“Liking” a post on social media might not seem like a high-impact action. But nonprofit media groups actually depend a great deal on their readers’ online engagement.
When people like, comment, share and click on the links of independent media posts on a site like Facebook, it tells Facebook‘s algorithm that this is content it should show to others. This increases the amount of people the post will reach. Without these engagements, it is safe to assume that Facebook would show these posts to hardly anyone. More than simply co-signing their content, engaging with posts on social media is a meaningful way of supporting journalism organizations you are sympathetic to by ensuring the organization reaches a larger audience.
To examine the impact of social media engagement, FAIR conducted a study of its effect on our own posts on Facebook. FAIR counted the engagements and total people reached of three of its Facebook posts for each month between November 2020 and October 2022 as of November 1, 2022. These posts were of varied types, including articles, CounterSpin transcripts and promotions.
We found a clear relationship between the amount of engagement and the number of people the post reached: For every one engagement, there were 10 people reached.
Only a slim fraction of its audience engages with FAIR’s posts in the form of reactions (as in a “like” or “heart” reaction), comments, shares or clicks. This fraction of those who engaged changed depending on if the post was an article, a transcript or a promotion.
FAIR found that the more people engaged with its posts, the more people the posts reached. This finding supports existing public knowledge that a post’s reach depends heavily on engagement.
It’s important that left-leaning social media users take this relationship into account, because right-wing digital actors have proven far more effective at manipulating the algorithms of social media sites (Science, 4/9/20). For all the accusations that social media sites are run by “woke mobs,” there’s actually an overrepresentation of right-wing media on social platforms.
And because journalists often rely on these platforms to assess which stories should be told and how they should be framed, the online right has exerted significant influence over what stories corporate media decides to cover (Data and Society Research Institute, 2017). This overrepresentation of right-wing views in corporate media makes it all the more important that an organization like FAIR, working to expose corporate media bias, gets its message across on social platforms.
FAIR’s study found that, on average, only 2.7% of the people reached by one of FAIR’s posts will “like” it. Promotional content like fundraising pitches fared even worse, with only 1.6% of people reached liking these posts.
It’s easy to understand why this might be. Who truly likes fundraising pitches, anyway? And unless you are extremely well off, you can’t be expected to contribute to every fundraising drive for every nonprofit you support. So you might think the best thing to do is just to keep scrolling. To “like” a fundraising post without donating might seem hypocritical, right?
Please don’t think that way! It is actually a free method of putting that fundraising pitch in front of someone who might be more willing to contribute this time around.
The bottom line: If you are interested in helping nonprofit organizations like FAIR to help get their word out on social media, and countering the right’s digital influence, it’s worth interacting more with posts you think others should see.
FAIR’s work is sustained by our generous contributors, who allow us to remain independent. Donate today to be a part of this important mission.
Luca GoldMansour graduated from City College of New York with a degree in political science. You can follow him on Instagram at: @luca.saeed and on Twitter at: @cityascanvass.