February brought an impressive number of changes and announcements to the platform. Even by Facebook’s very busy standards.

Reactions are changing the way people respond to your content, live streaming is being prioritized in the news feeds, video ads are getting captioned automatically, and Instant Articles are going live next month.

Let’s take a look at the growth and engagement trends, and other news from the world of Facebook.

Facebook Is Changing! Reactions, Live Streaming And More

Page Likes growth at the lowest point

Page likes growth in the month of February was at 0.14%. This is a slight decrease compared to 0.16% we saw in the month of January. February 2016 and December 2015 (both at 0.14%) are the lowest points of page likes growth that we’ve seen since we started doing our studies.

Post reach hits record high for second straight month

Average post reach in February was at 10.86% of the total page audience. This is a 5.33% increase compared to January. This is second month in a row that we see the highest organic post reach since we started doing our studies. Exciting times for social media marketers!

Engagement Rate on the up

Post engagement rate in February was at 4.9% of the people reached. This is a 10.11% increase compared to last month, but it’s still the second lowest ER since we started doing our studies.

Video continues to rule the post formats

Video continue to be the best performing content format. A video post reached 12.62% of the total page likes. Photos reached 11.79%, link thumbnails 9.08% and status updates only 5.7%.

Videos engaged 5.01% of people reached, photos engaged 4.84%, status updates 4.3% and link thumbnails 3.89%.

These numbers mean that you can expect 0.63% of your total audience to engage with a video post, 0.57% with an image, 0.35% with a link and 0.25% with a plain status update.

You stand to gain 152% more engagement by posting a video rather than a status update.

These numbers are astonishing. They make it clear that your Facebook content needs to be visual if you want to optimise for engagement.

Facebook analysis

An increase in advertising

41.2% of pages we looked at used Facebook advertising in February. This is a 6.99% increase compared to January. They paid for 29.91% of their total reach on average. This is a 4.95% increase compared to last month.

Let’s now take a look at some of the big changes on Facebook.

Reactions are here

Facebook has finally extended the like button. It’s a huge change to the platform. It’s now easier to express how content in your news feed makes you feel. Users can choose between “love”, “haha”, “wow”, “sad”, and “angry”. Here’s the full story behind the redesign of the “Like” button.

How does this impact pages and social media marketers? Facebook says:

“We will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see. We see this as an opportunity for businesses and publishers to better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook.”

Will reactions result in more engagement than before? Will more reactions mean that your content reaches more people? Does “angry” emoji provide a nice and simply way for unhappy customers to complain about your brand?

Facebook reactions

Reactions are an exciting new development from Facebook. Some brand managers might get a bit scared seeing the “angry” or the “sad” emoji reaction to their content.

These reactions definitely change the way people can respond to the content but they also change the way you can analyse your Facebook performance. Reactions give you more details into the sentiments and preferences of your fans.

We’ll keep an eye on the numbers and report to you as soon as possible.

Instant Articles are coming

Facebook is opening up Instant Articles to all publishers on April 12th. You’ll be able to use it no matter how large your Facebook page is or where your brand is based in the world. The main idea with Instant Articles is to help speed up page loading time on mobile devices.

Instant Articles bring a new way for brands to publish and distribute content on Facebook. It’s even possible to use Instant Articles to make money from your content. Facebook has worked with several large publishers on testing and optimising the system over the last few months. The reports are that Instant Articles generate the same amount of revenue per view for publishers as they make on their own mobile websites.

Facebook instant articles

It will be interesting to see how Instant Articles perform when they’re available to all. Will you be able to reach a larger percentage of your audience by publishing Instant Articles rather than link thumbnails, status updates and other post formats? How does engagement on Instant Articles compare to engagement on your website? How will you measure ROI if you start using Instant Articles rather than driving traffic directly to your own website?

We’ll be looking at Instant Articles as soon as the data is available to help you make better decisions. Stay tuned!

Live streaming videos are being prioritized

Facebook Live streaming functionality has rolled out to more than 30 countries during the month. It’s now available on Android too. Mark Zuckerberg is obsessed with live streaming and it’s one of the things he’s most excited about. He believes live video will become a big part of your news feed in the near future. This is what he said:

“Most of the content 10 years ago was text, and then photos, and now it’s quickly becoming videos. I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.”

Facebook is currently pitching celebrities and other famous people: Start broadcasting on Facebook Live, reach a large audience and get paid doing it. Reports are that Facebook is “offering six-figure sums to a handful of famous people”. The war between YouTube and Facebook is just about to get started.

Facebook users spend 3 times more watching live videos compared to videos that are no longer live. The company has also changed the news feed algorithm in order to prioritize live video:

“We are considering Live Videos as a new content type – different from normal videos – and learning how to rank them for people in News Feed. As a first step, we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live.”

Facebook streaming videos

What does this mean to you? It’s still very early days for live streaming on Facebook. This means that you can be one of the first brands to get on the trend. Thanks to the algorithm tweak your live videos may be able to reach a larger percentage of your audience compared to normal videos and other post formats. It’s something you should try to experiment with and monitor the performance. Here’s our beginner’s guide to live streaming for brands.

We’ll keep an eye on the numbers and update you as soon as possible.

360-degree video and virtual reality

It’s not all about live streaming. 360-degree videos and virtual reality is here too.

Facebook has seen more than 20,000 360-degree videos uploaded to the network. Mark Zuckerberg sees 360-degree videos as the first step towards virtual reality.

Since the launch of Gear VR headset people have used it to watch over a million hours of video.

This is definitely a trend that you should be on top of as a brand. Consider how you can explore 360-degree video right now.

Here’s a look at how the movie Deadpool used 360-degree video as part of their social media campaign.

Auto-captioning video ads

Facebook has launched auto-captioning tool for video ads. Advertisers are able to review and edit the automated captions before making their video ads live. According to Facebook “as many as 40% of video ads don’t communicate their message effectively unless they have the sound on”.

As we’ve seen in our study only 22% of all views are clicked-to-play sound. This means that majority of people watching your video are watching it muted. Having captions on your video can increase the view time by 12% on average. Facebook wants you to design your videos for sound off:

“Since most video ads in mobile feed are viewed without sound, make sure to express your message visually. In one study of Facebook video ads, 41% of videos were basically meaningless without sound. Showing captions, logos and products can help communicate your message, even in silence.”

Facebook auto captions

Your action points

A lot of big changes this time. Lots of things for social media marketers to think about and consider. Here are your action points for this month:

● Keep an eye on the reactions. How is your audience reacting to your content? What reaction is the most used one? What type of content gets a certain reaction? Does any of this affect your total reach and engagement?

● Explore live streaming. Experiment and see what works for you. How does a live stream video perform in terms of reach and engagement compared to a traditional video post?

● Plan for Instant Articles. Your company needs to consider whether you should be part of Instant Articles. Should you drive traffic to Instant Articles or your website? That is the big question. Get together, look at the pros and cons, and decide how you want to proceed.

Images: Courtesy Facebook