5 trends that show the coronavirus effect on Facebook local news pages


By Emilie Lutostanski • Director, Local News Resource Center

Local media organizations have been hard at work posting useful, inspiring and life-saving news to Facebook. An analysis of more than 2,000 Facebook pages owned by members of Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium found post frequency, followers and interactions have all increased since the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. in mid-March. Based on overperforming themes for specific top-performing posts, it’s abundantly clear that local stories and information are what audiences find most valuable from local news pages.

Background

Using CrowdTangle, a social monitoring tool that is free for local newsrooms, we isolated public data on local news Facebook pages from March 8-April 18, 2020 — capturing the peak volume and interactions the week of March 15. The six-week data set is compared to the previous six weeks, Jan. 26-March 7, 2020. The peak of the breaking news event was also registered in Google Trends as the week of March 15.

1. Local news publishers across broadcast, digital and print are posting more: Post frequency +14% 

Local news Facebook pages posted 14% more compared to before the peak of news coverage.

 

2. Local news Facebook pages are growing a lot faster than before: Page follower growth +175% 

The growth rate for local news pages on Facebook increased from 0.4% to 1.10% — compared to the previous six weeks.

 

3. Audiences are engaging with Facebook local news posts more: Interactions +18%

Interactions (likes, comments, shares, etc.) across all post types peaked the week of March 15 and increased 18 percent overall.

 

Generally, these types of posts are getting high rates of interaction, especially comments and shares:

  • Official updates and case numbers: local and state reopenings and closings, business info, unemployment, warnings, as well as new cases with context
  • Specific communities: stories for specific communities including truckers, parents, workforce, essential workers
  • Essentials and safety: safety for essential trips, grocery, basic needs, meals, charity, supply-chain information

Here are a few examples of overperforming content across all post types:

4. Audiences on Facebook are showing compassion and empathy in response to local news Facebook page posts: Love reaction +48%

While among reactions, love saw the largest increase in use, audiences following local news pages on Facebook also responded with more sad reactions, likes, shares and comments.

What inspires the love reaction during COVID-19? 

  • Hospitals and healthcare: workers, advancements, recoveries, support
  • Community resilience: local business, philanthropy, religion and prayer, unification
  • Animals, zoos and aquariums: From family pets to roaming penguins 
  • Arts, crafts and entertainment: local showcases, tutorials, information, reading

Here are a few examples of Facebook posts from local media that are garnering the love reaction.

5. Audiences are engaging with Facebook Live posts more often and in real-time: Average weekly interactions on Facebook Live posts +109%

Weekly interactions, and especially comments, on Facebook Live have drastically increased, with 227 percent more comments, and 65% more shares, while the frequency of Facebook Live posts increased just 39 percent by comparison.

 

What kind of reporting overperforms on Facebook Live? 

  • Public pressers and info: Must-know info from government and agency officials
  • On the scene: Front-line views of the world outside, from protests to construction
  • Virtual town halls / Q&As: Gatherings for discussions among leaders or news media staff

Here are a few examples of Facebook Live posts from local media that overperformed in comments and shares.

 

From the data we can tell people are turning to local media for immediate, clearly explained news and information that betters their lives. Viewers are tuning in and commenting more frequently on Facebook Live, engaging in real-time. Increase in the love reaction indicates posts evoke empathy and compassion, which is something everyone needs now.

Want to easily gather this kind of information specific to your own newsroom? CrowdTangle has on-demand resources and webinars to show you how.