Facebook releases News Feed Publisher Guidelines for news media

By Jessica Berger

Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine (HNA)

Kassel, Hesse, Germany


How can I create a successful post on Facebook? How does the News Feed work? What content is generally shown to my users on the platform in their feed?

To understand how Facebook works — with its complicated algorithm — seems to be one of biggest mysteries in the social media business. But now Facebook has released its News Feed Publisher Guidelines.

To increase the likelihood that Facebook users will see content, it should be truthful, authentic, and relevant.
To increase the likelihood that Facebook users will see content, it should be truthful, authentic, and relevant.

“A consistent piece of feedback we’ve heard from publishers ... is that they would like more insight into how News Feed works, in order to understand best practices for reaching their audiences. In response to this feedback, we are releasing News Feed Publisher Guidelines, which include ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help publishers succeed on our platform,” Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, wrote in a Facebook Newsroom post.

Facebook wants to help publishers create good content and get better distribution on the News Feed — in a serious manner without click-bait and bad tricks.

If you think you see every story from your friends and family, every post from pages you follow, every live video in a group, then you are sorely mistaken. The News Feed curates content for users and shows them the “most important” content.

But how does Facebook determine what users value on the News Feed? The company has published three basic, high-level guideposts to keep in mind when sharing content.

Publisher principle 1: People on Facebook value content that’s meaningful and informative.

According to Facebook, people should have stories on the News Feed they care about most — and content that is meaningful and informative for them.

But what is meaningful? It’s not about what people worldwide should read and be informed about; it’s about the content that is relevant for the user (and perhaps that is more cat videos than political statements). The more the content is informative for the user, the higher it will appear in the feed.

The following is important:

  • Understand the audience you want to reach: The News Feed algorithm is based on different signals. Hundreds of factors matter, from likes, comments, and shares to the bond between the user and the page. To understand your audience on the platform, you should have a look at analytics: Facebook recommends you use Page Insights, Video Insights, and the installation of Facebook Pixel to track users activities’ on your Web site. This is so you can evaluate your users’ interests, understand with which content they interact, find out which articles they read most, and so on.
  • Create content your audience will find interesting: Every person is different, and every person has his or her own interests. So it’s important to offer different types of content including live videos, photos, links, Instant Articles, and so on. Furthermore, publishers should know how to use these types of storytelling.
  • Optimise mobile Web experiences: Most people use Facebook with smartphones and tablets, so the most traffic comes from mobile. “Because of this we recommend that publishers consider optimising the speed of their mobile Web sites,” Facebook respresentatives advise. So check the speed of your mobile site, and minimise page redirects and plugins.
  • Tips for posting to the News Feed: To have success with your posts on Facebook, you should follow some tips when you’re posting. For example, post frequently because users only see a small number of all your posts. Make your posts timely and don’t wait too long to post important topics. Build credibility, relevance, and trust with your audience.

Publisher principle 2: People on Facebook value accurate, authentic content.

Click-bait, false promises in a headline, and wrong facts — these will all damage a user’s confidence and reduce a publisher’s distribution on the News Feed. People want to see reliable and credible information. Facebook emphasises that publishers should focus on posting accurate, authentic content.

The following is important:

  • Do not post links that are considered click-bait: It’s no secret that Facebook punishes content that raises inaccurate expectations. These posts will appear lower in the Feed. Do not withhold information in a headline.
  • Do not post links to low-quality Web page experiences: According to Facebook, the community is disappointed when they click on a link that leads to a Web page containing little substantive content and covered in disruptive, shocking, or malicious ads. “People expect their experience after clicking on a post to be straightforward,” according to the guidelines. For example, publishers shouldn’t use pop-up ads, interstitial ads, or other ad formats that disrupt the user experience on a landing page.
  • Do not post misleading content: Facebook is working to fight the spread of false news. Publishers should post authentic, true stories with quality sources. This will also be rewarded on the News Feed. Publishers benefit when they have unique, relevant content.
  • Do not mislead users through deceptive actions: Many publisher use polls on Facebook, but often in the wrong way. It’s not allowed to use the Live API to publish only images or live-stream polls. Also it’s not allowed to launch polls to encourage reactions.
  • Protect your content: Facebook recommend companies use a Rights Manager to protect intellectual property they own. And, of course, it’s not allowed to share content you don’t own or share content when you don’t have permission to use it.

Publisher principle 3: People on Facebook value standards for safe, respectful behaviour.

If you want to be successful on Facebook, you should follow the community standards. This includes standards such as the following: Publishers shouldn’t post content that encourages direct violence or criminality. They shouldn’t post content that contains inappropriate nudity and sexual activity. And they’re not allowed to encourage self-injury.

But, Facebook also makes an exception: “Sometimes we will allow content if newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest, even if it might otherwise violate our standards.”

The News Feed Publisher Guidlines are very detailed. Summarising them, it’s clear publishers only will have success on Facebook when they follow the rules on the platform and create authentic, true, valuable, and informative content.

And, for publishers, it’s important always to keep an eye on the user and to think about how users will interact with the content. Do people click on the posted article? Could it be that users find your content misleading? Or will users share the content with their friends? There must be a basis of trust between the community and the publisher.

“Don’t look for a silver bullet when posting to News Feed,” Facebook representatives say. Publishers can succeed in many different ways on the platform and with different posting strategies.

About Jessica Berger

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