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Poynter Questions Logic of Stations Driving Facebook Fan Totals

Just about every day, a news director or general manager tells me about how many Facebook fans the station has, how the number has gone through the roof, and sometimes even how that’s boosting ratings–and revenue.

The journo think tank Poynter Institute, however, questions whether driving Facebook fan totals through incentives actually increases any numbers other than that of Facebook fans.

With sweeps under way, Adam Hochberg notes how stations are giving away everything from iPads to gas cards to cars to get people to sign on as Facebook friends.

” ‘I think social media helped KUTV 2News win every newscast during February sweeps,’ KUTV News Director Jennifer Dahl told Cory Bergman of The station gave away an iPad, held a fundraising campaign for a local food bank, and held a “Facebook Faceoff,” in which on-air staff competed to attract the most likes.

“If you have a vibrant page with 100,000 people in your local market who are engaging with your brand and liking things and sharing stuff that you’re publishing, of course it’s going to accrue positively to your brand - and potentially to ratings as well,” said Bergman, a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board.

Yet it’s hard to say how much this strategy drives true, measurable engagement.

Writes Hochberg:

The number of likes generated by a Facebook page is becoming increasingly meaningless. Facebook’s algorithm customizes the news feed each user sees when he or she visits the site. The feed prominently features status updates from contacts with whom users interact frequently, while contacts they ignore may drop off the feed entirely.

“You can still have a lot a likes and not be seeing a lot of impressions,” Bergman said in a phone interview. “Even though your page shows 100,000 likes, only 10,000 or 20,000 people may be seeing it.”