This is the most frustrating thing about being on social media – the algorithm. It seems to me that it is constantly changing and always throwing up something new to deter our audiences and our posts! But there are ways to try and beat it.
What is the Facebook Algorithm?
Very basically, the algorithm looks at decides which posts everyone sees every time they check on their newsfeed…and also the order that those posts show up.
Facebook tells us that there are several layers to the algorithm, and the machine learns how to predict which posts will be the most valuable and meaningful to individuals over the long term. Gobbledegook!
What this means in simple language with that Facebook does not present posts to you in chronological order. It looks at the posts available and then puts them out in descending order of interest for each user. We don’t know exactly how it decides what to show us, and more importantly, what NOT to show us, but this process happens every single time we log in. But we do know that its aim is to keep us scrolling so that we see more ads!
For small business brands, this means that if you want more organic reach, you need to post content that people will engage with. What you post will depend on what your business is…and what you want to achieve with your posts.
What are your goals for your posts? Is it to get followers to visit your website or your online shop? It might be that you want people to sign up to your email subscription. And sometimes, it might just mean you want to engage with your audience and get to know them better.
If you want people to visit your website or online shop, content needs to be valuable. Blog posts with helpful information for example, or interactive guides and video content.
To get more people to your shop, you could give them features that make their shopping experience more enjoyable. This could be in the form of vibrant images, buyer testimonials and, if you make something, a video showing you making something from start to finish. You can do the same with images – showing a step-by-step process. For example, if you are an artist, you can show your work progressing over the course of a week, with a series of photos. This is great as it encourages your audience to look for you every day to see how the work is coming along.
If you want your audience to sign up to your email or newsletter, make sure that you make the content of your email appealing and give little tasters on your Facebook post about what they can expect, which will encourage them to join you.
Start a conversation
Get your audience talking to you and to each other on your posts. Social engagement is one of the key areas that will help your posts rank higher, and so be shown to more of your followers.
Encourage conversations by asking questions. The way you interact with your followers in conversations needs to be genuine and encourage two-way interaction for a couple of replies.
You can use several strategies to start conversations. As I said, you can ask questions. You can also be funny or entertaining – talk about something current or share something that you have seen that you find amusing.
You might be someone who likes to share interesting or inspiring facts or topics – or maybe something a little bit controversial. All these posts will spark interest and get noticed by the algorithm.
Keep your audience in mind
When you are crafting your posts, always think about your target audience and write it with them in mind. What do they like to see? What topics do they engage with? What kind of images to they like?
Local content is also good – if you have something going on in your area, and you have followers locally to you, talk about an event that is happening that they might be interested in. If you’re a creative who makes things, it could be sharing a market or stall you are setting up for a weekend event. Don’t just advertise the event – make sure you take photos and post them in real time to encourage people to engage and even pop along and meet you.
This leads nicely into insights. How do you know who is following you? Where are they from? What kind of posts are popular?
To help you beat the algorithm, you need to know how your content performs and who your audience is. Your insights will tell you what works best and what doesn’t work; they show you your top ranking and bottom ranking posts, what time of day is best for your engagement and where your audience are from – the demographics.
It’s well worth tracking your insights on at least a weekly basis, so you can decide how best you can beat the algorithm.
Timing is everything!
From your insights you can see what time is best for you to post – it makes sense to post your content when you target audience is online.
It’s best to post at your peak engagement times – this might not be at the same time every day…and will not be at the same time as other businesses. If you’re really not sure what time is best for you, try posting at various times of day and track your posts’ performance over a week – then you’ll be able to see on your insights when is the peak time for your business.
This is something that I’m sure we’ve all experienced. Facebook deems that certain content is not suitable or goes against their standards. This includes fake news, anything that makes health claims or misleading information, for example, you’re guaranteed to lose weight.
Sometimes it feels like you are being targeted – I know I felt like this when I had a few posts banned and I really wasn’t sure why. I appealed and Facebook did reply to say why – it turned out it was a particular word that I used in my caption description!
Facebook loves video content, so this will be pushed as a priority, so things like ‘lives’ and pre-recorded video will be shown to more of your followers. This kind of content doesn’t have to be perfect or need to use professional equipment; you can simply use your phone.
User generated content
UGC, or user generated content is as it says on the packet. It’s content which is generated by your customers – this could be in the form of a video from a customer showing how they use your product, a photo of a customer with your product, or maybe a podcast where your product is discussed. In fact, anything that your customers or followers produce for you about you or your products.
I often see marketers advocate the need to post every single day…or even several times a day in order to engage your audience. This is not necessarily true for all brands. You will know what works best for you and your business. I always post every morning on Facebook, but I don’t post on Instagram until late afternoon/early evening, as my analysis of my insights tell me that’s the best time. I rarely post on a Sunday, but when I do, it doesn’t make that much difference to the engagement I get, so it can be a bit hit and miss.
However, you do decide to post, ensure that you post consistently. So, if you post seven days a week at 8am, stick with that if your insights tell you that’s the best time of day. Your customers will learn what time you post and will expect to see your posts at that time.
