In modern business, social media plays a central role in acquiring new customers and then retaining them.
It’s even better if you do so without having to commit an endless amount of money or resources to paid campaigns.
Unfortunately, Facebook, arguably the largest social media platform of them all, spent the past several years tweaking their News Feed algorithm.
These changes, aimed at prioritizing certain types of content, don’t do any favors to businesses hoping to grow by targeting existing and new audiences.
While smaller companies without the resources to R&D ongoing solutions face the toughest challenge, they are not alone. Larger enterprise firms find themselves in a similar spot — fighting through an algorithmic maze in the hope of organically connecting with their unique audience.
However, there is good news. We’ll cover several strategies both single-entrepreneur firms (and businesses with a much bigger footprint) can employ to ensure “meaningful interactions” with their target customer base.
What is the Facebook algorithm?
The Facebook algorithm, in its most basic definition, is a means to decide the content that a user sees when they login to the platform.
While the algorithm itself is fairly complex, the News Feed works through four basic factors:
- Inventory: Represents all the content on Facebook that is available to show in a user’s News Feed.
- Signals: The indicators that instruct Facebook what content to show. While signals include several criteria, the most heavily weighted are:
- Likes, comments and shares on a user’s status
- Engagement with publisher content posted via friends and messenger shares
- Replies to comments from a video.
- Predictions: This third piece is where Facebook decides what to show a user based on their profile, News Feed preferences, and past behaviors. An interesting side note here is that according to Pew Research, nearly three-fourths (74%) of users didn’t know Facebook maintained this and almost a third (27%) claim that Facebook gets it wrong.
- Score: Every piece of content receives a quality score based on its relevance to the user. The higher the score, the greater the chance it has to appear in the user’s news feed.
By using these factors, Facebook can populate and order (prioritize) every user’s feed in a way that is unique and hyper-relevant to them.
Why did Facebook decide to promote meaningful interactions?
There’s plenty of speculation as to what prompted the shift in Facebook’s approach to their News Feed. Without delving too far down that particular rabbit hole, the update to the algorithm results in a greater focus on what Facebook calls “meaningful interactions.”
The change means that Facebook now cares more about users finding value in the time spent on the platform.
In other words, quality over quantity.
For better and for worse, the update is Facebook’s attempt to narrow its scope and move closer to what it once was — a social network for friends and family members to connect and stay in touch.
For publishers, this forces a complete rethinking in how to engage audiences on the channel. A broad-based approach could still prove viable, but the sheer volume of content requiring management is not a winning strategy.
So what is feasible — and practical — for companies both large and small to successfully tap into Facebook’s massive user base?
Strategies for using the Facebook algorithm to your advantage
Indeed, the new algorithm does make it tougher for your business’ content to break through to your target audience. Since the News Feed changes went into effect, publishers have seen their organic engagement decline dramatically based on a Buffer report from 2018.
To overcome this, and to avoid your brand’s posts being cast aside, your content needs to accumulate likes, generate comments, and increase its shareability.
This trifecta of engagement is achievable. Here are ten things to help increase your organic visibility on the Facebook platform.
1. Create and share great content
The best online marketing strategies begin and end with great content.
Do you want people to visit your website? Populate your pages with content your visitors will find valuable — informative blog posts, interactive guides, and well-produced videos.
Do you want people to shop in your online store? Provide them with features that will make their shopping experience easier and more enjoyable — product videos, vibrant images, and buyer testimonials.
Do you want people to respond to your email marketing? Make your emails impactful with the information they’ll want to read and learn more about.
A similar commitment to the content you post on Facebook is necessary if you hope to find meaningful engagement with your audience.
To develop content that connects, here are five key methods to start with:
Know your audience
Researching your audience will help you determine the content that will resonate and induce a positive emotional response. It also ensures you steer clear of posting material that will draw their ire or cause users to lose interest in your company.
Post often, but make it count
There’s a common myth that claims you should limit your Facebook posting to a couple of times per day — or just a few times per week. That’s false. You should limit your posting to however frequently works for your brand.
Research does show that infrequent posting does garner more clicks. But it’s also dependent on the number of followers you have and what you’re posting. Find the right posting cadence for your company so that you don’t underserve a willing customer base or overwhelm an audience that is more selective with their interactions.
Timing is everything
Another aspect to successful posting is determining the best time to put your content on Facebook. You can use your Facebook Insights (more on that later) to figure when your target demographics are most active. Posting too early or too late does little for your engagement if the audience you’re trying to reach is a middle of the day-type crowd.
Avoid engagement bait
There’s a good chance you’ve encountered plenty of Facebook posts that read more like spam than relevant content. This involves any post that runs counter to Facebook’s goal of increasing authenticity in how people interact.
Five examples are specifically cited as engagement bait — and what you should avoid posting — including vote, react, share, tag, and comment baiting.
Hashtags can be tricky if your marketing team is uncertain of how to best take advantage of them. But they are an underused resource on Facebook, can help your searchability, and put your brand in the mix of relevant interactions.
A few tips to consider when wading into the still-evolving world of hashtags include:
- Don’t overuse hashtags — they don’t need to be in every post you make. When you do use hashtags, don’t saturate a post with them.
- Don’t misuse hashtags (or use ones that are immaterial to your goals) to raise your News Feed standing.
- Do take advantage of hashtags when they are relevant to your industry.
- Do carry over relevant hashtags from your Twitter or Instagram accounts to create a consistent presence across platforms.
- Do generate your own hashtags if they make sense for your business and your audience.
Regardless of what your company does, or what industry you operate in, your audience is always looking to consume information that’s authentic, valuable, and relevant to their needs or wants.
2. Generate user interactions
Facebook press release from January 2018 announcing algorithm changes.
From a press release about the updated changes to the algorithm, Facebook noted, “page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed.”"The translation for that statement is simple — generate interaction between users with the content you post, and your organic reach will improve."
This comes down to your ability to create engagement that motivates or inspires a group or community to connect and interact with each other.
Who your audience is carries some weight as to how this plays out, but the key points that will help you adhere to what Facebook is seeking include:
- Creating posts that start a conversation, whether it’s a broad trending topic or one that is unique to your audience base.
- Sharing content that sparks emotions or carries meaning for your audience.
- Seeking out feedback on ideas, products, or services (remember, ask for genuine feedback — not likes, comments, or tags).
- Creating Facebook groups that align with your company’s focus that users can join to engage others with similar views.
- Making sure your posts contain elements that draw attention and are worth responding to — live video; vivid, high-quality images; authentic, original content.
The big takeaway is ensuring everything you do pushes your audience toward natural engagement.
3. Reply, reply, reply
Making sure your audience hears from you after you hear from them benefits your company in two ways.
First, when a user replies to something you post, it’s the first step in creating the type of worthwhile engagement we mentioned above. When you reply, if the user posts a follow-up question or response, it tells Facebook that your content is essential to that user. Thus, more of your company’s content will appear in their News Feed.
Second, replying to comments helps build your brand’s image as one that is responsive to the needs and inquiries of its customers. Not only does this help increase awareness on Facebook, but it will carry over into other aspects of your customer engagement, especially online.
4. Hop on the (live) video bandwagon
If it doesn’t already, video should play a significant role in your company’s online marketing strategy. On Facebook (which, according to Amazon’s Alexa, ranks as the world’s third most popular website behind Google and YouTube), videos have become a primary engagement tool, and the numbers indicate this will only grow.
However, when it comes to video, live video is what truly thrives on Facebook, with Facebook Live garners exceedingly higher levels of engagement than regular videos. Content doesn’t get more engaging than putting the user in the middle of the action.
5. Consider Facebook ads
Example of a Facebook ad from the D2C luggage brand, Away.
A hard truth about Facebook Ads is that their costs are rising. According to research from AdStage, this is due largely to the algorithm impacting users’ time spent on the platform. With users spending less time on Facebook, there are fewer ad impressions, and in tune higher ad costs.
Of course, other factors play a role, such as seasonality, your specific industry, and location. So why even consider the expense of Facebook ads when you’re trying to build an organic presence on the same platform?
Beyond that, Facebook ads are flexible and scalable, two things which are harder to come by in a solely organic approach.
Remember, your organic growth strategy is all about strengthening connections. Pairing your efforts with Facebook ads will help provide you a formidable one-two punch when promoting something new, attempting to grow your audience, or trying to reach a hyper-specific clientele.
6. Go local
Facebook is pushing toward a localized vibe as it aims for its goal of more meaningful interactions. Local news is now given top status over national and global happenings. If you run a business with a smaller footprint, this should prove a smooth transition as many of your posts may already cater to your local roots.
More prominent firms can also take advantage of this trend by producing content that periodically focuses on a city or region — particularly one where your company has a strong presence.
7. Get your team involved
The chances are high that nearly every member of your organization has an active presence on Facebook. Take advantage of this built-in fan base by having coworkers share your content with their already established networks. This manner of internal “cheerleading” will help broaden your audience by a “considerable margin” according to research from Post Beyond.
8. Ask your fans to follow you
One way to beat the Facebook algorithm is to avoid it.
You can achieve this through the simple task of asking your audience to follow your brand. To avoid it coming across as engagement bait, add a mention at the end of high profile content pieces — blog articles or videos — and ensure you know how to instruct your readers to turn on notifications for your posts should the question come up.
9. Get the Facebook seal of approval
A blue verification badge on the Bonobos Facebook page.
You’re sure to have seen pages with a blue or gray badge — the official Facebook seal of approval. Better known as Facebook verification, this distinction shows users that your page is an official presence on the platform.
Not only does this increase your page’s authenticity by proving you are who you say you are, it also helps your page rank higher in search versus others with similar naming conventions.
10. Look at your Facebook Insights
Source: Search Engine Journal
Overcoming the restrictive Facebook algorithm and building your organic reach on the platform is not a “post and go” endeavor. It does require research and an ever-expanding understanding of what works and what doesn’t. So take advantage of Facebook Insights.
Insights help you keep tabs on how well your page and posts perform, including data points that cover audience demographics, how that audience engages with your content, and the best times to reach those with whom you hope to engage.
Final thoughts: it’s still about great content and meaningful engagement
There’s no escaping that Facebook plays a massive presence in our personal lives. But it also provides a considerable influence on our professional lives as well. For a marketer to be successful in building their organic reach on Facebook’s platform, you have to play by their rules.
The good news is that those rules are easy to follow.
Post quality content that is valuable and relevant to the needs and wants of your target audience. Don’t spam or bait — and don’t be afraid to get creative when trying to connect with users (employing live video and hashtags, for example).
After all, it’s called organic for a reason. Act natural, treat your audience — both current and future customers — as if they are a close friend or family member, and the Facebook algorithm will reward you.
This post was written by Chad Rubin, CEO of Skubana. Skubana is the leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that enables multi-channel brands and retailers to unify their back-office operations. Skubana serves as your operational nervous system, providing a centralized platform to handle inventory and order management, fulfillment and purchasing. Skubana empowers e-commerce brands to improve their operational efficiency and make smarter business decisions.