The Facebook algorithm gets an update
[Post updated 05/08/16 to reflect a further update to the algorithm]
Facebook recently announced yet another update to the algorithm that manages content displayed in users’ News Feeds.
To summarise, in order to Build a Better News Feed for You, organic reach for publishers (specifically Pages), will take another hit.
Facebook have a set of News Feed Values which focus on putting posts from friends and family first. These Values are not new and the latest update to the algorithm reinforces this.
Great news for personal users. Facebook algorithm updates can leave Page Owners feeling like all the time and effort invested into building a Page and following on Facebook, has been wasted though. This makes a lot of Page Owners, REALLY mad.
This is frustrating, especially when organic reach is already really low. We’ve known for a long time though, that in order to fully exploit the marketing opportunities Facebook offers, we have to pay to play. Small players like the majority of bloggers and micro business owners who have limited or zero budget, are perhaps the ones that will most feel frustrated about Facebook’s latest update.
Despite how we Page Owners might feel, we need to roll with the changes and stop trying to game the system, by trying to manufacture organic engagement on a quid pro quo, like-for-like, basis. Good intentions might lead to people starting “like” threads in Facebook networking Groups, but following other Pages in order to receive a follow back, does more harm than good in the long run, for both parties. Instead we need to focus on:
- Following Pages we genuinely want to see updates from in our Feeds
- Growing an authentic following of people who have a genuine interest in what we have to offer.
So let’s work with the Facebook algorithm
Facebook introduced News Feed back in 2006 and within that time, more than a billion new members have joined the social network. That’s a lot of content and a huge amount of competition to get into News Feeds.
The algorithm itself is very complex with around 100k factors determining what gets into the News Feed.
Why embrace Facebook algorithm changes?
Facebook will always continue to aim to protect the individual user experience which is why it’s important for them to keep changing the algorithm. Publishers drive these changes by exploiting free ways of getting in front of audiences.
If Page Owners have to pay to get their promotional content into the News Feed, Facebook can manage the volume and frequency. If they don’t, users will stop connecting with Pages and possibly leave the platform because News Feeds will be full of spam. So rather than viewing algorithm changes as hurting Pages, the algorithm is attempting to protect personal users by allowing them to see updates from those who matter most; friends and family. It’s in the interest of everyone that we Page Owners, pay to play when it comes to promotional content.
What type of content experiences poor organic reach?
If you have an existing Facebook Page, start by looking back through your existing posts and look at analytics for them. This should give you some indication of what does and doesn’t work well not only for your audience, but also for the algorithm. Of course each time the Facebook algorithm changes, you may find what used to work well for you, may no longer be a suitable strategy.
If you re-visit the News Feed Values, our News Feeds should; inform and entertain.
It does not say, our News Feeds should be full of promotional content. This should directly inform your content marketing strategy on Facebook. Anything that is focused on promotion rather than information and entertainment, will not be shown organically to many Fans in their News Feed. Examples include posts:
- Promoting links to your website or blog
- Containing promotional language
- Promoting an Event, organised by your Page
- Links added to captions rather than making use of the link format with thumbnail
- Mentioning Pages in your Post in a spammy way
- Encouraging click-bait*
- Encouraging like-bait
*Update 05/08/16: Facebook announced on 04/08/16 that they are Further Reducing Clickbait in Feed.
So if you want to drive traffic to your latest blog post, you should consider paying to get that into people’s News Feeds.
We also know that Facebook prefers to keep users on the platform, rather than lead them elsewhere. If you’ve ever experimented with posting video via a link to YouTube VS uploading that same video to Facebook, you’ll know that Native Video will experience better organic reach. Of course this only applies to your own video content. No-one wants you to steal someone else’s video to upload to your own Page. 😉
What works well?
Apart from focusing upon informing and entertaining your audience, what works well in terms of organic reach and engagement will also depend upon your audience and why they connected with your Page in the first place.
There are some general tips we can all implement though:
1. Post your best content
Choose quality over quantity. It’s far better to invest in creating less content that is of a better standard and meets the News Feed Values, than it is to create and publish multiple posts which are of a poorer standard and are in conflict with the News Feed Values. The right content will receive some engagement which will help increase reach.
2. Create shareable content
Learn what people love to share. You can do this by;
- Analysing your existing content; what gets shared?
- Observing what your own Facebook friends share.
- Reflecting upon the type of content you love to share.
- Reading up on the psychology of why people share on social media. If you find that too daunting or time-intensive, CoSchedule created this great infographic which is based upon research on The Psychology of Sharing by The New York Times Customer Insight Group (visit the site for the full PDF report).
