If you haven’t already noticed, Facebook recently changed its algorithm when it comes to the “organic reach” of pages. For most Facebook Page managers, this means your Facebook Page posts are likely showing up in significantly less user newsfeeds – that is, unless you pay to promote your posts. In fact, organic reach has dropped to as low as two percent of total Page likes for some Pages. Facebook says the change is to promote competition and serve users with only the content they want to see, but conveniently for them, it also highly encourages businesses to pay them for consumer engagement. This article from Social Media Today argues that these changes are actually positive for Facebook users and Pages alike, but for many, the jury is still out. Either way, we want to provide you with some practical ways to make the most of these changes so your business can continue thriving on social media.
Create AND Curate Engaging Content
Yes, it’s a jumble of social media buzzwords, but there really is truth behind this phrase. In a nutshell, Facebook’s algorithm assumes that if users are not engaging in a post (liking, clicking on links, commenting, sharing, etc.), then they probably don’t care to see that Page’s posts in their News Feeds.
Therefore, your job as a Page Manager is to ensure that users are tangibly engaging in your posts via Likes and clicks, so they continue to show in user News Feeds. The only way you’ll get that is to – surprise! – post content that people actually like. Although the algorithm changes constantly and the elements considered continue to grow, Facebook history seems to show it boils down to three main categories: affinity (how often the user interacts with that particular Page), weight (the value of actions on a post – comments have a higher weight than Likes), and time decay (the older a post is, the less valuable it is in News Feed). Therefore, your goal is to create posts that provoke high engagement (not just Likes!) and users who come back for more – all in a timely manner. Consider using analytics tools that will tell you what time of day posting is most effective for you, which is helpful since early engagement is key: a post that is engaging right off the bat stays higher in News Feeds longer.
Remember that a minimal portion of your posts should be self-promoting – the rest should be interesting content that is relevant to your business genre, but doesn’t directly solicit people to buy your products or services. This can include behind-the-scenes photos of your staff, interesting blog posts and pictures, infographics, etc. “Curate” good content from across the web, but also post original content that brands your company and its personality. This is where you’re likely going to hook people. If they’re engaging there, your “affinity” with that user goes up and Facebook assumes that user wants to see more of you. The rest of your posts, including the self-promoting content, will show up in their News Feeds.
When your fans with high affinity for you begin Liking, sharing, and clicking your content, Facebook takes notice and places it in more News Feeds – even in those of what they call “potential fans,” or users who haven’t already “Liked” your page but may be friends with a user who has. However, you’re not going to get there if you aren’t first engaging post Likes from your Page fans.
At the end of the day, Facebook’s target audience is the user. If there is not tangible evidence that a user is interested in your content, then Facebook will assume you are a nuisance and you will fail to make it in to the user’s News Feed.
Follow the Rules
You have to keep in mind what Facebook considers “quality” content in order to be successful. After all, they are the shot-callers here. There’s no list of dos and don’ts, but Facebook’s documentation on business Pages does provide some insight. They encourage Facebook Page Managers to be authentic (i.e. create a personality for your Page), and to keep photo and link captions short. It also says “bold imagery and video” are some of the best ways to compete with the other content you’ll be up against in News Feed.
It’s also important to note that Facebook says text-only statuses from Pages are being demoted in News Feeds, including text links in picture captions – they prefer you post links using embedded link-shares (photo: top left) instead. They also like unique content over repeat content, so post original photos and links people may not have already seen, like blog posts you’ve written. Some research has also shown that Facebook favors videos in the News Feed over photos, and understandably promotes content shared via Instagram since they own the photo-sharing platform. We’ve also noticed that posts that include multiple photos (photo: right) tend to get a significant amount more exposure than single photo posts. The word Facebook repeatedly likes to use to describe posts they approve of is “attractive.” Ask (brutally honest) people you trust in your business’ target demographic if your Page’s Timeline is “attractive” – if they don’t think so, it’s time for a change.
We also know that Facebook doesn’t like photos that contain typed text, no matter how compelling you find it to be (photo: bottom left). They won’t even let you pay them money to promote ads with photos that contain more than 20 percent text (they’ll be the judge of what constitutes 20 percent), so chances are slim they’ll let you slip those in people’s newsfeeds for free with organic reach.
If you want to play the game, you’ve got to follow the rules. But don’t get so caught up in them that you forget it all comes down to best-practice marketing principles.
An Obvious Call to Action
Another way to encourage engagement is to create incentives to do so. We’ve found success for our clients in the past by holding “Like it, Win it!” contests like the one we used for Baby Bling Street above, where a user must Like and share the post in order to be entered into a drawing for a prize. Facebook has recently been cracking down on “like-baiting,” but if your “Like and Share” post grabs engagement right off the bat, you can reach pretty wide with these posts. The trick is that while Page posts are often at a disadvantage in the News Feed, a “Share” turns your post into a user post, which is much more likely to be seen by that person’s friends list.
Caption contests and asking questions that promote responses from your fans are also ways to promote engagement. A retail store could post a photo of two outfits and ask Page fans which one is better. A travel-oriented business could ask users about their favorite trip. People love talking about themselves and their interests, so take advantage of it!
Date Around with Other Social Media Platforms
Facebook started off as the primary social media outlet for marketing, but these days, it’s foolish for your business to have a monogamous relationship with a singular social media platform. Different social media platforms work for different types of businesses, so read up and experiment to find what’s best for you. If you have an online retail business and you’re not on Pinterest, you are losing out big time. For obvious reasons, joining Google+ can provide a nice boost to your SEO. Companies with visual products can benefit from using Instagram.
Whichever social networks you choose, just make sure your posts are tailored to fit the respective platform. Twitter isn’t as effective when there are no hashtags and a user has to click through to read a too-long tweet, and Google+ won’t help your SEO if your posts are copied and pasted from Facebook. This requires extra thought, but it’s worth the effort – otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Have a Designated (Social Media) Driver
With all the responsibilities that come with running a business, it’s hard to devote the amount of time it takes to be successful on Facebook, let alone all social media fronts. Some businesses owners designate a daily social media post to sales associates or try to operate things themselves. Not only does this lead to social media platforms often being neglected thanks to busy days (no one will Like a page that hasn’t had activity in months), but it often results in inconsistency. Different employees will inevitably have different social media styles, and when every post looks, feels, and reads differently, Page fans don’t know what to expect and the user experience is cheapened.
You should be in full control of your message. Choose an employee whose posts are popular with fans, who can respond to fan inquiries and interactions, and who can intelligently write and curate content that promotes your brand, and designate them as your social media manager. Or, hire a company like NetSource that specializes in social media marketing that can create engaging content plans and post for you using professional online marketing knowledge.
Give in to the Machine
As hard as you work to extend your organic reach, we have to serve up a dose of reality and say that it just isn’t going to be enough to reach ALL of your Page fans and draw in as many potential new ones as you can. You have to pay to promote posts in order to take full advantage of Facebook as a marketing platform, and that’s just the way Facebook wants it. You didn’t lose the battle; business is just business and that’s the way life goes. Moz wrote a great blog about why you should spend at least $1 per day on Facebook ads and we tend to agree – it’s hard to find a better ad reach per dollar than on Facebook.
However, the rules of creating good posts for organic reach apply just the same to creating good posts for paid reach. If your post is engaging to people who see your posts organically, then it will be engaging to those who see your posts as ads, and your chances of expanding your business exposure increases.
If you’re still interested in learning more about beating Facebook’s algorithm, check out this article from Mashable to read firsthand how some startup founders are doing it.