Although it’s only been 16 years since Facebook’s beginnings, many business owners are still playing “catch-up” with Facebook’s ever-evolving algorithm.
Unfortunately, if you’re waiting for Facebook to find “the algorithm” and stick with it, you’ll be disappointed. Facebook is committed “constant iteration”. That means the most recent updates are hardly the last.
So, what does this mean to you as a business owner? Adaptation is the key creating and maintaining successful Facebook strategies.
As a reminder, the Facebook algorithm is the complex mathematical process that determines what Facebook posts are seen by who, and where they are placed on a user’s timeline.
The Facebook algorithm determines whether or not your audience sees your content (organic or ads). Adapting to the newest algorithm gives you the greatest chance of successfully getting your content seen.
Indeed, it’s survival of the fittest out there as Facebook use continues to grow. Zephoria’s most recent statistical report reveals that:
- There are 2.45 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide.
- Every 60 seconds on Facebook, 136,000 photos are uploaded.
- 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook daily.
- 42% of marketers report that Facebook is critical or important to their business.
Ready to up your Facebook strategy to stay ahead of the competition? Keep reading to learn about Facebook’s newest algorithm and get 10 tips on how to adapt your Facebook strategy to maximize your reach.
What Facebook is No Longer Prioritizing, and Why
Facebook is shifting away from its first algorithm, designed to increase the time users spent on the platform. This was focused on increasing ad viewership (aka profits).
Over time, Facebook has updated its algorithm to give users increasingly more control over what they see and how.
Their most recent announcement in 2018 states that the algorithm prioritizes posts that generate “conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” This was intended to increase quality of user experience.
In other words, the Facebook algorithm tries to rank what it thinks users will like the most, showing the most likely to create a positive reaction first. This is very different from previous versions that prioritized any engagement, whether positive or negative.
In the meantime, what is the takeaway for business owners in 2020? If you want to succeed on Facebook, you need to put an emphasis on meaningful interactions and engagements.
An Overview of the Algorithm in 2020:
In the new decade, the Facebook algorithm weighs four factors. These are:
- Inventory: all content that’s currently available to display to a user on their News Feed
- Signals: information that Facebook collects about a piece of content; this includes the content type, publisher, how old the content is, purpose, and more. (Keep reading for more information!)
- Predictions: examinations of user behavior used to estimate the likelihood that a user will have a positive response to a piece of content (commenting, sharing with a friend, etc.)
- Score: final number a piece of content earns, considering the odds a user will respond positively.
10 Practical Tips to Adapt to the Newest Facebook Algorithm:
1. Send the Right Signals
The only element of the algorithm Page owners have any direct control over is the signals Facebook receives from your content. These include both passive signals (view time, time posted, etc.) and active signals (likes, shares, comments, etc.).
To succeed on Facebook today, businesses need to strategically create and schedule content to send favorable signals to the Facebook algorithm.
This means creating content to spark genuine engagement. Posts with any kind of strong emotional appeal (inspiring, interesting, funny, etc.) are more likely to create genuine engagement.
But remember, Facebook no longer rewards content that is controversial or divisive for the sake of earning engagement. So make sure that your content sparks meaningful engagement that’s relevant to your content and your business.
And don’t leave your followers hanging, either. If someone posts a comment on your content, reply to them when it’s appropriate. A string of replies between you and a user sends signals to the algorithm that users find your content very valuable.
You can further strengthen your posts’ favorable signals by posting when your audience is online. The more recent the post, the better. Make sure you’re taking advantage of the free Facebook Page Insights tool to determine the best posting times for your audience.
Don’t forget to post frequently and consistently. Facebook has reported a relationship between Page posting frequency and relevancy to its audience. So, create or refine your social media calendar. Post frequently to Facebook to show the algorithm that your Page creates value for your audience.
Finally, you can make the most of your Facebook ad spend by putting money behind organic content that is already sending strong signals (high engagement rates, longer viewing times, etc.). Your cost per clicks will be lower on posts that have already proven their relevancy and value to your audience.
2. Focus on Native Content
Consider where your content lives. Facebook has a long history of favoring native content—aka content that lives on the platform, as opposed to external links to sites like YouTube.
