How to Drive Facebook Referral Traffic: Focus on Engagement

Julia Smekalina, Patrick Walsh, Christopher Miles, Amber Burgess, and Eric Barbera, News Partnerships
Following the changes we announced to News Feed at the beginning of this year, we know many news organizations went back to the drawing board to figure out what content performs well on Facebook and drives meaningful social interactions while supporting their main business objectives.
Our team had to do the same, and we’ve spent the last few months revisiting some of our best practices and recommendations. We know for many news organizations, referral traffic to your websites is a main goal of your Facebook content strategy and we wanted to make sure there wasn’t an adverse affect to prioritizing on platform engagement and conversations.
We analyzed content from publishers following these changes and have found that there is still a positive and significant relationship between post engagement (reactions, comments, and shares) and outbound clicks on post links.
In January we introduced new signals to News Feed to prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. We know that news coverage and great journalism already has the power to drive these conversations and interactions and we’re confident that these stories when shared on Facebook can also meaningfully drive referral traffic back to your website.
We encourage you to focus on creating content for Facebook that drives engagement. By doing so you can support meaningful social interactions around your stories while maximizing the opportunity to drive outbound clicks to your website.
Below we’ve highlighted how a few publishers are using CrowdTangle to help drive interactions around their content. These publishers use CrowdTangle, in addition to Facebook Page Insights, to better understand their audience, see what content results in more conversations and engagement, and build a strategy that can ultimately drive referrals to their site.
CrowdTangle is the best tool to help you track engagement on your content and CrowdTangle’s engagement data can be used as a proxy to gauge link traffic, help you navigate News Feed changes to see what’s consistently performing well, and be directly applied to your Facebook content and audience development strategies. The CrowdTangle team has just released the latest version of their playbook for news publishers. Check it out to understand how you can use their tools to monitor and improve engagement on your Facebook content.
BILD uses CrowdTangle’s overperforming metric to promote stories and grow referral traffic
BILD, Germany’s biggest newspaper, currently runs 75 different verticalized Facebook Pages, covering everything from news, sports, local news, lifestyle and entertainment. To identify which stories are trending across all these pages and potentially driving meaningful interactions, BILD uses CrowdTangle’s overperforming metric, which monitors the top-performing posts on Facebook. CrowdTangle measures what content is overperforming by benchmarking how many interactions an account’s posts usually get after a certain period of time. Benchmarks are calculated from the last 100 posts of each post type (photo, video, link, etc.) from the account.
As Andreas Rickmann, BILD’s head of social media, explains, this metric has been huge in identifying what content is doing well, and could gain significant referral traffic with a promotion to their main pages. “With the CrowdTangle dashboards we can identify overperforming posts on our sites and also keep an eye on how stories perform on other publishers’ Facebook pages. They also help us identify strong content with high engagement in real time. We use a Slack integration, so we get viral alerts, and daily reports about our and other publishers’ sites.”
Rickmann noted a recent story that started on BILD Stuttgart, on one of their smallest local sites, about Mercedes factory workers getting one of the biggest bonuses ever. They saw it was overperforming through their CrowdTangle dashboards, and tested it up, eventually promoting it to their main BILD Page. “On our main Page it made more than 200,000 link clicks, 2.5 million reach and tons of engagement. We would not have seen it without CrowdTangle.”
Pro-tip: Track what content is driving engagement by looking at overperforming posts for both your own pages and your competitors.
La Gaceta Salta customizes CrowdTangle’s core features to fit their needs and increase referrals
La Gaceta Salta, a three-year old Argentine local news outlet wanted to increase engagement on Facebook and build an active community of readers, but hadn’t found a good solution. They began using CrowdTangle to help track what content of theirs was and wasn’t working, and and to track their competitors.
After just a couple weeks using the CrowdTangle platform, digital editor Pablo Hamada summed it up: “We started to see the increase that we were looking for immediately, more likes, comments, and shares within the community.”
With higher engagement also came higher reach and more traffic.
“We’ve only been using the product a month and our referrals are up 26%,” Hamada says. “We’re getting more engagement from our readers, as well as more fans.”
La Gaceta Salta utilized CrowdTangle in a few key ways to be able to act on the information they were getting from the tool. They first build custom lists of all their competitiors, so they could track how well their content was performing. They then set up viral alerts to let them know immediately when a post was taking off. Lastly, they made sure the entire news room was involved in monitoring CrowdTangle and using it to inform content decisions.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to check out the extensive resources CrowdTangle has to customize all their features to fit the needs of your newsroom. You can sign up for an upcoming webinar here:
Brut uses CrowdTangle’s Interaction Rate as a proxy for meaningful engagement on their videos
Brut, a French-based digital media outlet, has activated a community around their content by focusing on CrowdTangle’s interaction rate as a metric to help them understand what types of content keep their audience meaningfully engaged. Interaction rate in CrowdTangle’s system is a metric calculated by averaging the number of interactions for all of the account’s posts in the specified time frame, then dividing that by the number of followers/fans. Many publishers use it as a proxy metric for community engagement.
“Interaction Rate made us focus on our core business, which wasn’t video views, but starting convo,” Brut CEO Guillaume Lacroix says. “Editorially we focused more on these high Interaction Rate stories. The real value is engagement.”
Lacroix says they switched to focusing on interaction rate rather than views or other metrics because they saw that as their best indicator of what led to growth. “The best thing I’ve learned at Brut a year in is that the best recipe for engagement is intelligent content,” he says. “We see almost 90% of our reach is coming from friends sharing content with each other.”
“For us, the News Feed change has been an opportunity. We are thriving because of the change. With the exact same pages we had before, we’re just growing, growing, growing,” Guillaume says. “We will continue to use Interaction Rate to make sure we are building content that engages,” Guillaume says. “We were focused on interaction rate before the change, which we believe has us helped us weather the changes early on and continue to grow our views and interactions even after the change.”
Pro-tip: While Brut is a video first publisher, these tactics can be used to drive meaningful conversation on any kind of Facebook post – links, photos & videos.