The Facebook Algorithm is a source of mystery and frustration for many page owners who use the platform to promote their business. It’s like playing a game where the rules are constantly changing.
Business owners and marketers have been noticing a significant drop in engagement and reach for months, and according to recent headlines it’s only going to get worse. So what’s changing, and what can we do to promote our businesses successfully?
With the increase in media content in our news feed, pressure to crack down on fake news and the ongoing challenge of delivering a quality user experience in a time where attention spans are shorter than ever, Facebook have decided to get stricter about what users see.
Over the next few weeks and months content from celebrities, brands and news organisations will start to disappear from our main news feed and we will start seeing a lot more from friends and family – even if we’ve chosen to ‘like’ and follow a page.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a move to destroy small businesses or hamper their marketing efforts.
Facebook makes its money from businesses – through advertising revenue and by selling them advertising data. However, they are unable to collect that data or show those adverts if nobody is on the platform, so delivering a quality, engaging user experience is essential. Ultimately, their goal is to increase the amount of time we spend on the platform.
As a business, if you understand this you can work around the algorithm and still use Facebook to promote yourself effectively.
Here’s an 8 point plan you can start implementing on your page now to make sure you survive the latest algorithm changes:
- Optimise individual posts for engagement
Engagement (likes, comments, reactions and shares) is how the Facebook algorithm judges the quality of the post.
Facebook only wants us to see high quality posts in our newsfeed, so when you post something on your page it will show that to a small percentage of your audience and then judge how much engagement you get (and how quickly). If you get enough for Facebook to consider this a high quality post it will extend the reach to more of your audience.
This has been the case for a while now and according to recent headlines it looks like the ‘test audience’ is going to get even smaller – so you need to optimise every post for the highest levels of engagement possible.
The key to this is to ask questions. As humans, when we see a question our brain is hardwired to want to answer it.
Remember your page is all about your audience. It’s not about you. If you want them to engage with you, you need to post about the issues they care about and make sure you fit into their newsfeed as a trusted friend they enjoy speaking to – not as just another person trying to sell them something.
Think about what issues they want to hear about, or what impact you have as an environmental business. Jump on relevant ‘hot topics’ in the media – like the recent plastic waste headlines and ‘Latte Levy’ in the UK or the emotional scenes from Blue Planet II that got us all talking – and open them up for discussion as the same way you would with your friends at the pub.
A few years ago our feeds were swamped with clickbait. Snappy headlines designed to grab our attention and make us click through.
For marketers these were really effective for a while (Buzzfeed still uses this style), but as it became more popular, the spammers took over and low quality content began to rise. Facebook clamped down and now the algorithm suppresses most clickbait so now we don’t see it in our feeds.
The latest trend is to ask for engagement. As publishers have realised they need to get engagement to widen their reach, they’ve started asking for it by encouraging people to ‘like this post if you agree’ or ‘comment and share’. Again this was popular and effective for a while, but Facebook wants more authentic, natural engagement so they’re not going to allow this engagement bait anymore. Instead of asking for engagement, encourage it naturally.
People love to share on social media and Facebook considers this one of the highest forms of engagement. It’s a signal that your content is such good quality that people want to tell the world about it!
Optimise your content for sharing, but remember not to ask for it (avoid engagement bait). The best way to do this is to step into your audience’s shoes and remember the golden rule of social media – it’s not about you, it’s about them.
What do they care about? What inspires them? What do they want to talk about?
Inspirational quotes, inspiring stories, personal opinions, helpful tips and advice all work really well. It’s about building rapport and an emotional connection.
The good news is that as a green business you already have a compelling impact, story and set of values that you can use to build connection.
Remember, people love to share videos, articles and news stories – but bear in mind step 4…
Facebook’s main goal is to get users to spend as much time as possible on the platform. That way they’re collecting data on us (which they can sell) and we’re seeing adverts, so they get paid.
You might have noticed that when you share a link to your blog, website or an external source the post doesn’t get as much reach as posts without links. That’s because Facebook doesn’t prioritise these posts because it doesn’t want us leaving.
If you’re constantly sharing external links, your reach will stay low (and so will your engagement) and you won’t be prioritised in the algorithm, even if what you’re linking to is great content.
So how can we still promote our websites, blogs, shops and interesting articles?
Adopt an 80:20 rule for your content. Make sure that 80% of what you post has no external links – just engaging written content, images and native video.
20% of your content can include links – but learn how to do this in an algorithm-friendly way.
When you write a blog post, summarise it or pull out some key points and use this to turn your Facebook post about it into a new ‘mini blog post’ on the same topic.
Post this initially without the link (remember to optimise for engagement by asking questions!)
