So you are one of those few who worked hard to grow your community organically on Facebook. But with Facebook’s latest algorithm change prioritizing ‘meaningful engagement’ over all else, you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you.
The 2.23 billion monthly active Facebook users may feel tantalizingly beyond your fingertips without paid advertising, but with the right strategies, you can still maintain and increase your organic reach.
An algorithm-friendly Facebook marketing strategy is required to ensure your content gets the screen time it needs to be seen by your target audience.
Firstly…let’s start with the basics.
So what is the Facebook algorithm update?
In January of 2018, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm pivoted. Facebook made clear to marketers and businesses that they would face a renewed challenge to remain visible on News Feeds.
While Facebook has implemented a number of News Feed changes over the years, the magnitude of the most recent one was made clear in an open statement from Mark Zuckerberg.
In his own words:
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other…
We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
With this algorithm update, they have added further requirements making it more challenging for businesses to appear organically. In addition to pushing posts from friends and family, they will also predict which posts they believe will create interactions between users. Seeking back-and-forth conversations, and posts people are genuinely reacting to is the new normal.
In preferring posts from friends and family over public content, and prioritizing posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions, a digital line has been engraved on stone.
For businesses who manage to increase their levels of engagement, the rewards of authentic exposure and targeted interest are up for grabs. For pages producing content that is derivative, lacking in video content, without analytics, relying on engagement baiting, or simply failing to compel people to interact, obscurity awaits.
While any algorithm change can feel like the end of the world, there is hope for those who are willing to change.
Consider the following 7 strategies to work along the lines of the new algorithm.
1) Time Your Content to Perfection
Posting when your followers are online will maximize your chances of them seeing it. Unfortunately, there is no single way to identify this perfect time. Your core demographic may be online at midday, or midnight!
To see when your followers are most active you can use your engagement data in Facebook Insights.
Facebook Insights offers valuable engagement analytics.
Click ‘Posts’ to see a breakdown of each post, including:
- Time posted
- Content type
- Privacy settings
- Your reach (split between organic and paid)
- Your engagement (split between post clicks and reactions, comments, and shares)
Knowing the right time to post and the right content to post should frame your strategy going forward. With Facebook’s algorithm prioritizing engagement, timing your posts to appear in front of an active audience is now vital. Once you have used Facebook Insights to determine what works for you, create a content calendar to remain consistent.
2) Start Producing Video Content
Facebook’s own research has shown that video content drives higher engagement and interaction in comparison to all other content types. Videos can help to increase your organic reach by keeping eyes firmly glued to your page and promoting discussions as a result.
Customers who are ‘fully connected’ emotionally to a brand tend to spend twice as much on average compared to customers who identify as ‘highly satisfied’.
Dove’s #ChooseBeautiful campaign was built around an emotional connection for just that reason.
Regardless of your chosen video content tone and style, keep these tips in mind for your next Facebook video campaign:
Use captions – 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound due to default settings so include clear and self-explanatory visual cues. Adding captions makes for a simple user experience and ensures your message is received.
Front load your content – The first seconds of your video are the most valuable. By delivering your most important messages first, you will grab attention and compel people to stay watching.
Be open to change – There are many variables at play when creating Facebook video content. The length of your content, subject matter, video production tools, copy, tone, the list goes on.
Facebook Live hit its two-year anniversary in April of 2018, the average number of daily Facebook Live videos has doubled year on year. On top of this, live videos are watched for three times as long as pre-recorded videos, allowing consumers to engage with your products and services in real time.
You can use Facebook Live to promote upcoming events, capture behind the scenes moments, convey valuable authenticity, and humanize your brand in an informal way.
You can also use Facebook live to help convince potential customers to invest in your products and services.
3) Post More Photos and Multimedia
Facebook’s goal is to keep users on Facebook.
As visual content creates 87% more engagement, each post should be accompanied with a visual.
Once you have added your visual flair and posted your content, give praise where praise is due by shouting out other pages that have contributed to your findings or have helped your post in some way. Not only is this a digital courtesy, but you will be increasing your reach by tapping into their audience too. It is not enough to get shares alone; you need to encourage people to engage with your post.
4) Use Facebook Audience Optimization
Log in to your Facebook Page and click on settings in the top right-hand corner of your dashboard screen. Select ‘General’ settings on the left-hand table and click ‘Edit’ to the right of the ‘Audience Optimization for Posts’ option.
Select the checkbox to allow you to select a preferred audience and hit save changes.