Native content refers to media that “lives” within a platform. Native content doesn’t take the user to another website or even off of their current page. Users can interact with native content directly in their current platform. Presumably, native content offers a better, more seamless user experience.
When it comes to Facebook, this is especially important when it comes to videos. The most recent algorithm boosts native video content. Take advantage of this by posting videos directly to your Facebook Page, instead of linking from other platforms.
You can also repurpose blog content to be native on the Facebook platform. Facebook’s tool Instant Articles (IA) lets your blog content live on Facebook. It might require a bit of extra set-up, but your content will benefit from a boost in the algorithm.
3. Increase and/or Improve Your Video Content
It’s hardly news that videos are increasingly important to social media marketing. If you haven’t already, start creating video content.
But first, familiarize yourself with Facebook’s updated video rankings. Facebook now favors videos that meet the following criteria:
- Loyalty: Videos that earn repeat viewership. How frequently do the same users watch a video?
- Video and viewing duration: Videos should hold at least one minute of viewers’ attention. Videos that can keep viewers engaged for three minutes or more will receive even more favor in the algorithm.
- Originality: Facebook videos should be original. Videos that are unoriginal/repurposed with little to no added value will be demoted in the algorithm.
What does that mean for video creators?
Make sure your video offers enough real value that viewers want to keep watching, and are willing to return to re-watch it. At the very least, create videos no shorter than three minutes in length; if users watch to the three-minute mark, your content will be boosted in the algorithm. Stay away from unoriginal or repurposed videos to avoid demotion.
You can take this strategy a step further by adding live video to your Facebook strategy. Facebook itself reported that live video earns an average of six times more user interactions as regular video. Those interactions will all be counted as “meaningful engagement” in the newest algorithm. This is a triple-win when it comes to Facebook content; live video is likely to get high engagement rates, and the algorithm will further boost content that is (a) native and (b) video.
4. Say Goodbye to “Engagement Bait” and Spam
In an attempt to punish “engagement bait” and “fake news” content, Facebook’s newest algorithm continues to focus on meaningful interactions. The platform is discouraging Pages from asking users to like or share a post for reasons unrelated to the value of its content.
This also means that posts will be down-ranked that include the spammy phrases such as “LIKE this if you hate Mondays!” or “Tag a friend who owes you a coffee.” In fact, Facebook has defined five categories of engagement baiting, listed below.
- Vote baiting: This includes posts that create a sort of “informal poll” using reactions unrelated to the emotional intention of the content. For example, asking users to react “hearts for soccer and sad face for basketball”. Obviously, the heart and sad face are completely unrelated to the two sports.
However, if you want to make a poll, Facebook says you must use reactions appropriately. The reactions should be used according to their purpose: to reflect a certain emotion. Speaking of reactions, Facebook is also cracking down on…
- React baiting: Similar to vote baiting, react baiting also includes content that tells people to use reactions in ways unrelated to their intentions. Instead of users reacting to express an opinion, they might (inappropriately) use reactions to describe themselves.
- Share baiting: This includes asking for shares as a part of competitions or giveaways.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage your followers to share your content. But if you do, it should be because you believe that your followers will find your content interesting, helpful, and relevant. Not because you’re offering free products in exchange for shares.
- Tag baiting: This refers to Pages asking users to tag friends in content that isn’t pictures of them. This includes images and comments. Facebook sees tag baiting as content creators manipulating the system. According to Facebook, the tagging feature should only be used to identify people in images.
However, Facebook hasn’t said that people tagging each other will negatively affect your content. The key takeaway is to refrain from telling your followers to tag each other in order to gain “un-meaningful” engagement.
- Comment baiting: Comment baiting refers to when Pages ask people to leave a specific comment on a post. This doesn’t include posts that encourage users to post their thoughts or opinions. Comment baiting refers to posts that are attempting to manipulate the system by collecting as many comments as possible, regardless of their quality.
Overall, these forms of engagement baiting all touch on the same theme. Facebook will punish content that tries to encourage users to use engagement features in ways unrelated to the feature’s purpose. In short, Pages can no longer “trick” the algorithm by earning ingenuine or shallow engagement.
