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What’s Trending? Health care hanging in the balance

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This piece was originally published in the October 14, 2020 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.

Hey, y’all.

For me, nothing summed up Monday’s Judiciary Committee opening statements quite as well as this photo of my dear friends’ baby, Grace:

We may have two more days of Supreme Court hearings ahead of us, but the fundamental truth remains unchanged: Senate Republicans are rushing through a Supreme Court lifetime appointment three weeks before an election in which millions of Americans are already voting so they can strike down the Affordable Care Act and take health care away from millions of people. This week, we’ll examine how Monday’s hearing played out on Facebook and identify a few best practices to adopt moving forward.

But first, did you miss last week’s edition of What’s Trending? Don’t worry — you can read it here.

WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK

  • Last week, the FBI foiled a domestic terrorist plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The inquiry into the plans, led by the FBI, ultimately resulted in the arrest of 13 men on various federal and state charges.
  • Monday kicked off a week of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the process to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Just before committee members and Barrett provided opening remarks, results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that a majority of Americans — 52% — believe the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled by the winner of the 2020 election.

WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL

Here are this week’s top five Facebook posts on the Left and Right:

5 best-performing Facebook posts by total interactions among 200 of the largest conservative and progressive pages for the week of October 6– 12, according to data from NewsWhip

Hear this: Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham convened the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to rush through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least two members of the committee have the coronavirus — including one who showed up for the hearing in person and refused to wear a mask (*ahem* Mike Lee) — and most Americans agree that we should wait until after November’s election to fill the vacancy.

That’s for good reason — nominating and confirming justices to the Supreme Court is one of the most significant duties a president and the Senate can carry out. But what was the most interacted-with post on political Facebook yesterday? Donald Trump declaring that California is “going to hell.”

Anyone who’s ever attempted to engage with a long-lost high school classmate will likely say the same thing: Facebook isn’t a platform that values nuance or high-minded debate, so this isn’t necessarily surprising. But there are a few things progressives can do to help make our content go further.

  • Post frequently: Forget the old adage of “every four hours” — the latest recommendation for how often to post on Facebook is 10–12 times per day. The Other 98% does a great job at maintaining a strong cadence. Check out their page for inspiration.
  • Embrace values statements: Connect what’s happening on the Senate floor to the values progressives hold. Pete Buttigieg did a great job doing this with his viral post about abortion rights.
  • Optimize video for the platform: Short clips (30–45 seconds) perform best on Twitter. Longer videos (3 minutes or more) perform best on Facebook. Be strategic about where you publish your content — that great 4-minute hearing clip won’t do anyone any good if no one sees it! This 13-second clip from NowThis said it all.
Most-interacted with posts from progressives about the Supreme Court hearing compared to top posts on the Right on October 12 according to data from NewsWhip.

But what is the Right saying about the hearings on Facebook? Among top posts, conservatives are mostly focused on an obstruction narrative, that progressives would do anything to prevent a conservative justice from being appointed. Many of the top posts about the hearing come from Fox News, which has been posting quote graphics with very little commentary, providing an interesting piece of evidence for their strategy of using Facebook as a supporting platform for the narratives they push on television. And finally, like in the committee hearing itself, some posts accuse progressives of discriminating against Amy Coney Barrett because of her religion.

Top Facebook posts from conservative pages about the Supreme Court hearings, according to data from NewsWhip

Compare this with progressives, who are laser-focused on threats to the Affordable Care Act and access to reproductive health care and the Republican hypocrisy of appointing a nominee after refusing to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland in early 2016.

Top Facebook posts from progressive pages about the Supreme Court hearings, according to data from NewsWhip

SAY IT WITH ME

  • In a new report, Andrew Marantz (@andrewmarantz) explains how Facebook moved from more nuanced, people-driven content moderation policies to politically-driven ones. The report outlines the (lack of) standards by which Facebook evaluates content, the working environment content moderators endure, and the moral dilemmas they face.
  • A U.S.-based content moderator is quoted as saying, “Pretty much the only language Facebook understands is public embarrassment.”
  • Oh, and here’s a great example: This week Facebook (finally) announced it would ban posts that deny the Holocaust. That standard will not apply to other genocides.

The bottom line: Facebook’s content moderation policies are woefully inadequate, and that has serious implications for our national security and public safety.

ON MY RADAR

  • Saturday, October 17, is the #CountOnUS national day of action. Led by a coalition of women’s groups and progressive advocacy organizations, people will mobilize across the country to demonstrate fierce opposition to Trump’s agenda — including his attempt to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. Find an action closest to you here!

ASK ALEX

This week’s question is, “You’ve said screenshots of tweets perform well on Facebook, but do they perform better in light or dark mode?”

Great question!

We’ve tested dark vs. light mode Twitter screenshots on CAP Action’s Facebook over the past month. While the number of engagements were roughly the same between the two, screenshots in dark mode had lower reach than those in light mode. In fact, screenshots in light mode received 80% more reach than their dark mode counterparts.

Thanks so much for your questions and your time!

Have a great week,

Alex

P.S. Please do forward along to your friends who are interested or encourage them to sign up here.

This newsletter is written by me, Alex Witt (@alexandriajwitt), a progressive political strategist and Dolly Parton enthusiast (she/her). I’ve managed social media programs for presidential candidates, political committees, progressive advocacy organizations, and more.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Authors

Alex Witt

Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships

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Welcome to “What's Trending?”, a weekly newsletter to help progressives answer the age-old questions: What works, and what doesn't? “What's Trending?” cuts through the noise to bring you the best (and worst) of what's happening on social media in the policy space, and explains why it's important.

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