Facebook is still a popular news site — 31% of respondents in a recent Pew Research survey said they regularly get their news from Facebook.
59% of those surveyed in 2020 said they thought news on social media was likely to be inaccurate, but that doesn’t prevent people from using social media to find news.
Complements of Statista
In previous years, more than half of respondents reported that they got news from Facebook, so we are seeing a drop in the use of Facebook as a news source.
Problems with Facebook as a news source
Facebook has had quite a few problems with being perceived as a news source. We’re not talking about Facebook’s problems, though. Facebook’s audience may have some problems.
Pew Research reports that people who use Facebook as a regular news source are likely to be younger, to have less education, and to score less well on routine tests of knowledge about current events.
They’re more likely to be aware of common misinformation, such as claims that famous people are intentionally infecting people with COVID-19. We’re going to assume that you are not likely to be seeking out gullible youths for your marketing efforts, but you may have a young target audience. If so, they’re more likely to use Facebook as a news source than older Facebook users.
Beyond the possibility that younger, less educated visitors are likely to be susceptible to misinformation in news reports, social media in general (and Facebook in particular) has been accused of creating echo chambers. That is, social media users tend to read and interact with people they already agree with. They also tend to follow news sources they already agree with. This can increase polarization and make people more open to misinformation.
If you click through the link in the previous paragraph, you’ll see that research on this point is not definitive; some studies claim that Facebook causes greater polarization and confirmation bias, but others do not.
What does this mean for your organization?
These are valid concerns for consumers, teachers, and parents. If you use Facebook as part of your marketing mix, though, how should you respond?
- Go ahead and share news at Facebook. Nearly one third of Americans use Facebook as a news source, and 71% use Facebook with or without identifying it as a regular news source. Our experiments have found that news posts at Facebook tend to drive web visits and gain reach. Curating news your clients are interested in is a useful service that provides value.
- Don’t be part of the problem. When you share news, it’s worth bearing in mind that Facebook visitors don’t fully trust news they see at Facebook — even though they may share it without clicking through to read the article or doing any fact checking. We’d make sure that any news we share comes from a reliable, reasonably neutral source and that our comment or introduction to the story is fair, not clickbait.
- Keep in mind that some of your readers won’t have other news sources. It’s easy to assume that your readers will already have caught the headlines on NPR, but it’s probably not accurate. If the news story you share needs some background so it will make sense to your visitors, provide that background.
If you use these tactics, you can provide news on Facebook without the drawbacks, and get the benefits for your social media efforts.
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