While these tactics might have helped content succeed in the past, they’ll get it demoted today. If you’re still using any of these engagement bait tactics, it’s time to remove them from your Facebook strategy.
5. Create a Group for Your Facebook Brand
At Facebook’s annual F8 Conference in 2019, the company announced its plan to prioritize groups. According to their data, when users find the right group, it “often becomes the most meaningful part” of how they interact with the platform.
Facebook even introduced a range of new tools allowing users to more easily discover and engage with relevant groups. It’s safe to say, Facebook plans for groups to be a key element of future re-designs and algorithm updates. Make a group for your page or business to take advantage of this.
You can increase your Facebook reach by creating a group for your brand or business. Facebook followers or fans who decide to take the additional action to join your group are even more likely to engage with your content.
There are many creative ways to leverage the power of groups to serve your business. Read below for more ideas on how to take advantage of groups for your business.
- Provide special offers: reward customers with special discounts, exclusive educational resources, or other value adds
- Follow up with customer questions: enrich customer relationships
- Discuss current events: keep members up-to-date with industry events
- Build your community: facilitate discussions and communicate with your group members
- Promote events: post pictures, event Pages, and help members network
- Ask questions: get insights on what content or product they’d like to see from your Page next
As you can see, the ways to leverage groups are nearly endless, and what works best for you will be specific to your business. Think about what additional benefits you could provide your followers, and start sharing that with a group.
6. Laser-Focus Your Audience Targeting
Another recent change to the Facebook algorithm came with the recent announcement of news feed surveys.
Facebook implemented surveys to collect feedback on how relevant users found the content in their news feeds. For users, this means even greater personalization.
For businesses and brands, this means in order to appear on the News Feed, you have to make sure your page is relevant and useful to your followers. Some of the factors that the algorithm counts towards a Page’s relevancy include:
- How long the user has followed the Page/group
- How often the user engages with Page content
- How actively content is posted
For business owners and marketers, this means you need to ensure that your audience targeting is specific enough to reach people likely to find your content relevant and valuable.
Of course, hopefully you’re already doing this, especially when it comes to paid content (ads). But these new changes mean that content deemed irrelevant by the algorithm will not be shown to your followers. Give your content a fighting chance by tightening your audience targeting.
7. Make It a Team Effort
Do you have employees? Have you invited them to engage with your Page on Facebook? If you haven’t taken advantage of your team’s networks yet, start today.
Ask your coworkers, employees, partners, and anyone else on your team to share and engage with your content. Think of this as word-of-mouth marketing for the social media age.
Since personal pages now have more organic reach than official Pages, a few shares from your employees could hugely increase your reach.
8. Show Your Followers How to Prioritize Your Content
Facebook’s increased dedication to user personalization presents new opportunities as well as new challenges for business Pages. You don’t always have to work within the algorithm; you can sidestep it with the “See First” feature.
Once people like or follow your Page, let them know that they can choose the “See First” option. This tells the algorithm that they find your posts relevant and important.
9. Get Verified
It’s always a good idea to get your Facebook Page verified.
Verification simply means that Facebook has confirmed your Page is connected to a real business. Once you’re verified, you’ll receive a small checkmark icon next to your page name on the news feed and in search results.
This provides you with many benefits. A verified page builds your credibility on the platform, meaning users are more likely to trust your Page. For that reason, the platform will show your Page higher in search results.
So, verification might not help you land on user’s newsfeeds, but it will make it easier for interested users to find you.
10. Avoid These Mistakes That Will Get You Demoted
It almost goes without saying, but don’t post content in the categories that Facebook will punish your page for. These include:
- Borderline content (offensive but not prohibited)
- Misinformation and fake news
- Spammy links
Other post types that the Facebook algorithm will demote include:
- Text-only updates from Pages
- Posts that ask for likes, comments, or shares
- Overly promotional content (such as posts that use the same text as ads)
The continuous algorithm updates don’t have to overwhelm you. Once you’re equipped with an understanding of how to adapt to the most recent changes, consider the updates an opportunity to stay ahead of the competition.
The newest Facebook algorithm updates try to provide more value to users by returning to the platform’s original mission: to connect people. Similarly, good marketing starts from a place of offering value. So be genuine, and find ways to create authentic connections with your audience by following the tips mentioned above.