If you’ve not yet heard the news, strap yourself in. After news feed updates that have been continually throttling the organic reach of brands and publishers to levels as low as 2%, Facebook recently threatened to slam the final nail in the coffin by announcing an upcoming change to the news feed ranking algorithm that will ensure that “the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed”.
“Not a bad way to improve the user’s experience of Facebook,” you might be saying to yourself, but here comes the rub, straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.” – Lars Backstrom, Facebook Engineering Director
What this effectively means is that if your Facebook page’s content isn’t currently getting engagement in the forms of likes, comments and, crucially, shares, then it’s unlikely to be seen at all, and even if it is, it’ll be a long way from the top of the news feed.
What that effectively means is that it’s time for all Facebook page owners to substantially up their games.
“But how are people supposed to engage with my posts if no-one can see them?!”, you’re probably crying into the void (or Twitter). It’s quite the reverse chicken-and-egg, isn’t it?
Well, this is where I can help. Below I’ve provided some tips on creating the most shareable, likeable and engaging content possible, and outlined some ways you can get eyes on your amazing new Facebook content without using Facebook.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Let’s get one thing right out of the way; let’s put this in outer space (or MySpace), where no-one can find it:
Sharing “wacky” viral memes that already have tons of views and comments is not going to work.
Even if the hilarious meme is about towels, and your Facebook page is about your towel company, both your followers and Facebook will see through this thinly-veiled attempt to engage your audience with shallow content others have already liked.
Here’s the second thing you definitely shouldn’t do:
Why? Well, there’s a huge upside to all this, and that’s that with all the chaff filtered out, the wheat has a much better chance of shining in the Facebook news feed.
Your amazing, made-for-Facebook video about your hilarious company retreat? Now that it’s not competing with hundreds of obviously self-promotional ‘Have you checked out our latest product yet?’ posts for attention and rankings on Facebook, it has a much better chance of reaching that tipping point at which the impressions start to pour in and the likes, comments and shares lead to even more likes, comments and shares.
WHAT TO DO RIGHT NOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW FACEBOOK RANKING CHANGE
1.Some classic Facebook stalking.
No, not like that! What I mean is it’s time to really research your competitors and see what’s working for them. List 5-10 competitors with Facebook presences and look at what they’ve posted in the last month. If nothing’s getting any more than a couple of likes, comments or shares, remove them from the list (why take inspiration from what’s clearly not working, right?).
Now go through the last month’s timelines of each of the remaining competitors and screengrab anything that has a higher engagement level than is usual for that Facebook page. This is important, as 100 likes on a post shared by a page with 50,000 fans does not mean it’s a successful post; you need to look for posts that stand out hugely. These posts are very important as not only do they show that the content was right for the audience, but, critically, that Facebook believed the content was right for the audience and gave it more of a chance to be seen.
Gather your screengrabs of successful competitor Facebook posts and try to spot the similarities. Are certain formats, such as video and photo, more successful than others? Do questions asked in posts get answers? Is self-promotional content working best? If so, how are they framing it? Is the sharing of topical articles reaching people and engaging them? Asking these questions should give you a good picture of the sorts of posts you’ll be wanting to create. After all, if you can’t do something new, do something better.
2.Keep your average Facebook fans in mind
If you’ve not practised social listening or persona development for your brand, now’s the time to get stuck in and to really understand what your audience wants from your Facebook page. Not only will these practices help you to create better, more suitable and shareable Facebook posts, but these findings are likely to inform, if not completely shape, all future marketing practices. For example, I once performed social listening for a client and learned that one of their three USPs didn’t result in even as much as a ‘meh’ from their huge online following. This is information which could help refocus offline and online marketing efforts on the remaining two USPs or inspire a reconsideration of how that USP is phrased or highlighted, let alone help inform the content of their Facebook posts.
Likewise, market research and persona development enables you and your social media team to keep a very clear picture of the actual individuals you’re targeting in mind when planning a Facebook (or any social media) calendar. I’m not talking about a bullet point list of wage, location, age and job role – I mean asking yourself (or better yet, members of your actual audience) what does Jenny, 43, Operations Manager from Dartford, actually like doing? What are her favourite shows? Does she like sport? Why does/should she follow you on Facebook? This kind of persona development can come from a short workshop or weeks of market research, but it’s really important that, whatever you do, you don’t wade into Facebook post creation without knowing who your content is for.
3.Ditch the old hat
You know what’s not going to get shared on Facebook by your followers? An old services page from your website. An industry article over a month old. Something you did last week but only just got round to talking about. Facebook users live in the moment, and you need to remember that each and every Facebook user, whether they know it or not, wants to post and share current, up-to-date articles, news and images because they want to either start or be involved in a current, topical conversation. Sure, that ‘David After Dentist’ YouTube clip is still funny, but is it still being shared? Remember that everyone on Facebook subconsciously wants to be a trend-setting, popular thought leader, so give them content that no-one else has ever seen and that they’ll be rewarded in likes and comments by sharing.
