If you’ve spent any significant time creating content for Facebook, you may have wondered why certain posts get more comments than others. Alternatively, perhaps you’ve wondered why some posts get more shares, or more reactions (likes, lols etc.) than other posts.
Even if a post is hugely successful for you when compared to other posts you have created, you may have noticed that some posts get loads of shares, and very few comments, whereas others get loads of comments and very few shares. We spent some time looking into this Facebook specific phenomenon, what drives it and how you can use it to your advantage.
First of all, what are the three kinds of engagements?
A comment is when someone writes a response to your post. It could be a short or long comment, it could be a GIF, it could be a photo (if you have allowed this in your settings) or it could be to tag in other people so they can see the post themselves.
This is when someone clicks the ‘Like’ button under the post. Facebook introduced several more specific types of reactions in 2016 after realising people were uneasy clicking ‘like’ as a response to a particularly sad status, or to show your approval for a new born baby photo. The new reactions introduced were Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry… as well as the original, plain, ‘like’.
This is, perhaps, the most powerful of the engagements as it’s when someone clicks the Share button and shares the post, either on their personal profile or in a group. They can also share it on Facebook pages they administer, which can increase the reach of your post by huge numbers. Facebook has the option for someone to share the post and ‘include the original post’ or not, but it defaults to not doing this. This is a shame, as it reduces the reach potential of your page as your Facebook page isn’t shared with the post share.
People can also share posts as a message, to an event, as a story or on someone else’s timeline. When a post starts getting a lot of shares, it can become viral.
Why do posts get some engagements more than others?
Most Facebook posts by company pages won’t, typically, receive many comments. Writing a comment takes some thought (though often not much!) and a little effort on the part of the commenter. In order to receive comments on a post it will, usually, have to elicit those comments. This is through something called ‘engagement bait’.
There are many different ways a Facebook post could elicit comments. For example:
• Ask a question within the post – whether it be a serious question or a flippant question
• Ask for creative responses, such as for jokes, a caption competition, for people to respond with gifs or for ‘wrong answers only’ where a post could contain a film still with the text ‘what is happening here, wrong answers only?’
• Post something that contains an obvious error, or inaccuracy, relying on people on Facebook being very keen to point this out
• Ask a question, implying that it is difficult to answer when actually it’s very easy. An examples of this might be ‘Name a band without the letter E in the name, it’s harder than you think!’
• Post something that features a list of common names, so people can tag in their friends who also have those names. An example might be ‘Names of the top ten people who never buy a round of drinks’ – followed by 10 really common names, such as Dave and John
All of these types of posts will receive more comments than they will receive reactions or shares. They are designed, specifically, to attract comments. Some Facebook posts may not, necessarily, be designed to attract comments in this ‘engagement bait’ way, yet still do. It’s often because they tap into the same psyche these examples do. They make people want to show off, to demonstrate their creativity, wit or opinion. They manipulate people into commenting, sometimes without intending to.
You will have, no doubt, seen these engagement bait posts on Facebook. Maybe you have even commented on them yourself? They’re a great way of increasing engagement on your Facebook page but, it should be noted, they are not the best way to build a great page going forward. They can result in a lot of low-quality engagement that can put off other followers of your page.
One useful tip is that if you have something big you plan on sharing on the page, and you want a lot of people to see it, use some obvious engagement bait in the run-up to posting your important post. Facebook weights its algorithms to show more posts from a page, or indeed a person, to people who have recently engaged with them. By getting people to engage with you, you’re ensuring a wider audience for your next post.
These are a very passive, almost throwaway type of engagement. People can click like on a post as they are scrolling without having to think about the post too much. They don’t need to craft a response, and they don’t even need to click through to a link (if there is one) to read before reacting.
One of the main reasons someone may use a reaction rather than a comment or share is that they’re less visible to others (or at least they’re perceived as less visible). When you post a comment, other people can see what you have written and that your name is attached. When you share something, the group in which you share it can see it, or your friends and family can see it if you share it on your own timeline.
