Facebook Updates News Feed to Value Time Spent Reading by Audience


If you're like most content publishers, you probably measure time spent on a page, a helpful adjustment to your basic bounce rate metric. Guess who else is paying attention? Facebook. In a recent blog post, the social media kingpin announced that it will update publishers' rankings based on how much time users spend looking at an article in the Facebook mobile browser after clicking through from News Feed.

A couple of clear takeaways: First, make sure your content matches your headline. If your audience clicks in, finds that the content isn't what it expected and immediately navigates away, it will hurt you more than it helps you. Second, super-short-form content may not be the way to go. It may be that your audience enjoys an extremely digestible post with a single picture or quick info tidbit, but it could be worth trying to extend that engagement to appease the almighty algorithm.

No matter how successful you are, however, Facebook is going to reduce how often people see several posts in a row from you, based on user feedback indicating that people like to see a diversity of posts.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook
Adam Mosseri, Facebook

What else can you do to get ahead on the News Feed? In a recent talk at F8, Adam Mosseri, VP, product management, gave those in attendance an explanation of how News Feed works, along with these four important takeaways:

  • Write compelling headlines. Mosseri is careful to point out that this is not the same as "clickbaity" headlines; Facebook values headlines that give the reader a true idea of the content within, whereas "clickbait" often implies a vague tease, such as "three kids and a dog go to the park; you'll never guess what happens next!"
  • Avoid overly promotional content. That is to say, post items that your audience will find useful, and not things like "congrats to our new VP" or "we just won X award."
  • Experiment and try different things. Mosseri thinks this is the most important takeaway. Try different media, different forms of content, different tones. This is the best way to find out what your audience really values; it may not be what you assume it to be.
  • Use publisher tools. Audience Optimization allows you to select a "preferred audience" by such demographics as age, gender, location and language, and also to restrict your audience by the same criteria. A connected insights feature allows you to see how successful this is, which further informs your experimenting.

To learn more about getting ahead on social, join us in Miami for the PR News Digital PR & Marketing Conference & Google for Communicators Workshop, June 6-8.

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