Now you can use Facebook’s targeting feature. When you compose a new post, you will have the option of filtering your audience. You can add up to 16 interest tags to target people whose interests align with your posts. You can also restrict the visibility of your post based on audience age, location, language, and gender.
If your audience falls outside these parameters, the post won’t be visible to them. When you are finished filtering your audience, click ‘Save’ and finish publishing your post.
You are often better off targeting a small section of your followers to receive higher engagement, rather than targeting your entire follower count and thinking higher engagement will come from your wider target audience. While it may feel counterintuitive, reaching out to a smaller but targeted audience can be a smarter decision compared to posting to your largest audience possible.
Treading This Fine Line is Undoubtedly a Challenge.
Remember, your Facebook posts are not about you; they are about your audience, what they are interested in, and what they would find valuable.
5) Create Natural Discussions
If people start conversations by commenting on your posts, you will be working within Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. It can be a challenge to get people talking though. Make sure your content and the accompanying question is unique and compelling.
Don’t ask the same question everyone else is asking, look for a different angle to your chosen topic for discussion.
Creating a natural discussion about topics relating to your brand is a great way to use the Facebook algorithm changes to your advantage.
Engagement baiting posts like these will no longer be effective.
Engagement bait content still appears from time to time, but it will not have longevity, so you are better off avoiding it.
Consider for a moment that you do manage to cut through Facebook’s algorithm and appear on the news feeds of your followers by spamming engagement, you run the risk of leaving a sour taste in the mouth of your desired customers who are too savvy to fall for obvious marketing hacks.
Facebook encourages pages to create content that provokes discussion, as long as that content is creatively presented. Content with the goal of stirring heated debate, controversy or shock should be avoided.
The more you can get people talking, the greater your chances of appearing organically.
6) Encourage Your Employees to Promote Your Business
Facebook has been transparent in demanding content that engages with your followers; this is key if you want to appear regularly on their feeds.
While you should always look to grow your audience using people not associated with your company; using your employees to help you widen your organic reach is a step worth exploring. With Facebook prioritizing content from friends and family over business pages, encouraging your employees to become your advocates can help attract more eyeballs to your content.
Using your employees to share your content on their personal Facebook networks supercharges your exposure.
You can facilitate your employee’s success by creating content calendars for them, as well as motivating them to share. With employees able to demonstrate thought leadership, build their personal brands, and drive more leads and revenue for the company, they stand to benefit as much as you do.
7) Create a Facebook Group
To address the elephant in the room, a Business Page won’t become a goldmine of engagement, organic traffic, and leads. Not without a financial investment.
In Facebook’s own words,
“Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals. Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space.”
The decline of organic reach from 2012-2014
Rather than abandon your Business Page as a monument to the past, given the staggering 2% visibility, consider pivoting your strategy to include a Facebook Group for your business.
A Facebook Group fits Facebook’s meaningful engagement vision as they are typically formed around shared interests and create natural discussions.
Use your own Facebook Group to:
Fuel Personal Engagement
A private group setting makes it much easier for people to interact. With an environment that is full of like-minded individuals, and with less public scrutiny, it is easier to grow a conversation.
Create Compelling CTAs
You can use a pinned post to attract attention to your most compelling content; this is an ideal place to leave a powerful CTA, offer, incentive, or the like. Consider an invitation to join your mailing list or newsletter, with the value you are offering to your group members building on the interest that led them to your group in the first place.
Receive Valuable Feedback
Facebook Groups allow you to poll your group members, giving you valuable feedback that can help shape your marketing efforts; this may take the form of product design and reviews, price points, customer experiences, industry preferences, and so on.
Broadcast Upcoming Offers
Once you have created a highly targeted audience, you will be able to introduce offers when the time is right. With conversion goals in your future, your efforts should continue to foster engagement in your Facebook Group.
All uses of your Facebook Group share one vital element – trust. Without trust, you won’t have an engaged group, tour CTAs will not be effective, your polls will not receive feedback, and the offers you announce will not be successful.
Trust comes through providing value.
Share your experiences without asking for anything in return. Answer questions openly and honestly. Look to solve the problems of your new community to build a bond between your followers and yourself.
Last but not the least…
While the latest algorithm changes have rocked the foundations for many businesses and marketers, they do not exist in a vacuum. The importance of creating content that compels engagement has long been building, with this latest push a continuation of that desire.
In the wake of Facebook’s latest algorithm changes, the ability to draw authentic engagement from the former will inevitably lead to the latter.