Social media best practices

4 Facebook tone tips for better reader engagement

When I look through my news feed on Facebook, I still see a fair amount of newspaper Facebook pages rewriting the lede as their share text on social, or just sharing links without any context. Like this one:


Or this one, which is just a long, boring introduction to a story. I’m not even sure what it’s about:


Sure, some readers click through those posts still, but how much better could the click-through rates be if there was a more social headline in the share text? Facebook drives upwards of 30 percent of traffic to all websites, not just for newspapers. It’s not just a place to repost links from your website anymore. Gone are the days when newspapers have the same headline online as they do in print, as what works online is often different than what works in print. The same applies to social media.

There are some newspapers that get it, including many in GateHouse Media, so here are some great examples of posts that performed well on Facebook:

1. When the Macy’s in Peoria, Illinois, closed, the Journal Star expressed some emotion in this standard news story about it being boarded up. It’s a routine story, but look at the engagement and shares on this post:


We live in our communities and experience things like malls being boarded it up, and our readers respond when we share emotion on things that are truly local.

2. Another thing we can all agree on is the weather. Can you celebrate spring by showing a little excitement about planting your garden? That’s what the Cape Code Times did on this quick story about the weather. Based on the number of likes and shares, readers liked it too:


3. While it’s important to play crime and other breaking news stories straight in order to keep your credibility with your readers, there are plenty of opportunities to remark on the odd or stupid things people do.

Take this wire story from the Associated Press on teenagers in Tennessee making a homemade batch of Mountain Dew. The teens were not local, so the person posting to social had a little leeway to make a joke here. Based on the number of shares, readers thought it was an odd enough story to share with others:


4. Another thing we can agree with our readers on are things like traffic, or silly decisions made by the government. The Cape Cod Times had a little bit of snark in this post on state exit signs not changing, and readers agreed by sharing this post:


Other newspaper companies have stepped up their social media game as well. When the Washington Post surpassed the New York Times last October in online unique visitors last year, much was written about how social media was a main reason why. Digiday reported that the Post’s Facebook traffic grew to almost 50 percent of its social referrals in the latter half of 2015.

If you’ve followed the Post on Facebook, you can see the focus in tone, with shorter share text and engaging quotes, such as in these examples:



If you’re looking to pay attention to tone on social more, here are some tips for your newsroom:

  1. Review what works well and doesn’t work. Go into Facebook and see what gets the most click-throughs and shares. If you notice trends in the types of content or that shorter texts do better, be sure to do more of those
  2. Pay as much attention to your social media as you do to your website. Discuss it in your morning meetings and talk about best practices with your staff.
  3. Get a team of folks to brainstorm language to post on Facebook. Spend as much time coming up with options as you would for a story headline.

By paying just a little more attention to Facebook, you will see your referrals, and your pageviews, grow.

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