To those of you shouting “But what about evergreen content?!”, I say this: you don’t go and look at the same tree every day; you wait until the time’s right, the weather’s nice and then you bask in its shade for a picnic. It’s there all year-round but you don’t need to use it all year. What my metaphor is trying to say is that evergreen content is still great to have on your site/blog and to share on Facebook, but to make it work you have to time the sharing of it well. That ’10 Reasons Content Marketing is Like Tennis’ blog post you wrote (I literally did)? Don’t share it every month just because you like it; instead, wait until there’s a big tennis game on or some tennis news in the headlines. Remember that the best successes on social media come from joining an existing conversation, especially if you don’t yet have the influence to lead a new one.
4. React like a ninja
Following on quite nicely from ‘stop sharing old tat’, is ‘share current, relevant stuff, dummy!’. What you’re reading right now is an example of this. The Facebook change was announced on Wednesday 29th June and this is going out on 8th July (sorry, it would have been sooner but clients, amirite?). This is a blog post reacting to important industry news that our audience will want to read.
But it’s not enough to share the news; to become part of the conversation and ensure that your audience will want to share your post themselves, be sure to add something new, controversial, informative or entertaining to the conversation. In this post I’m not just saying: “Hey, have you heard the news about the Facebook algorithm change? If not, here it is…” I’m saying “Hey, have you heard the news about the Facebook algorithm change? If not, here it is… and here’s how you can beat it.”
To ensure you can create reactive Facebook posts, though, you’ll need a few things: a social media team that is “always on” (these are people that don’t wait until the next working day to react); a clear set of social media and tone of voice guidelines, so that said social media team don’t have to umm and errr about whether their high-speed, zeitgeisty-as-heck Facebook post is on-brand or not; easily-accessible brand logos and design guidelines, so that your super-reactive social media superstars don’t have to wait until the designer’s back from her holiday to create their witty Facebook image; and, finally, the courage to do the things your competitors aren’t.
5. Experiment with new post formats.
Facebook is not one to shy away from showing off its new toys, so it’s no surprise that it prioritises the latest and most innovative Facebook post formats in users’ news feeds. Look at the uptake of Facebook Live streaming and 360-degree video (and, as was recently announced, 360-degree photographs) and think about how you could tailor it to what you do. My sincerest advice here, and this goes against my usual, slightly pedantic “always be prepared and make the best first impression possible” approach, is to just get stuck in and try it. Going to an event? Livestream it! Team day out? Take a 360 photo! When it comes to getting traction online from new social media formats, it’s actually often best to be the first than the most polished (but if you can be both, then kudos to you).
Still unsure? Consider this: if you wanted to create a video for Facebook (still a very wise idea, as this format is frequently spotted at the tops of news feeds), how long would it take? How much would it cost? These kinds of questions can significantly delay video production. However, if you use Facebook Live streaming, not only are you creating video content on the fly and incredibly cheaply, you’re also enabling your audience to engage with you live and, coming back to something Facebook has highlighted as crucial in its recent announcements, it shows you’re being authentic. You can’t get much more authentic than “Here I am at the trade show… is anyone there? How do you work this thing?” It may sound silly, but your audience will most likely overlook the amateurism and appreciate the honesty.
6. Bring people to Facebook from outside of it
If you’re creating incredible content for Facebook but no-one’s seeing it, don’t be afraid of using your other social media channels and email newsletter to directly link to the post on Facebook. Of course, you can share this content on these channels, too, but by firstly attempting to bring people in from other channels you stand a chance to get that all-important engagement and increased following on Facebook, which will in turn increase the chances of your next amazing post being seen.
7. Promote your best posts.
Surprised you didn’t see this at the top of the list? Well, that’s because it’s a doozy, as our American cousins say. By now we all know that the best way to increase reach and engagement levels on Facebook is to pay Facebook to show your posts to more people. I mean, that’s what Facebook wants you to do, right? To be honest, I’m not going to argue. It’s incredibly important to promote your best posts to your targeted audience, especially when you’re struggling to get eyes on your Facebook page in the first place. Facebook’s new “friends and family-first” approach unfortunately means that new brands have a long slog ahead of them if they’re unwilling to pay Zuckerberg and co. to get their word out. The good news is that promoting your posts on Facebook gives you a huge range of audience targeting options, it doesn’t require a huge budget to see good results, and now you can automatically advertise on Instagram from within the Facebook Ads Manager, which is nice.
In summary, and to reiterate: don’t panic. Take this new change as an opportunity to do better at Facebook, at social media as a whole, and to finally reap the rewards in a new era in which spammy clickbait and uninformative, overtly promotional content dissolves at the bottom of the news feeds.
It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: we’re experts at this kind of thing at SiteVisibility. If you want to chat about how we can help you get the most out of Facebook algorithm changes, get in touch today.