Utah Publisher Achieves Symbiosis With Facebook’s News Feed

FamilyShare FacebookAs audiences increasingly find and engage with content on Facebook, publishers face two choices: Keep trying to monetize that audience off of Facebook, or find a way to sell their Facebook audiences to advertisers.

Deseret Digital Media is going the latter route, using posts in its FamilyShare Facebook feed as part of the native advertising package it offers to advertisers, such as Pampers, Walden Media and The Honest Company.

The publisher created FamilyShare to expand its audience. Based in Salt Lake City, Deseret claims to reach 90% of people in Utah each month through a network of local news properties, but it wanted to attract a national audience.

FamilyShare blends a viral style with a family-focused ethos, posting listicles like “16 Love Texts Your Husband Needs Throughout The Day” and “3 Steps In Stopping This Toxic Cycle From Destroying Your Family Life.”

The strategy has paid off. FamilyShare, launched two years ago, now accounts for 22 million of Deseret Digital Media’s 30 million unique visitors each month, according to its Omniture data. Those articles are distributed across dozens of Facebook pages. The main page, “I Love My Family,” has over 8 million followers, and others include “I Love To Laugh,” “I Love My Kids” and “I Love Being A Mom.”

That large Facebook audience not only supports FamilyShare.com – which gets over half its traffic from social networks – it helps company drive engagement with sponsored posts.

“Larger properties like Pampers have big social followings, but low [organic] engagement,” due to Facebook’s algorithms, said Chris Lee, president of Deseret Digital Media. “It’s hard for them to keep the channel open.” FamilyShare solves for that problem while also exposing the brand to a new audience.

FamilyShare writes articles in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and that helped it attract global advertisers, such as  film studios the Weinstein Company and Sony.  A trailer for January release “Paddington” had only attracted 30,000 views on Facebook through its own page. When FamilyShare posted the trailer, the view count grew to 800,000 views.

Lee attributes that success to the authenticity of these native placements. “It’s tying the story of the movie to the context of the family and how to connect with a child,” he said.

For its native campaigns, FamilyShare keeps a tight rein on the advertisers it works with, avoiding anything that doesn’t meet its standards of family-friendly. “We’ll turn down clients or won’t go after RFPs where we don’t see the connection,” Lee said.

Does the practice of selling organic posts in a Facebook feed conform to Facebook’s policies?

Lee thinks that as long as it remains a mutually beneficial relationship, Facebook will accept it. “Facebook wants engagement within Facebook. It will shut you down if all you try to do is harvest from their network to yours,” Lee said.

When asked about its official policy, Facebook explained selling an organic post to a marketer is against its rules, unless it receives advance approval. FamilyShare responded that it works closely with its Facebook account managers. Its “strategy promotes authentic content which engages Facebook users within Facebook,” Lee said, a reason why it hasn’t elicited objections.

FamilyShare’s native advertising is something of a self-created solution to a problem that Facebook itself recognizes. Via its Instant Articles, which launched with nine media partners last month, Facebook now allows publishers to share in advertising revenue in return for keeping users on the platform.

Participating in such a program is something Lee seems open to. “The winners are going to be platforms,” Lee said. “Publishers ought to have some element of their own platform, but it’s critical that we leverage other platforms along the way.”

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