Meta has released the latest version of its Widely Viewed Content Report, which aims to dispel the notion that Facebook’s algorithms favor divisive, argumentative, political content, with the actual data showing that what the majority of Facebook users actually see in their feeds is far more mundane.
It’s been an interesting experiment for Meta – earlier versions of the Widely Viewed Content Report have shown that many of the most viewed posts and stories were actually, eventually removed for violating Meta’s terms of service, so while Meta’s looking to highlight that it doesn’t facilitate the spread of harmful information, it’s actually done the opposite in some respects.
But for the most part, the report shows that what gets the most traction on Facebook is generally light, humorous content - which does show that politics doesn’t dominate the feed. But maybe, what does gain the most traction isn’t a lot better.
So what was getting attention on Facebook in Q4 2022?
A look at the most widely viewed domains shows that YouTube and TikTok clips dominated proceedings.
Of course, there’s no detail on exactly which YouTube and TikTok videos saw the most links – it could well be that these were all conspiracy theories and propaganda. But the data shows that video content still performs well on Facebook, even if not posted natively to the app.
In terms of specific links, stories about celebrities dominated, along with a report on the closure of Splash Mountain, twins born from frozen embryos, a woman who ‘bought nothing for an entire year’, and news presenters getting snarky on live crosses (which seems to be becoming a genre in itself).
In fairness, this cross-section of widely viewed stories is way less trashy and spammy than what this list has shown in the past, while there are also no stories that had been later removed for violating Meta’s policies. That could show that Meta’s getting better at detecting and removing such early, while it’s also seemingly leaning further into these more light-hearted news stories, as opposed to political content.
Meta, of course, did try to cut out political content entirely, after CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided that it was no longer worth the headache, but user feedback showed that people do want some political reports in their feed. As such, Meta has since compromised, and now displays some political reports, but far less than it had been in years past.
The data here seems to reflect that, and it is somewhat reassuring that the top stories are mostly gossip magazine-style articles, as opposed to misinformation or partisan politics.
In terms of the most widely viewed Facebook Pages, made-for-the-web publishers come out on top, along with recipe sites.
The top posts, meanwhile, show a cross-section of light, jokey posts and simple memes.
It’s these types of engagement-baiting posts that continue to perform well, playing on nostalgia and inviting users to participate. Which, again, is a pretty mundane way to facilitate interaction, but many Facebook users clearly resonate with this approach, and if you’re looking for posting lessons from this report, that’s probably it.
In this respect, it could be worth skimming through the full Widely Viewed Content report for ideas on what works, while you can also look through the top-performing Pages to see what they post for more inspiration, if you’re looking to maximize your Facebook reach.
But the bottom line is that memes and nostalgia work. It’s not always an easy formula to get right, but that’s what’s getting traction, outside of celebrity gossip.
You can check out Meta’s full Widely Viewed Content report here.