Complex Made Simple

How publishers must change to survive Facebook’s war on media

Community management becomes critically important for media

As Facebook’s Adam Mosseri wrote in the latest announcement, public content sees lots of engagement in Facebook Groups and will be likely prioritized. Which makes sense as groups are driven by people (individual user accounts) and not publishers.

Therefore investing in groups to drive “conversations and meaningful interactions” can be a way out.

Facebook has only recently allowed pages to create authorized groups so there are not many examples that can be treated as best practices here and none of them is large-scale.

The most cited example is a group for managersby Quartz at Work, which was even featured in case study by Facebook (Facebook is also this vertical’s biggest sponsor).

Many groups are created around podcasts or shows, like the NYT Podcast Club and The Weeds (that features conversations around the podcast of the same name by

The official group for Buzzfeed’s Unsolved series has 20k members that generate over 100 posts per day there.

Growing groups is a tough challenge and currently there are no paid options to help that growth inside Facebook’s ad manager.

On the other hand, building engaged and loyal community this way can be much more rewarding in terms of traffic and even user-generated content.

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How to do that: non-intrusive pop-ups and/or banners to join the group on the website; promotion via boosted posts on facebook, promotion via calls to join the group in the comments section; promotion via other traffic channels (newsletters, push alerts, etc.).

Inciting conversations with indirect calls to action

This might sound a bit blunt, but sometimes you can instigate certain actions by simply asking. Although direct calls to like, share, click or comment are now against the Facebook law, you can still do it indirectly by asking a question related to the topic of the article.

Here’s how Khemaridh Hy of Quartz at Work does that inside their Facebook group (but totally applicable to page posts as well):

How to do that: by developing a culture of thoughtful calls to action on Facebook.

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Turn editorial staff into influencers

If you read the official announcement, you’ll notice that these possible demotions are mostly written about Pages, not individual accounts.

It even says that “many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities”.

From this we can infer that individual influencer accounts are less likely to fall under the new algorithm’s radar and we can use that as part of distribution strategy.

Joshua Topolsky of The Outline has 34k followers on Facebook and actively promotes content there

Editors and the social media staff can be great influencer material, but only if it’s part of a coordinated effort from the media company’s side.

Buzzfeed is one of the pioneers of this approach. If you pick a random article by Buzzfeed’s staff and try to look that person up on Facebook, you’ll notice that almost everyone involved in content there has at least several thousand followers.

And they all share the content they produce. Of course, it’s not much on Buzzfeed’s scale, but with smaller projects this can affect the number significantly.

How to do that: creating visible banners to follow authors and editors near their bylines or elsewhere on the website; posting calls to follow authors and editors as pinned comments.

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Focus on platform-native content

Although pivoting to video is now treated with much greater caution, video content is still more likely to get engagement than links.

That’s probably due to the nature of native content consumption on the platform — a user stays on Facebook and there’s no friction between the content itself (photo or video) and the comment/like/share section.

On the other hand, with links you normally first click on the post, read it and then if you have something to say you go back to where you saw it in your feed and drop that meaningful comment — and that’s a lot of actions.

There’s also a catch. Posting more videos and images will bring more organic exposure to… engaging videos and images, not overall, which means your links will stay where they are.

For some publishers like Buzzfeed, AJ+ or Attn generating keeping engagement inside their platform properties is fine, but not everyone can afford that.

There’s a whole generation of platform-first media like NowThis, Keli Network or Super Deluxe, who have learned to monetize this approach.

For the more traditional folk, however, this is going to be a much tougher choice — either reinvent your business or your distribution strategy.

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Mind your metrics

Whichever approach you choose, it’s still critically important to keep track of what’s working and not working for your publication.

And Google Analytics alone won’t help here.

Editorial analytics solutions, like the one offered by IO Technologies will help you identify how and where your content is best consumed and make smarter strategic decisions.

The service can be profoundly adjusted to the needs of your organization.

This story is published in The Startup, and republished here with permission.