You worked hard for your organic audience 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. Is this the time to cut your losses and head back to MySpace? Hardly.
With 2.23 billion monthly active Facebook users, there remains a huge available audience. They may feel tantalizingly beyond your fingertips without paid advertising, but with the right strategies, you can still maintain and increase your organic reach.
Without question, the algorithm change is making it hard for Business Pages to get content seen. However, if you manage to make the algorithm work for you, there will be less competition and more opportunities as a result.
An algorithm-friendly Facebook marketing strategy is required to ensure your content gets the screen time it needs going forward.
Before you can start on your journey back from the social wilderness though, you will need to know what you are up against.
What is the 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 and transparent 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.”
No More Engagement Parties
Facebook previously used signals like the number of people who reacted, commented or shared a post to determine where that post appeared in the News Feed.
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.
The delineation between active interactions (commenting and sharing) and passive interactions (likes and click-throughs) is now clear.
In preferring posts from friends and family over public content, and prioritizing posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions, a digital line has been drawn in the sand.
A Major Change
Apart from sending marketers and businesses to the dictionary to define ‘meaningful interactions’ this change has caused organic engagement metrics to nosedive.
As meaningful interactions involve the connection between people, discussions that are robust and organic, and a promotion of togetherness and community, this makes sense.
Would you rather see the latest picture of your sister’s new pug? His name is Charlie, and he has got a red bandana that he loves to wear…
Your sister’s pug, Charlie.
Or an update from a business page you don’t remember following, announcing their latest range of products you are not interested in?
A cynical person may suggest the algorithm change represents a desire to drive advertising revenue. But I am far too busy enjoying the latest photo of Charlie the pug eating a slice of birthday cake to get dragged into that conversation.
Regardless of the reasons behind the algorithm update, the days of chronological feeds and easily attained organic reach are gone.
We can all lament the loss of simpler times, but there is work to be done if you want your business to stay visible. As we power through 2018, it is a case of getting what you are given.
But this comes with a caveat.
Despite the shift towards a family and friends-first feed, the overriding metric of ‘engagement’ still plays a major part in News Feed position. This metric must now be the focal point that marketers and businesses must tailor their Facebook strategies to meet.
It is stating the obvious to say that previous Facebook content strategies will struggle to have an impact in the wake of these changes; this struggle has already been noted. Facebook has acknowledged the difficulties brought on by the latest algorithm change, admitting that Business Pages may see their “reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease.”
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 ensure your change works with Facebook’s algorithm update and not against it.
1). 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.
Video content can be driven by a range of underlying goals, like:
Dove has shown the power of creating video content that is authentic and honest while tying these to their broader company values at the same time. According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, 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.
In the video below, women were given the choice of walking through a door marked ‘average’ or a door marked ‘beautiful’.
With no Dove products on show, the video focuses on the company’s desire to help and empower women. This focus fosters a deeper connection with the brand and is a prime example of video content that connects with consumers.
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. Being open to change will allow you to find what works best for you.
Despite the importance of video, it is not necessary to invest entire marketing budgets to create high-quality video content.
SEMrush does an excellent job on their Facebook page, turning what was a 10-year birthday milestone into a cross-section of informative video content that captures company values, testimonials, and entertainment.
SemRush Facebook Video Content
There is a range of ways to create compelling video content without breaking the bank. Facebook Live represents a prime example of affordable and authentic video content.
Mark Zuckerberg reinforced the value of live video in his recent statement in saying that, “live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook—in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.”
As 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.
When you create a Facebook Live video, you pull back the curtain to show the human side of your business, and that is highly valuable. In addition, with Facebook Live videos producing notifications to alert your followers on the fly, you will be able to stand out the moment you begin streaming.
You can also use Facebook live to help convince potential customers to invest in your products and services.
Tough Mudder is a prime example of a business who has used Facebook Live to allay the fears of undecided consumers and drive interest. They anticipated the uncertainty of what to expect during Tough Mudder as a prime obstacle to people signing up.
