News organizations understand that, in today’s digital area, having a social media presence is key to remaining competitive. Local television stations, therefore, utilize platforms like Facebook — which is used by more than half of American adults (52%) — to share their content and trigger engagement. This study explores different features of Facebook news posts such as message vividness (visuals), interactivity, tagging activity, and post time, as well as the different levels of audience engagement: reactions (or likes), comments, and shares.
The study focused on a mid-sized broadcast network-affiliated television station located in Indianapolis. The area had more than a million television households in its market, and the station’s Facebook page had 791,951 followers (February 2020), which represents about 75% of the total TV household in the market area. The sample studied was composed of 4,151 Facebook news posts published by the local station from December 2018 to February 2019.
Researchers categorized 14 different news topics: 1) emergencies (breaking news), 2) weather, 3) consumers, 4) crimes, 5) entertainment, 6) civic information, 7) economic development, 8) sports, 9) transportation, 10) politics, 11) health, 12) education, 13) environment, nature, and animals, and 14) others. The different levels of message vividness were also coded on SPSS (posts with images, posts with videos) as well as any hyperlinks and tags.
Results showed that posts with images were positively related to the number of user reactions, meaning that vividness and interactivity do trigger engagement. However, hyperlinks discouraged users to share those posts with friends or commenting. The most successful posts were news topics that included consumer and civic information, due to the local level that triggers a sense of community. News topics on politics tended to trigger more comments and reactions, but fewer shares than other posts.
In conclusion, in order for local broadcasters to expose their news posts as broadly as possible, they should use visuals such as images or photos, triggering “reactions.” Political news posts are the most effective in soliciting users’ comments and responses, and therefore are a great way to create communication. Finally, posting consumer-centered news topics is also a great trigger of engagement, since the audience can identify with the content from its community.
Miao Guo and Fu-Shing Sun. “Like, Comment, or Share? Exploring the Effects of Local Television News Facebook Posts on News Engagement.”JOURNAL OF BROADCASTING & ELECTRONIC MEDIA 2020, VOL. 64, NO. 5, 736–755 DOI 10.1080/08838151.2020.1851125