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Our research method was a hypothesis-generating, retrospective, quantitative content analysis. The Facebook posts’ organic reach and interaction data were analyzed with the Spearman correlation method. These data were collected from the “Post Details” and belonged to the same social media content (same stimulus). Therefore, we analyzed data on a post level.

It should be noted that in our research we analyzed only 2 well-known elements of the Facebook algorithmic content ranking: users’ interactions on a post level (performance of the given post) and previous “page like” through fan reach (Facebook user’s past activity). There was not a remarkable difference in other known elements of the Facebook algorithm: mostly image contents were included (post type), all contents were regularly published at the same time (timing of published content), and the management of the investigated Facebook page was not changed notably (past activity of the Facebook page).

The definitions of organic reach and the different types of interactions were discussed in the “Introduction” section and we summarize them in Textbox 2. Facebook interactions can indicate how social media contents increase the usage of a Facebook-based intervention (reactions, shares, comments, clicks) or decrease it (negative Facebook interactions). We used the total number of negative Facebook interactions during the analysis, because it was available together and not separate in “Post Details.” It should be noted that the combination of interactions (eg, the “like” reaction and the “share” interaction) could arrive from different users or the same Facebook user, because these data were summarized. However, the combination of reactions on the same content (eg, “like” and “love” reactions) indicates different Facebook users, because 1 Facebook user could choose only 1 reaction. It should be emphasized again that organic reach and Facebook interaction data were anonymized and aggregated, so Facebook users could not be identified.

Organic Reach

The number of people who saw the given nonpaid social media content.

Fan reach: The number of people who had liked the Facebook page before they saw the given nonpaid social media content.

Nonfan reach: The number of people who had not liked the Facebook page before they saw the given nonpaid social media content.

Facebook Interactions

Any action on specific buttons that the user performs in relation to content.

Reactions: The number of people who used a “like,” “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” or “angry” reaction button under a given social media content to express their emotions.

Share: The number of people who used the “share” button under a given social media content to send the content with optional privacy settings to others.

Comment: The number of people who used the “comment” button under a given social media content to publish a text or an image message.

Click: The number of people who used any other actions on a given social media content, for example, to select a website, to view the Facebook page profile, or to expand photos to full screen.

Negative Facebook interactions: The total number of people who used the following functions: post hides, hides of all posts, reports of spam, unlike of page.

Engagement

A group of the following Facebook interactions: reactions, share, comment, and clicks. These interactions are called engagement indicators and have been defined previously.

Facebook uses a private algorithm for highly personalized filtering of social media contents, which influences the methodology of our research at 2 points. First, the correlation between organic reach and interactions were also analyzed separately by years because Facebook changes this algorithm annually. Second, interaction data had to be corrected for the organic reach: the number of each interaction was divided by the number of people who saw the nonpaid post (organic reach) for the statistical analysis. This correction was necessary because increased organic reach can directly enhance other interaction numbers. In other words, if more Facebook users see the post, they are more likely to use interaction buttons. Consequently, the correlational analysis between organic reach and the total number of Facebook interactions would highlight a simple relationship rather than the impact of the Facebook algorithmic content ranking. However, we used an “interaction rate” to express the frequency of the given interaction at the same organic reach. Facebook uses the same correction of interaction data (called “engagement rate”), which is the number of people who liked, commented, shared, or clicked on the post divided by organic reach. “Engagement rate” can be accessed by page managers in the “Facebook Insights,” and the Facebook algorithm of content ranking may use this rate (as a performance indicator of the given post). Therefore, the “interaction rate” which was used in this study can be advantageous for the correlational analysis between organic reach and Facebook interactions or between Facebook interactions.

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