To counter this, they produced a live video of a Tough Mudder coach leading participants through a training course. By showing potential participants what to expect they were able to reduce nerves and push people to sign up, while simultaneously driving the excitement in those who were already onboard.
With 53 thousand views to date, their Facebook live video represents a creative way to both drive interest and encourage participation.
2). 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. As a starting point to get the conversation moving, focus on asking stimulating questions. Make sure your content and the accompanying question is unique and compelling.
If you are asking the same questions as everyone else, you can’t expect people to feel driven to engage with you. With each post, ask yourself what new angle you can bring to your chosen topic.
Creating a natural discussion about topics relating to your brand is a great way to use the Facebook algorithm changes to your advantage. The key word is ‘natural’.
It is no longer enough to create ‘engagement bait’ style content anymore. This type of post is openly asking for tags, comments or likes, previously encouraged engagement.
They will now be actively demoted under the new algorithm, with such engagement deemed ‘not meaningful enough’.
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.
Ultimately, while Facebook’s algorithm changes may feel like punishments initially, they are actually opportunities.
Businesses able to generate natural conversations around mutual interests aren’t gaming the system. They are doing what Facebook asks of brands and marketers in 2018 and beyond – humanizing themselves and creating meaningful interactions.
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.
All engagement is not created equally.
A landslide of attention may well be the wrong type of attention when brands look to jump on the latest hot topic or ‘fake news’ story in an attempt to boost their visibility. Treading lightly is a virtue when the alternative option is the alienation and aggravation of your audience.
Don’t disregard the power of direct action either. A simple ‘please like and share’ can work wonders.
Facebook allows people to see more posts from businesses they follow by selecting ‘See First’ in News Feed preferences. So encourage your most loyal followers to become even more engaged.
The more you can get people talking, the greater your chances of appearing organically.
Invite your loyal followers to hit the ‘See First’ option.
3). Encourage Your Employees to Promote Your Business
There is no secret formula to help you succeed with the latest algorithm changes. 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 simple 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 eyes to your content.
Your Business Page is already limited by the number of followers you have. Adding the recent algorithm changes, the number of people who will organically be exposed to your content shrinks further. Using your employees to share your content on their personal Facebook networks supercharges your exposure.
With recent studies showing that posts from friends and family are 16 times more likely to be read than posts by brands, this simple step can reap great rewards.
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.
4). Post Fewer Links But More Photos and Multimedia
Facebook’s goal is to keep users on Facebook.
“Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link.”
Posting links alone won’t get you blacklisted. But along with the knowledge that your organic reach will suffer, link spamming also speaks to the user experience you provide to your followers. By keeping your feed fresh with a mixture of content you will be adhering to Facebook’s preferences and algorithm.
You will also be creating a welcoming and engaging environment for your followers who will enjoy the mixture of content you offer.
That is a win-win.
As visual content creates 87% more engagement, each post should be accompanied with a visual.
There is a range of free tools available including Canva, Stencil, and Design Bold, so it has never been easier to become your own graphic designer and create some much-needed eye candy.
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.
While it may sound obvious, by creating content that people actually enjoy you will be optimizing your content for organic success.
5). Use Facebook Audience Optimization
With the margin of error so small, it is no longer an option to throw up content and hope for the best. Instead, the goal is to drive as much interaction as possible from single posts. Untargeted mass posting has been replaced by selective posting.
This means targeting each post to a specific audience, which is possible whether you have sponsored your post or not. Through targeted posting, you will increase your chances of driving engagement among the people who are most likely to find it useful.
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.
Audience optimization allows you to target a niche demographic.
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.
Filter your target audience to maximize your organic engagement.
When you are finished filtering your audience, click ‘Save’ and finish publishing your post.
By using your Facebook Insights to see which posts were successful and which were not, you will be able to fine-tune your targeting strategy going forward. 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.
With the expectation to post between 1 and 2 times per day according to the latest statistics from Hubspot, there is pressure on brands and marketers to strike a balance between originality and consistency.
Treading This Fine Line is Undoubtedly a Challenge.
