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New research reveals Facebook click-through rates for publishers

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What is the Facebook click-through rate for publishers? 2.5%. That’s according to Echobox, the AI-powered social publishing platform, who undertook an industry-wide survey taking in 6.5 million organic shares from 500 publishers worldwide.

The study is believed to be the first to measure organic Facebook post-performance across the global publishing industry with average CTRs calculated according to publisher type, content vertical, language and country.

Facebook is considered a necessary evil by many publishers who have long been wary of over-reliance on the platform, not least since January 2018 when Facebook abruptly changed its algorithm and announced it would, “prioritize posts from friends and family over public content … including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses”.

The 2018 move sparked chaos amongst many publishers, especially those reliant on social media sharing for a sizeable portion of their traffic – Vice Media Group, as one example, saw its workforce shrink 15% in 2018 and its overall valuation plunge by $1.7Bn over the two years between 2017 and 2019 as its Facebook referrals dropped precipitously.

Despite this, Facebook remains hugely important and accounted for over 13% of social media traffic to news publishers last year, with publishers gnashing their teeth at the $84 billion Facebook generated from advertising over the same time frame.

Key takeaways from the Echobox research include:

  • A wide variation in Facebook CTRs exists between content verticals, with sports publications achieving an average CTR of 4.5% while international news and foreign affairs publications record an average CTR of 1.8%.
  • Magazines recorded the highest Facebook CTR of all publication types (2.8%), perhaps not surprising as social engagement is often a key determinant of subscription growth.
  • Dutch publishers recorded the highest Facebook CTRs of all countries studied (4.5%), while Italian publishers recorded the lowest CTRs (1.6%).
  • An analysis of A/B tested shares revealed that publishers’ CTRs are 34% higher on average when Facebook shares are A/B tested.
  • Ominously, publishers’ pageviews from Facebook have steadily decreased over the course of the past twelve months, a fact attributed by Echobox to ‘a level of social media fatigue after a year locked down’ although questions remain as other social media platforms continue to make inroads into Facebook’s user base.

Of particular note was the fact that Facebook Pages curated manually by humans achieved CTRs identical to those automatically curated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This implies that by using AI, publishers can spend less time on manual social media posting while achieving the same results, a figure highly likely to be surpassed as AI technology improves.

Speaking to WNIP, Dennis Publishing’s Lead Content Strategist, Adam Boult, underscored the prevailing view amongst publishers that whilst Facebook is an important distribution channel, overreliance on the platform is unwise, saying, “It’s unsurprising to see confirmation that Facebook audiences engage significantly less with ‘harder’ topics like news and foreign affairs than they do with lifestyle and entertainment content. However, it should serve as a valuable reminder to news publishers to guard against drifting towards overreliance on Facebook traffic.”

Antoine Amann, CEO of Echobox, said, “Until now, publishers have had no visibility into how organic Facebook shares performed across the industry, making it impossible to fully contextualise their own performance. This research offers unparalleled insight into CTRs – a critical metric for all publishers on Facebook – allowing them to compare their content performance to that of their peers for the very first time.”

The full report can be downloaded here: