How Audiences are Using Facebook Reactions for 20 Publisher Pages

    by Liam Corcoran
    May 27, 2016

    This story was originally published on the NewsWhip blog.

    We added Facebook Reactions to our database very recently, meaning that users can quickly find the stories provoking different reactions among readers.

    We wanted to take a closer look at how Facebook users were reacting to Reactions when it came to links and videos from publisher pages, so we dived into the numbers.


    A Relatively Low Uptake, But ‘Haha’ and ‘Loves’ Popular

    We looked at 20 high-performing Facebook pages to see how many Reactions they achieved over the last two weeks. Here’s what the breakdown looked like for each of the five possible Reactions, with ‘Likes’ also included for comparison.


    The first thing to note was that the use of Reactions is relatively low compared to the traditional engagements of Likes and Shares. The total volume of the five different reactions combined on all pages (4.7 million) amounted to 16 percent of the total number of Likes.


    Here’s what the total Reactions looked like as a percentage of total interactions for CNN and Fox News:


    Generally, we found that the Reactions accounted for between 10 and 15 percent of each pages’ total engagements.

    For the 20 pages reviewed, the ‘Haha’ and ‘Love’ reactions were by far the most popular.

    250,000 of NowThis’s 607,000 total Reactions were Loves, followed by by 96,900 Angrys.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the news pages tended to attract more Angry reactions, with Fox News well out in front, with 221,147 such reactions.

    Fox News Attracts the Most Reactions

    The Fox News Facebook page attracted the highest level of Reactions overall, with 928,738 Reactions. Fox dominated in every category for Reactions. Their highest portion of reactions were ‘Loves,’ with 30 percent of their total. ‘Angry’ came in at second place, making up 24 percent of the total for the page.

    It’s not immediately obvious why Fox had such a high Reaction rate. While their page does have 12.3 million fans, that’s still far less than CNN or BBC News. They also didn’t post the highest volume of the 20 pages either.

    The answer could lie in the way Fox present their stories, which often pick out key quotes and talking points.

    Even Distribution of Reactions by Format

    As for the format of content that attracted Reactions, we anticipated that native video would play a huge role. And in some instances, that’s certainly the case.

    The Daily Mail’s page had 124,602 ‘Haha’ reactions over the two weeks. 110,295 (88.5 percent) were on native videos.

    The most ‘loved’ post of the 20 pages was the below video from NowThis, with 44,000 Loves. However, that number was still dwarfed by the other engagements on the video, which included 286,000 shares and 270,000 Likes.

    It’s probable that this effect also extends to Instant Articles. In an early analysis we ran on the New York Times’ Instant Articles last year, we found that Instant Articles attracted around 5.5 times more comments than regular external-facing links. At the time, we surmised:

    “If the reader clicks a story link that interests them, they’re directed to the website (which can take a while), where they’re commenting platforms of another sort. Facebook readers are probably unlikely to return from the website to the original Facebook post just to leave a comment. However, commenting on an instant article seems like a far less arduous task.”

    But we also saw that the bulk of Reactions were on old-fashioned links posted to websites. This was an interesting finding in itself, as we’ve previously noted that videos attract a higher rate of likes and shares.

    For BBC News, their 423 links generated 233,500 Reactions in total, or 66 percent of the total. Their most common link Reaction was ‘Love’, and the most loved story was a collection of pictures of Princess Charlotte on her first birthday.

    One possible reason that the links garnered such high reaction rates down to their headline. We’ve previously seen that stories like sports results or breaking news attract a high volume of ‘in-feed’ engagements – that is, a like on a report of a winning team, without clicking through to read the actual story. It’s possible that the same effect is in play here.

    For example, look at the headlines of the five stories with the most ‘Haha’ reactions:


    Overall, while Reactions are contributing a not-insignificant volume of interactions every month, they remain relatively underused for most of the pages we surveyed.

    The roll-out of Reactions comes at a time of decreasing reach engagement and reach for many publishers on Facebook. Any interaction that could potentially bolster visibility in the news feed (particularly on links) will be welcome news.

    So, will Reactions lead to a greater volume of engagements on Facebook pages in the next few months? We’ll be watching to try and find out.

    Liam Corcoran is Head of Communications at NewsWhip. His analysis and opinions on news, publishing and social media are regularly featured by the likes of AdWeek, BBC, Business Insider, Digiday, Huffington Post, Mashable and Wall St Journal.

    Tagged: analytics engagement facebook fox news newswhip NowThis reactions the daily mail

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