Repeat posting of the same content and a failure to post are both a disservice to your business. You can solve this problem by reposting your content with new and original descriptions each time; this will help you to avoid becoming stale and exposes your content to a broader audience.
If you have used a quote the first time, consider using a question the second time, or a statistic to reinforce your message the third time. Another creative angle to attack this problem is to repurpose your content.
The broad content types include:
Other people’s content
These can then be broken down further, for example.
Images: Tips, quotes, infographics, humor, behind the scenes.
Text: Questions, quotes, tips, testimonials, fill in the blanks.
Video: Testimonials, educational, promotional, stories.
Other people’s content: Videos, images, blog posts, news or current events.
As this shows, the rabbit hole of possible content runs deep.
Use this creative spectrum to turn your latest market research into a vibrant graphic using Canva or Adobe Spark. Remember, your Facebook posts are not about you; they are about your audience, what they are interested in, and what they would find valuable.
Whatever the size and scope of your business, high quality and well-researched content should be the beating heart of your Facebook marketing strategy. Everything else falls into place after that.
6). 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 stark reality of this statement is displayed in the fall of organic reach over the previous 6 years. Between February 2012 and March 2014, organic reach fell from 16% to 6.5%.
The decline of organic reach from 2012-2014
With the steady decline in Facebook page reach, with estimates placing this figure as low as 2%, the era of the bustling organic Business Page may well be over. Rather than abandon your Business Page as a monument to the past, consider pivoting your strategy to include a Facebook Group for your business.
In Facebook’s own press release, Adam Mosseri specifically brought up Facebook Groups. “In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events.”
A Facebook Group fits Facebook’s meaningful engagement vision as they are typically formed around shared interests and create natural discussions. Here are some of the top results when searching for ‘Social Media Marketing’ groups on Facebook.
These groups would naturally provide fertile ground for organic discussion on the topic of Social Media Marketing.
Facebook Groups create a community of like-minded followers.
In the same way that SEO connects search queries with interest, with the opt-in nature of a Facebook Group you have already solved the problem of finding people with a tangible interest in your business.
When managed correctly, a Business Group can create a micro-community of highly engaged users who are both advocates for, and potential customers of, your business.
Use your own Facebook Group to:
Fuel Personal Engagement
In 2018, likes and comments have the same desirable traits as water in the Mad Max universe. The majority of people won’t want to engage in a discussion on your Business Facebook Page. That is assuming they are even aware of your posts.
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.
It may come as a surprise, but the difference between a company logo and your (no doubt) handsome face is stark. People want to engage with you, the person, not you, the business. A Facebook Group provides the perfect setting for them to do so.
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.
Remaining value-focused will help you to attract leads.
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.
Such information will typically come unfiltered and raw, with the niche nature of your Facebook Group ensuring your feedback is targeted and without distraction.
Broadcast Upcoming Offers
Creating a Facebook Group is a long-term strategy. While the ability to get opinions, ask questions, and develop a community of like-minded individuals is all beneficial; doing so are a means to an end.
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.
Particularly valuable for brands looking to establish a foothold in the wake of Facebook’s algorithm change, Facebook Groups offer the chance to problem solve, educate, workshop, acquire market research, and generate leads at the same time.
7). 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:
Your reach (split between organic and paid)
Your engagement (split between post clicks and reactions, comments, and shares)
By tracking your content over time to find the top performing posts you can establish a base level of engagement. If you see a trend across content type and time that is seeing higher engagement, you can use this knowledge to pursue more interactions.
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.
While there is a range of studies available recommending the ‘best times’ to post on Facebook, these should not be considered gospel.
Facebook posting best practice guidelines.
Instead, use these as starting points for your own testing. Your Facebook Insights data will become your new best friend, so use the results to determine a posting schedule that works best for you.
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.
Marketers and businesses who understood the inherent value of connecting with an audience beyond a superficial level will now be a step ahead of the competition. Those who previously relied on surface level engagement would do well to remember the expression, ‘fans are vanity, sales are sanity’.
In the wake of Facebook’s latest algorithm changes, the ability to draw authentic engagement from the former will inevitably lead to the latter.