Is Facebook rewarding publishers who go direct?

Back in May, Facebook announced Instant publishing for certain publishers as a way of increasing the prominence of their content in the News Feed. Publishers push their content directly into Facebook, rather than linking out to their sites. Since then, there’s been a recurring mantra among marketers that long-form content directly on social networks must be the new way to engage with your audience.

The logical question to ask is, is this true? Have publishers enrolled in the program done better than peer publishers not in the program? To answer this question, I took a look at three publishers in the program and their social analytics on Facebook compared to three peer publishers not in the program. Let’s see how they’re doing.


Above, three publishers in the program – BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, and the New York Times – are represented in blue. Three publishers not in the program – CNN, Fox News, and The Verge – are represented in red. Engagement is measured as a sum of likes, comments, and shares on a per-post basis, aggregated to weekly levels. Trend lines are shown with third order polynomial fitting.

So, did the program kickoff in early May make a huge difference? The publishers in the program appear to have not done significantly better in terms of engagement than publishers not in the program. Now, that could be a function of the fact that their content might not be any less or more interesting than it was previously, but more exposure should have increased raw engagement numbers. Instead, we see nothing earthshaking happening for the publishers above in blue.

What do we glean from this? Choose going direct and/or going to a long-form publishing program based on whether it’s the right choice for what you can accomplish organizationally. Avoid shiny object syndrome and marketing memes that say “This is the new right way to do things” because your experience is likely to be different and unique. Just because XYZ social media publication says long-form or native is the right way to go doesn’t mean it’s true.

Above all else, continue to test on your own to find what works for your content and audience.

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Has Facebook failed local businesses?

Laura asked about my thoughts on this Fast Company article:


If the question is whether the free ride is over for businesses on Facebook, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The freeloading is done and gone. Nullem gratuitem prandium: no such thing as a free lunch, as the Romans said.

If the question is whether Facebook is useless to small businesses that don’t have millions of dollars, the answer is equally firm: no. Facebook is still plenty useful to businesses even on meager budgets.

What sort of things might small, local businesses still be able to do on Facebook without shelling out massive fortunes?

Retargeting and Remarketing

Facebook offers two simple kinds of remarketing and retargeting. The first is custom audiences, in which you upload your email or phone database (hashed, if you want it to be guaranteed secure) and then set up ads to run against that audience. It’s an inexpensive way to reach the highest value people on Facebook – people who you’ve identified could be customers or are customers already.

The second kind of remarketing is web-based remarketing. Small businesses can place tracking tags on the most valuable pages on their websites and then show ads only to those people who visit those pages and leave.

Both of these forms of advertising can be done for $5 a day and up. Obviously, the more resources you can throw at it, the better, but you can do a lot for a little.

Network Leverage

Another form of Facebook marketing leverages the gap between business Page and employees. If you’re a small business owner who has done a good job of cultivating your personal Facebook profile in addition to your business Page, then make sure you’re sharing your business Page updates from your personal profile. 

An excellent example of this is my martial arts teacher, Mark Davis. He shares the Boston Martial Arts business Page updates on his personal profile, and more often than not, I see his posts before the school’s posts:


Note that you don’t have to do this with EVERY post – just the key ones, like upcoming events, etc.

Facebook Groups

The final area you can leverage is Facebook Groups, either by participating (sensibly, please; no spamming!) or setting up your own group. Groups are an easy way to reach pockets of people who share interests in what your business serves. Find the right group, and if one doesn’t exist, make one!

Bear in mind that geography is important. Just because there’s a broad category group doesn’t mean there’s a local group. There’s a podcasting group, but is there a suburban Boston podcasters group? If not, there’s an easy void for you to fill.

Yes, Small Businesses Can Benefit from Facebook

Facebook still has opportunities for meaningful participation by businesses big and small. You have to find them, and for the ones you don’t pay money for, you have to work harder at them.

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How to download your Facebook archive

Facebook is the dominant, de facto social network, as confirmed by Pew Research in their most recent social media report. With more of us using it for business purposes on a personal level (as opposed to a brand), you will likely encounter a time when you want to save and archive what you’ve done. Maybe you’ve got some great business conversations in Messenger. Maybe you’d like to do Throwback Thursday stuff with images you loaded to the service years ago.

It’s not obvious or apparent, but there is a way for you to get all of your Facebook content. It’s been hiding there for a couple of years, actually. Under General Account Settings, Facebook put a tiny, tiny link that lets you start the download process:


Depending on how much you’ve loaded up to Facebook, your archive might be immediately available, or you might be told to wait.


Once you get the archive, what exactly do you get? You get a ZIP file (archive) containing everything you’ve ever done on Facebook on your own profile. Messages. Wall posts. Videos. Photos.


You get the works, but it comes out fairly disorganized. From here you’ll want to process stuff and get it indexed. Each file comes with markup inside that will help a piece of software (but not necessarily a human) make sense of it. There are some paid products that will help you slice and dice it, or if you’re a coder, you can do it yourself. Your uploaded photos are in separate folders.

What can you do with this data? For one thing, it’s searchable. Quickly locate conversations and discussions you remember having.

You can also look at concordance. What do you talk about most? You can copy and paste contents into any of the word cloud generators to see what’s been on your mind since you started on Facebook.

Finally, if you work at a company that requires data retention for legal purposes, this is an easy way to fulfill the retention requirements if you’ve used Facebook to stay in touch with people for business reasons.

Download an archive and poke around!

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