You may want to engage with a post but not have your Facebook contacts made overly aware you’re engaging with it. Perhaps you want to engage with a business post, a political post or a post of a sensitive nature and you don’t want everyone you’re connected with to see it. Clicking the like button, or the ‘Haha’ reaction, is a quick and less visible way of doing this.
Posts will receive a lot of reactions if they are aimed at an agreeable audience. The aforementioned political post is a good example of this. A Facebook page followed by people with a certain political leaning will naturally like anything the page posts. They will then physically ‘like’ it by using a reaction. It shows their agreement of what has been posted, without having to share it to their contacts.
Similarly, a satirical post that someone finds funny may receive ‘likes’ from people rather than shares as people may not want their contacts to be subjected to the post. It may be thought inappropriate for friends and family members.
What makes a Facebook post shareable? That’s the million dollar question, and one that can seriously boost a Facebook page’s reach, increase its audience and grow your digital presence. Where the first two engagement options mean someone interacts with your post, the Share option means they want others to see it. They feel others need to see it. They want others to know ‘they’ have seen it and, presumably, that they like it.
The standard type of engagement bait isn’t going to be shareable. For something to be shareable, it needs a different level of creativity. It needs to resonate with a person on such a level that they feel compelled to let others know about it.
So, how does something become shareable?
The first thing to realise is that just because something doesn’t get shared one day it doesn’t mean it won’t the next day. The best content is evergreen. It exists as a link on a website, ideally your website, and can be shared across any social channel by anybody. We have seen this ourselves at Engage Web, where a post was written and shared on social media only to disappear without a trace. Several months later, it was shared again and it went viral with over 1,000,000 engagements across Facebook.
Timing is everything.
It’s much like in business when you speak with a prospective customer and you get a ‘no’ from them. Is it a ‘no’, or is it a ‘no for now’? It’s most likely a ‘no for now’ as the timing isn’t right. It’s the same with social media. The timing needs to be right.
It helps if you have a bank of great content you can share at a moment’s notice. Look for trending topics. Check the news. Check social media. See what people are talking about and, most importantly, why they’re talking about it. The right content shared at the right time can go far.
The headline and image is worth far more than the content itself
This sounds crazy and, considering Engage Web is a content marketing specialist supplying a number of agencies around the UK, it sounds self-defeating. However, it’s true. Most people share things on social media without clicking through to read the post itself. Their decision to share something is largely based on their initial reaction to the headline and accompanying image. The right image, and you increase your chances of something going viral. The perfect headline, with the perfect image, and you’ve got gold dust.
Adversely, you could have the best written piece of content in the world. It could go into great detail, comprehensively covering a topic. If it has a poor headline and image, nobody will see it.
This one is so obvious it probably should have been mentioned earlier. You need to share your content to an audience that will appreciate it. There’s no point sharing pro-Labour content to a Conservative audience, or vice versa, unless you want confrontational reactions! If your audience has been built up for one thing in particular, keep your content ‘on message’ to ensure it appeals to what they’re after.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been served with Facebook adverts for ‘Manchester United’ products because ‘I have an interest in Liverpool FC’. That’s obviously not going to work. However, being shown the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife on Monday, because I have an interest in Ghostbusters, led to an instant share from me. It’s the right content, aimed at the right audience.
The final tip I can give for creating shareable content is to create content with more than one target. For example, your content may be aimed at two different fan bases, or at people for two different reasons. For example, our million+ engaged post was shared by people who believed the story to be true, and by people who were amused at the satirical element of the story. The IFL Science Facebook page once shared a post proclaiming alien life had been confirmed. This was shared by people who believed aliens had been confirmed, and by people laughing at the people who believed aliens had been confirmed. A simple read of the post revealed it was a hoax aimed at demonstrating one of my earlier points: people share content without clicking through to read it.
There are many reasons Facebook posts receive shares, comments and reactions. I have merely covered a handful of them here. It’s important, when creating content for social media, that you’re aware of all of these methods, and when to use them. It’s also a good idea to be aware of them when looking at other people’s content so you’re not manipulated into doing something without realising it.
If you’d like help with your social media, whether that’s managing it for you, some training to do it yourself or someone to create the content for you, speak with us at Engage Web. Engaging content is what we do.