Facebook recently analyzed how the 100 top media sites are using its social plug-ins, as well as the pages of several top media organizations and the stories they posted, including their content, types of status update, and time of day. Originally posted on www.cyberjournalist.net, among the findings were that certain ways of implementing the new “Like” buttons, such as including thumbnails of friends, could result in two to three times greater click-through rates.

Facebook developer blogger Justin Osofsky outlines in more detail what Facebook found:

  1. Drive audience and traffic through implementing the Like button. Websites experienced three to five times greater click-through rates on the Like button when they implemented the version that includes thumbnails of friends, enabled users to add comments, and placed the Like button at the top and bottom of articles and near visually exciting content like videos and graphics.
  2. Driving audience and traffic through publishing to users through “Pages” and Like button connections. In our analysis of stories published by top media organizations, we found that (a.) stories involving emotional topics, passionate debates, and important sports events have two to three times the activity of other stories, (b.) status updates which ask simple questions or encourage a user to Like the story have two to three times the activity, and (c.) stories published in the early morning or just before bedtime have higher engagement.
  3. Increasing engagement by implementing the “Activity Feed” and “ Recommendations” social plug-ins. Sites that place plug-ins above the fold and on multiple pages receive more engagement. For instance, sites that placed the Activity Feed on both the front and content pages received two to ten times more clicks per user than sites with the plug-ins on the front page alone.
  4. Increasing engagement by using “Live Stream” for live events. The Live Stream box, as notably implemented by CNN for the Obama inauguration, can create engaging experiences on partner sites. For instance, during the World Cup, there were over 1.5 million status updates through the Live Stream box on media websites such as Univision, TF1, ESPN, Cuatro, RTVE, and Telecinco.
  5. Increasing engagement by creating timely pages. In addition to analyzing engagement on stories, we also examined the effect of creating focused sub-pages and found that they can have substantially higher engagement. For example, stories published from a World Cup-focused page of one major media company had five times the engagement rate per user than stories from the company’s main page.
  6. Increasing engagement by using the “search API” to create highly engaging visualizations that draw on status updates from Facebook users who share their posts publicly. The New York Times created an engaging visualization around the World Cup which sized players based on the frequency of public status updates. Your site can do the same through any topic of your choice, and show the buzz around everything from news items to events to local debates.
  7. Seeing what’s working with “Insights.” Finally, media organizations can understand their customers better through Facebook Insights. For example, one major German news site found Insights to be particularly helpful when it was trying to engage a younger audience online. Insights helped them optimize and understand the activities that continued to engage this audience.