Then when you start getting engagement, your reach is widening and people begin commenting, you can add your own comment saying you’ve written an article about the topic for people who want to know more and add the link in the comments, rather than creating an entirely new post.
Live video is one of Facebook’s newest features, so now is the time to make the most of it.
Social media usually rewards early adopters because they are the people that help make new features a success – and this is certainly the case with live video.
If you go live, the video will be prioritised and shown to more of your followers, both at the time and if you save it to your page afterwards for people to watch the replay.
At the moment, you’ll also see a boost in reach for a few days after going live too, so it’s well worth doing if you’ve got a big campaign going on.
Live video can feel scary, but just remember you can always delete it afterwards! Try introducing yourself, your business and what you do, showcasing a product in action or talking about a relevant news story if you’re stuck for ideas.
If you want to know more about going Live check out this FB Live replay for my top tips on how to overcome the fear!
- If you want engagement, be engaging
Nobody wants a one-sided conversation. If someone takes time out of their busy day to leave you a comment or share your content on their page – make sure you respond!
It sounds like a no brainer, but this is actually where a lot of businesses neglect their social media (especially if they’re scheduling in advance).
Respond to comments, tag in people and pages that you think will be interested in your content to get the conversation going and make the effort to comment on other people’s posts too.
The key is to make your page feel as close to a friend’s profile as possible for your audience. It takes effort to engage and if they don’t get a response, they won’t come back.
- Stop using scheduling tools
This is probably the most unpopular step, especially as most marketing advice will tell you to use scheduling software to save time and put your social media on auto-pilot.
In theory this works well, it saves time and gives you more brainspace to focus on responding and engaging with your audience.
However, Facebook is looking for natural, authentic, organic engagement and content. The rise of features like stories and live shows us that they want ‘in the moment’ updates from us all.
There’s been rumours going around for a while that Facebook is giving less priority to posts scheduled with external apps and while there’s nothing concrete about this Facebook have introduced their own scheduling feature directly within pages, which suggests that they are not keen on external software.
The algorithm can tell which apps you use to post updates and some marketers have reported a drop in reach for pre-planned posts from external sources. It’s definitely worth experimenting with posting updates as they happen – or at least planning your content in advance using an external tool but then posting it natively within Facebook at the time.
Don’t forget to check your page insights to find the best days and times to post too!
- Start boosting posts (strategically)
Facebook make their money from advertisers. It’s a well-known fact that it’s increasingly becoming a ‘pay to play’ platform, but don’t let this put you off. Facebook ads is still one of the most cost-effective and targeted forms of paid advertising out there.
By spending even a small amount of money on boosted posts regularly, you’re signalling to Facebook that you’re taking your page seriously and you’ll be rewarded for that.
To make sure you get a good return on investment in terms of engagement and reach, you need to get strategic about boosting posts. Don’t just hit the boost button and hope for the best!
Listen to what Facebook recommends. They will occasionally recommend posts for you to boost and suggest audience demographics that it might be popular for. The temptation is to boost posts with little or no engagement to try and increase this, but you’ll be more successful (and get more for your money) if you boost posts that are already popular.
Select your audience carefully and make the most of the targeted audience option.
Occasionally you might want to boost a post to people who already like your page, but if you follow the 7 other steps you should get good enough engagement to reach most of them anyway.
Think carefully about whether to boost to ‘People who like your page and their friends’. We do tend to make friends with people who share our views and interests so this might seem like a good way to widen your audience, but as we know in the sustainability and environmental sector this is not always the case.
Instead, study your page insights to find out the average age range, gender and location of people who like your page and engage with your posts. Set your audience demographics according to this, then choose interests such as ‘sustainability’, ‘green living ideas’ or other areas that relate to your content and your business.
If you want to learn how to target your audience and boost your posts strategically, watch this FB Live replay.
The Facebook algorithm is on one hand an ever changing mystery – but the two concepts at the heart of it remain the same. It’s all about relevancy and engagement. To get users to stay on the platform (and earning them money), Facebook wants to serve up the most relevant, engaging and high quality content. As a business, you need to create that content.
Focus on getting to know your audience and you’ll be able to create this naturally across your entire marketing efforts. It’s not entirely clear how the newly announced changes will affect page and post visibility, but relevancy and engagement are core principles of marketing so they are unlikely to go away any time soon.
Download your FREE Facebook engagement plan and make sure your page survives the algorithm changes. Get your copy here.
Facebook is still one of the most cost-effective, accessible marketing platforms for small business owners, if you know how to engage your audience.
Our Facebook Marketing for Ethical Businesses course will teach you everything you need to know about the algorithm, creating engaging content, growing your audience organically and the ultimate ads strategy to turn your followers into loyal customers and raving fans. Enrol now and get lifetime access for just £65+VAT.