Here’s an example of how I optimize posts for Facebook. Although we can’t know the exact engagement numbers of our competitors in the affiliate sphere on social, we *can* compare performance to the best of our knowledge by simulating the packaging (headline and thumbnail) of their posts for the exact same product(s) we’ve both written about and slapping it on top of our own posts through Ads Manager. This way, we can get an idea of how the post would perform organically if we used their packaging without having to risk wasting real estate on our pages.
And the difference speaks for itself. The Social Variant 2018 packaging drove 1544.65% more traffic (that’s over 16.4x) than a competitor variant in the same span of time that the campaign was active. They all played by the same rules and had the same targeting to have the most meritocratic judgement possible.
(This was just on paid/dark-posting. Trying to compare organically brings in a whole set of problems like audience fatigue, FB algorithm penalties on repeated content, time and day, etc that complicates meritocratic performance. But I think the difference is drastic enough to confirm that our packaging strategy is headed in the right direction and would elicit similar gaps in performance.)
I take a lot of factors into consideration when crafting the packaging for a post, whether it’s for news, evergreen, or affiliate content. Affiliate presents its own unique challenges and nuances, and if a competitor catches on and tries to do what we do on a surface level, it’ll take time and scar tissue to understand the “why” and “how” behind our decisions. Right now, we’re at least a year, if not two years, ahead of what competitors are doing on Facebook.
If it isn’t already evident, I hate lazy packaging more than anything. I think nearly every publisher is leaving free traffic, engagement, and money on the table right now because they don’t care or don’t know how to actually optimize a post for social audiences. When I say “optimize”, I don’t mean the targeting or timing or anything like that. I mean the actual presentation of the post itself. You can have all the external factors narrowed down to a T, but if you don’t have something captivating to actually strategize around, then so what?
So I experiment a lot. We’re constantly testing and trying to push the edge of social engagement for affiliate posts on social media. I’ve ran tons of failed tests, but the learnings from the big winners pay for thousands of those failed experiments. These efforts, experiments, and pulses on the constantly changing ecosystem of social media contribute to BuzzFeed’s current dominance in referral traffic to the top 100 shopping sites.