3. Pay to promote posts that are performing well
There’s good reason why we Page Owners receive notifications about posts that are performing well organically. If people are responding positively to a post, it’s safe to say that it will resonate well with others too; so it can be worth sharing that post more widely.
4. Experiment with new features on Facebook
Each time Facebook launches a new feature e.g. Facebook Live, 360 Video and Photography, Facebook wants users to adopt these new features. So experiment with new features (if you feel comfortable) and you may find you are rewarded with better organic reach.
5. Speak directly to your avatar
If you are really clear on who your ideal customer, client or Fan is (your avatar), you can speak directly to your avatar each time you post by writing copy that appeals as well as sharing content that resonates.
6. Emojis rock!✌️
Facebook introduced their own emojis, Reactions earlier this year and we Facebookers, love ’em! They help us communicate a more appropriate response to posts, compared to simply Liking. Emojis are well-received when used appropriately within posts across social media, so makes use of them where you can.
7. Share content from others
It’s always good to share relevant content from other people e.g.
- Other Pages
- Third party websites and blogs
- Your community via your own hashtag.
Remember if you want to share an image from someone else’s Page, use the original post’s Share button, don’t download and re-publish the image without permission.
8. Authentic Communication and storytelling
Authentic Communication is one of the Newsfeed Values. Facebook tells us that “authentic stories are the ones that resonate most” and the algorithm works to minimise sensationalist, misleading and spammy posts from News Feeds.
9. Posting content from Instagram
Cross-platform posting does not always go down well with algorithms or Fans because messages should always be tailored to the platform. However, Instagram is owned by Facebook and when you cross-post, Instagram content appears natively on Facebook. So as long as you are posting great photos, are telling stories and are not using promotional language, organic reach can be impressive; I’ve seen organic reach at around a minimum of 25% to well over 100% since the algorithm was updated. Engagement in this case is in the form of Likes/Reactions, Comments, Shares and Clicks. Of course that could change, only time will tell.
10. Native wins
When it comes to organic reach, good-quality native content is always going to be preferable over sending Fans elsewhere.
1. Be strategic about who you target through paid posts
When we create custom audiences to promote our content to, it is usually advisable to be really specific about that custom audience, by taking full advantage of the options available. It’s also usually better to avoid targeting people in different countries at the same time (each country has a different “value” when it comes to Facebook likes and engagement).
2. Have a clear call to action when you do pay
Everything we post on our Pages should be aligned with our aims and objectives. Each Post should aim to fulfil a specific purpose too. For businesses and bloggers, that usually involves converting Facebook Fans into customers and subscribers. Make use of those call to action buttons.
For more ideas, see Facebook’s Page posting tips and best practices.
Types of Engagement
Engagement appears in many forms and includes:
- Hide, Report as Spam and Unlikes
- Time spent on Post
Time spent on Post is a metric we don’t see, but the Facebook algorithm takes it into account because users don’t always want to publicly show they engaged with some content. Time spent on Post was introduced in 2015 and announced in this post; News Feed FYI: Taking Into Account Time Spent on Stories. So a lack of Reactions, Comments and Shares doesn’t always mean some users didn’t get any value from it and time spent on a Post could increase your organic reach.
As Facebook users, we can still manage our own News Feeds
If a Fan really doesn’t want to miss any of your updates, they can choose to see your updates first in their Feed and can switch on Notifications so they are alerted each time you post or are live. This doesn’t mean that Page Owners should start begging Fans to switch on Notifications though. Would you want to do that for every Page you follow? Heck, no! So let’s not try to control the experience of our own Fans. Instead, focus on serving up great content.
Don’t completely depend upon Facebook
Facebook still offers some of the best means of getting in front of our audiences, even with the continued decrease in organic engagement. Paid advertising opportunities on the platform can deliver great results with precise targeting as well as being a lot cheaper than traditional forms of advertising.
However it’s a risky strategy to only rely upon Facebook for your content marketing. The same can be said for any social media platform. We do not own anything on social media and Page and Post Likes are vanity metrics. Sure, those numbers can look impressive, provide some credibility and therefore help convert new people to like your Page; for example, if a someone sees a Facebook Friend already likes your Page, they may then like it too.
But if you are not attracting the right people, and you are not converting those people into clients or customers, then those numbers don’t mean very much at all.
It’s always better to have a smaller community of engaged Fans than it is to have a large community of people who aren’t really interested in what you have to offer.