By Emily Labes, Publicist
Fortune recently posted an article boldly proclaiming that Facebook now drives more traffic to online news outlets than Google. In the second and a half it took for the page to load on my computer, I went from, “no way is that true, I’ve got to see this” to, “oh, I guess that makes sense,” to, “of course it does!”
I think a lot of us, particularly millennials, probably don’t realize that in participating in social media, we aren’t just “staying connected” to those people in our “network,” we’re staying connected to an entire digital community of trending topics, viral content, and consumer opportunities. My Facebook newsfeed may be a veritable mishmash of engagement pictures, employment updates, declarations of lifestyle changes, and inspirational quotes superimposed over stock images of sunsets; but in between all of my friends’ news, is the news.
For every snapshot of a friend’s smiling toddler that I “like,” I’m also clicking on the latest breaking news from The New York Times, or a lengthy think piece on modern culture from Salon, or some of Gawker’s biting political satire, or even a Buzzfeed listicle centered around a portable pizza pouch that you wear around your neck. For every college acquaintance I follow on Twitter, I’ll also follow the BBC or Business Insider. I’ve never particularly been a huge Snapchat person, but many of the top outlets share Snapchat stoires on a regular basis as well. These days, it’s almost harder to not know what’s going on in the world than it is to try to keep up.
That Facebook is the most popular news aggregator of all the social media platforms isn’t much of a surprise when you think about its mass appeal and easy-to-navigate format. More surprising though is the fact that when you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you aren’t just seeing the news that you want to see, you’re seeing the news that Facebook wants you to see. Supposedly, the Facebook newsfeed is developed from very sophisticated algorithms that Facebook keeps close to the chest. In 2012, they even used these algorithms to conduct secret psychological tests on almost 700,000 unknowing participants to see if what was displayed in their newsfeed could affect their happiness (spoiler alert: it actually did).
Although hash tags aren’t quite as popular on Facebook as they are on Twitter, the trending topics feature also plays a big role in determining what shows up on your newsfeed and what doesn’t. If you write a status that contains similar key words to a trending topic, that status is more likely to appear in your friends’ newsfeeds. In that respect, Facebook is a great way to gauge what stories your network is following.
Of course, it’s certainly possible to stay in the know without being active on social media (though it is rumored that outlets are going to be creating content exclusively for Facebook in the coming months). But if so many others are reaping the benefits of the new foremost content aggregators, why shouldn’t you?