If you decide you only post three times a week, that’s fine too…so long as you post consistently. Consistency is what wins the race!
I’m sure that all of us are members of Facebook groups. I belong to several groups and post regularly on at least two of them every day. Facebook likes groups and they do push the advertising of groups.
At their 2019 F9 Conference, Facebook said that people “might see more content from groups in their newsfeed.”
This means that it is recommended that you join relevant Facebook groups. By relevant, I mean groups that are relevant to your business and your brand. It’s not usually encouraged to be all ‘salesy’ in groups, but normally the admins will have different things happening on each day of the week. So, you could be joining in with engagement and conversations on an ‘Introduce yourself Monday’ post, or a group admin might ask for posts around specific themes, such as the recent ones I’m seeing – show me something that you sell or offer beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. You can get really creative with this and make it fit your business! There will be posts to share your blog, share a link to your shop or website. These posts not only help small businesses, but they also get conversations started, help participants meet other, like-minded people, as well as educate and solve problems.
The only thing I would really advise against is to join in with ‘follow for follow’ posts. In my opinion, these serve no purpose whatsoever. You will pick up new follows and likes, but they won’t necessarily be your target audience and if they’re not, they won’t engage with your posts and so will ultimately affect your algorithm as it will show followers that don’t engage. I avoid these at all costs.
Facebook absolutely hates engagement baiting. Although it’s not advised to explicitly ask for comments, such as ‘comment below,’ you can ask for comments by using open-ended questions. This works well if you use polls.
Facebook also sees ‘follow for follow’ as engagement bait, so if you do get involved with these, your algorithm will suffer.
Keep your posts unique
Producing unique posts every single day of the week is difficult to do. It’s something I hear all the time as a marketer – ‘I’ve run out of content,’ or ‘I don’t have any more ideas for posts.’
There are lots of ways to help you with unique posts.
Repurposing content you’ve posted before or elsewhere is one of them. If you write a weekly blog for example, you can get loads of posts from that content. It could be a list of tips, a video, a podcast, or using images to illustrate a point you’ve made in your blog. You can also look at relevant quotes around the subject you’ve blogged about.
Other places to get inspiration for posts are website such as Pinterest, Ask the public, Quora, Reddit and BuzzSumo to name a few. You just log into these websites and write a question in the search box relating to your niche or business. There will be loads of ideas or questions that pop up. You can use this to write blogs, content for posts etc. You can also see commonly asked questions about your niche, and see what pain points your target audience has – use this to your advantage and answer those questions using your products or services.
Get verified on Facebook
You should aim to have around 500 followers before trying to get officially verified. Being verified just proves to your audience that you a bona fide business. There are so many fake businesses and accounts out there, this is a way to prove you are authentic. Because of this, Facebook do make you jump through a few hoops to get this status.
But when your page is verified, you’ll receive a blue checkmark or tick next to your name.
Verification is free and you’ll need to provide a cover photo, a profile photo, a name that follows Facebook’s guidelines and content posted to the account. Visitors must be allowed to follow you and you must also provide a government issued I.D, such as a driving license or passport. You’ll also be asked to provide a document with a watermark, for pages not representing a person (so representing a business). This would be a company utility bill or tax document for example. Here’s a link to the relevant Facebook article that tells you exactly what to do to get verified.
We all know about hashtags these days and they are used on every post on Instagram. But hashtags can also be good for your marketing success if you use them on Facebook. Using hashtags helps you to connect and reach people you haven’t reached before when they search for related topics.
Always keep your hashtags relevant to your post and relevant to your brand. Don’t overuse them – you don’t need to have them on every single post and only use a few. You can use the same hashtags that you use on Instagram or Twitter, and you can create your own hashtag that is relevant to your business if you want to.
Always reply to your audience
This is obvious, but always reply to messages. Always reply to comments made on your posts and reply to any questions asked. It’s important to let your followers know that they are being heard and that their comments are valuable.
It also shows your followers that you are genuine and that you care about what they have to say.
Paying for advertising
Facebook ads are relatively low cost and can really help you target a particular audience. I have had mixed experience with ads, and don’t tend to need to use them, but I know lots of businesses who find paid ads invaluable to getting more customers and helping them to grow their business.
Facebook is one of the easiest social media platforms to use and has the highest number of members. As a business, it’s crucial to establish your presence on Facebook, understand who your customers and target audience are…and how to reach them. Facebook does help you with this through insights.
Although the algorithm and its constant changes can be very frustrating, Facebook is still one of the best ways to connect with your target audience. It’s important to just try and keep on top of all the changes and adapt your posts and habits accordingly.
But the way to beat the algorithm is to be consistent, have meaningful conversations, post a variety of posts including video, and give your audience great value by being interactive and interested in what they have to say when they connect and interact with you.
I really hope this has helped you understand the algorithm a bit more. Which tip is your favourite? And what’s the one thing you’ll take away from this blog post?