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New Research from Facebook Shows Engagement with Local News Providers Booming Amid COVID-19

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Given the rapid evolution, and massive impact of COVID-19, on everybody, it’ll come as little surprise to discover that news organizations are seeing significant increases in online engagement at present. 

But the specifics of that engagement could reveal some valuable insights for your own content approach. This week, Facebook’s CrowdTangle analytics platform has published a new overview of Facebook Page engagement stats from over 2,700 US local news publishers’ during March and the first half of April 2020.

And again, while the broader trends are as you might expect, the detail is interesting to note.

First off, CrowdTangle says that local news pages saw a big spike in interest as COVID-19 cases began to rise in the US in mid-march.

In the second half of March, US local news organizations’ Facebook Pages grew 150% in new Page likes, and interactions per post such as shares, reactions or comments increased 33%, compared to the first half of March.”

Facebook news page engagement

Again, that’s probably as you would expect – but CrowdTangle’s data goes further, looking at which post types, specifically, have garnered more interest.

Between the first and last half of March, interactions per post increased on live videos by 60%, on photos by 60%, on status posts by 50% and on links by 30%.”

Facebook Page data

Facebook Live remains the leading option for engagement – and while the data here is news content specific, and not overall Facebook Page trends, it is interesting to see the ongoing audience interest in Facebook Live, which could help provide some more guidance for your own strategy.

That’s particularly relevant given that Facebook Live videos are the third most utilized option by local news Pages.

Facebook news content engagement

Those trends would likely hold across most Facebook Page types – while Facebook Live generates significantly more engagement on average, link and image posts are used far more frequently.

Of course, that makes sense. Broadcasting live comes with a higher degree of risk, and difficulty – it can be tough to create entertaining, interesting live broadcasts, especially when it’s just you talking to a camera lens. That’s partly why so many Pages were happy to see Facebook bring back its ‘Live with’ guest functionality for streams, reducing the pressure on the main host, while Facebook has also recently rolled out a range of updates to its Live Producer platform to make it easier to create more professional looking live-streams.

Clearly, based on the data here, it’s worth consideration – and while this is, again, data on local news publishers specifically, it points to where people are engaging, which could be relevant for your approach. 

But what does this mean for local publishers?

Sure, they’re seeing a lot more engagement on their Facebook Pages, and other reports have shown that news publishers overall are seeing significant increases in traffic. Yet, despite this, many local news organizations are being forced to shut down amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, because most of them rely on advertising from local businesses that are currently not operating due to the restrictions.

So despite CrowdTangle reporting that people are sharing Facebook posts from local US publishers’ 40% more during the pandemic, that isn’t generally being reflected in publisher bottom lines. 

For its part, Facebook has committed more than $100 million to supporting local newsrooms, which is in addition to the $300 million it pledged in January to help fund local news programs. But Facebook could, potentially, do more, with respect to revenue sharing and contributions to the news providers that help it generate a lot of its on-platform engagement.

Recently, the Australian Government announced that it’s looking to implement a new, mandatory code of conduct which would require both Facebook and Google to share any revenue they generate as a result of news content with the relevant publishers of such material. Various nations have tried this in the past, and largely failed, but Australia believes it will be able to implement a system that facilitates revenue sharing with publishers, helping to supplement money they’ve have lost in ad spend to the digital giants.

Of course, neither Facebook nor Google agrees with this logic. Google has countered most of these arguments in the past by noting that it actually drives more traffic to publishers by including their content in its listings , and if selected publishers are unhappy with this arrangement, Google has offered to remove them from its index – leading to a worse result for both. But maybe, through alternate means, there is a way that Governments could facilitate more revenue sharing between the parties to better support the news industry.

In a great overview of the challenges of such approaches published by OneZero this week, one option suggested would see the tech giants face new taxes, with the resulting revenues funneled into support programs for the publishing sector. That seems like a more logical, workable approach than forcing Facebook and Google to pay for using news content, which, history shows, they absolutely will not do.

And in many respects, they’re right to reject such calls – but clearly, there’s a problem when traffic to local news publishers is so high, and revenues from such are so low. Part of that is unique to COVID-19, of course, but the data here underlines the value of local publishers, and why we should be looking to save them with improved measures, if and where possible.

You can read CrowdTangle’s full COVID-19 trend report here

Socialmediatoday.com

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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4 new social media features you need to know about this week

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New social media features to know this week


Social media never stands still. Every week there are new features — and it’s hard for the busy comms pro to stay up-to-date on it all.

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you need to know about this week.

LinkedIn

Social media sleuth Matt Navarra reported on Twitter that LinkedIn will soon make the newsletters you subscribe to through the site visible to other users.

This should aid newsletter discovery by adding in an element of social proof: if it’s good enough for this person I like and respect, it’s good enough for me. It also might be anopportunity to get your toe in the water with LinkedIn’s newsletter features.

Instagram

After admitting they went a little crazy on Reels and ignored their bread and butter of photographs, Instagram continues to refine its platform and algorithm. Although there were big changes over the last few weeks, these newer changes are subtler but still significant.

 

 

First, the animated avatars will be more prominent on profiles. Users can now choose to flip between the cartoony, waving avatar and their more traditional profile picture, rather than picking one or the other, TechCrunch reported, seemingly part of a push to incorporate metaverse-esque elements into the app.

Instagram also appears to have added an option to include a lead form on business profiles. We say “appears” because, as Social Media Today reports, the feature is not yet listed as an official feature, though it has rolled out broadly.

The feature will allow businesses to use standard forms or customize their own, including multiple choice questions or short answer.

Twitter

In the chaotic world of Twitter updates, this week is fairly staid — with a useful feature for advertisers.

The platform will roll out the ability to promote tweets among search results. As Twitter’s announcement points out, someone actively searching for a term could signal stronger intent than someone merely passively scrolling a feed.

Which of these new features are you most interested in? That LinkedIn newsletter tool could be great for spreading the word — and for discovering new reads.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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