Changes in social distribution trends, particularly on Facebook, between 2014 and 2017 indicate that trustworthy content and varied publishing mediums are both positive factors in driving engagement and traffic. In the past three years, we’ve gone from the age of clickbait to the age of native content and organic growth, and publishers have to evolve quickly to maintain audience and growth.

Facebook engagement rates show clickbait shares are down

One thing we see as a positive change is a reduction in clickbait titles being shared on sites like Facebook. This is probably in part due to the platform’s own policing of misleading headlines, but publishers who tried this tactic often found it did little for long-term gains. Untrustworthy but attention-getting headlines might spike traffic temporarily, but regularly letting the audience down doesn’t build organic trust or encourage subscriptions or return visitors.

It’s notable that misleading headlines have been replaced by intense partisan political sharing on social sites. Fueled by a contentious American election and other worldwide political hot topics, users are reacting quickly to such posts from all types of brands. Digital publishers jumping on this bandwagon will want to keep tabs on analytics so they can evolve if political content stops performing.

Not all the engagement went to political posts the past few months, though. Shares related to other news reports, opinion pieces, listicles and extraordinary stories currently see high engagement, especially when the outcome is positive.

More digital publishers have a foot in the social media door

Variety is definitely the spice of social media life lately. In 2014, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post kept the top two spots for engagement on Facebook while other publishers tended to languish far behind. In Dec. 2016, The Huffington Post was the fourth engaging site on the platform, and Buzzfeed didn’t even make the top 10. Meanwhile, and niche publishers such as broke into the top ranks.

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Engagement rates for companies leading the pack are also tightening: the top brands don’t seem to have such an advantage. In 2014, the difference between the top engager and the 10th spot was more than 27 million engagements. At the end of 2016, the gap had closed to approximately 7 million engagements. This indicates that competition is getting fierce, but it also means more digital publishers have a chance at high engagements.

What type of social strategies are you running currently, and are you seeing success on Facebook and other platforms?

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