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With an average of 757 million 'active users' each day, Facebook is a vital and valuable part of the mix for publishers looking to engage on social media.

Speaking at the Digital Innovators' Summit yesterday (Monday, 24 March), Andy Mitchell, director of partnerships at Facebook, said that, with a reported 62 per cent of social referrals from Facebook, the platform is making a "concerted effort to find ways to surface interesting and relevant news stories".

And, he added, "as we refine that approach", the result will be "more and more referrals" to the publishers of that content.

According to Mitchell, the way Facebook is trying to increase "connections" between users and content includes the implementation of features such as its 'recommended pages' widget, which suggests Facebook pages based on others liked by the user, and 'recommended articles' widget which suggests other articles after a user "engages with an article in news feed" which has been posted on a verified page.

He also pointed to Facebook's homepage 'trending' feature, flags up popular content, and its recently launched Paper app, as other examples of how Facebook helps to highlight content shared on the platform.

The network also recently introduced a change to the design of its pages to make them "easier to read", he said.

He also identified further features and practical tips for publishers which can help to improve the way their content is discovered and engaged with on the platform.
 
Consider not just posting headlines

Referring to the approach of Bild.de on Facebook, he said they "don't just publish headlines".

Mitchell explained how it can be more effective to "give people a little bit more", and to look for opportunities to share images with content to boost engagement.

'Share as much content as you feel is relevant'

Some publishers may be unsure how much they should share content on Facebook, but Mitchell said the more the better.

"Share as much content as you want to, or as you're able to, or you feel is relevant", he said, "and our news feed will make sense of that and pick right stories for the right people".

"The more stories we have to choose from from you, the more likely we are to find the right people to consume that story".

While the number of posts may vary based on the publishing schedule of the news outlet, the focus should be on what the audience may expect or respond best to.

In fact, in a two-week trial, 50 publishers increased their daily sharing on Facebook by 57 per cent on average, and in response 'outbound clicks' rose 89 per cent, with a 10 per cent uplift in 'likes per post clicks'.

"So don’t put any ceiling on your page posts and continue to test and refine your approach", Mitchell advised.

Get your Facebook page verified

Just like Twitter accounts can be verified with a blue tick, Facebook pages can also be stamped with the verified status.

He said that doing this will also "up your distribution in newsfeed", as well as give you that added credibility for those perhaps less aware of your news brand.

Look out for 'stories to share' widget

He also highlighted a feature introduced as a test just late last year, Stories to Share, to help point out sharing opportunities to page administrators.

Mitchell explained that particularly where the Facebook page admin may not be regularly involved in the editorial side, this feature will help to highlight the "most popular stories on their site that haven’t been shared yet".

This offers "very strong signals of what content people who liked the page will be interested in". Facebook explained at launch that this is "currently a test, starting with media organisations and publishers and is not available on all pages", although have yet to respond to queries about the global availability of the function.

Run Facebook Q&As

A number of news outlets have been using Facebook Q&A as a way of hosting a discussion with their community on the social network.

Mitchell also recommended its use, adding that the platform "upranks comments that you respond to".

Meaning it "creates a great dialogue and the best comments wind up at the top".

Consider headline carefully


Mitchell stressed the value in thinking carefully about the headlines being used to post content to Facebook.

"You have to be honest, genuine," he said, as users will know if you are just creating "linkbait".

"But definitely think about different approaches to headlines", he added, "and you will see your engagement go up, and your distribution go up".

Think about visibility of Like and Share buttons

A presentation by BuzzFeed earlier in the day at the conference highlighted the impact placement of social media sharing buttons on an article page can have, in that case in reference to Pinterest.

And Mitchell advised publishers to "make sure you have Like and Share buttons in as many places that make sense on your content, within your site's design".

Make it easy to share content, he added, and "as accessible as possible".

Check your Open Graph tags

Facebook explains that "Open Graph tags are included in your page’s HTML and allow the Facebook Crawler to generate previews when your content is shared on Facebook."

Mitchell explained that these tags "are what the developers put in your page that makes sure we are posting the right content to Facebook", covering the headline, description and image.

He added that publishers should also ensure the images being sent over are the "largest images you have". He added that a minimum size of 1200 x 1200 pixels "get best display within news feed".

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