How to beat the Facebook Algorithm using Digital PR
Friday, July 15th, 2016
As Facebook changes the rules once again, we analyse just what businesses can expect and how to keep Facebook a communications success
YOU may have missed it, but Facebook has announced a major change to its algorithm.
What’s an algorithm? For the uninitiated, in this case it is a secret and complex set of computer codes that dictate exactly what you see (or don’t see) on your newsfeed.
This impressive example of machine learning analyses your every Like, share and upload, then chooses the content you would be expected to most value or enjoy from the various pages you’ve subscribed to, the friends you are connected with and the adverts you have clicked.
Crucially, it also helps determine what advertisements or promotions businesses may want to serve to you, as a member of a targeted audience.
Is this a new thing from Facebook?
No. Facebook is always fiddling with its algorithm. When you first signed up to the social media giant, it was a rabbit hole of fun, where you could easily lose yourself in a torrent of comedy, photos and updates from friends. You might even have seen updates and content from businesses, companies or brands which you had Liked or followed.
However, as Facebook grew, so did the number of people using it. To avoid users feeling like they were being bombarded, Facebook started to tailor how it served up all the content we’d signed up to see.
These early changes went under the radar, in fact you probably don’t even know when these changes took place and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it affected our friendship networks and brand awareness. Facebook had become the gatekeeper to our relationships – it was dictating who would see what we were saying and only showing us content from people they thought we’d want to see it from.
So, how has this changed?
Since those early tweak to our news feeds, Facebook has steadily been adjusting it on an ongoing basis. They changed it so our close friends would always show up first. They changed it again so that posts with photos would be more likely to reach our friends than wordy status updates. It then changed again so that videos we uploaded were more likely to reach our nearest and dearest.
What you see on yours news feed isn’t a reflection of what is available to see. In fact, you probably only see around 10% of what your friends are saying. It’s the equivalent of being in a loud pub, with only one in ten sentences being heard by others.
Since experts estimate that users check their Facebook news feeds for over twenty minutes a day, it’s difficult to argue with just how much Facebook has penetrated the psyche of people around the world.
Yet it decides who we interact with – and most people probably don’t even know it.
How does the Facebook algorithm affect business?
Bad news. This is absolutely decimating your online audience and destroying your digital efforts – unless you know how it all works.
How does it all work then?
Get ready to be dizzy. As I’ve already mentioned, the Facebook alogorithm is an enormous and complex piece of computer coding which collects and analyses a huge number of signals.
These are just some of them:
- number of previous engagements,
- type of content,
- time of day,
- ranking within list of friends engaged with,
- how busy Facebook is at the time the status is posted,
- whether there are adverts being served and
- how often a newsfeed is refreshed.
For businesses like yours, the fact is that Facebook effectively has a very powerful dial, which it can use to turn up or turn down the reach of your content – effectively deciding how many people see it.
The bad news is that they have quite brazenly been turning the dial further and further down – because they want you to pay to play. In short, if you really want people to see your business messages now, you are going to have to advertise.
Facebook has publicly said that they want people to engage with their friends, so are limiting the reach that Facebook pages for businesses have. In reality, Facebook is a corporation. They want to make money. They make money by selling advertising.
Advertising on Facebook takes many forms, but one major feature is the so called, “sponsored post”. These ads are a way for businesses to reach their whole audience – as well as a whole lot of potential new customers.
Gone are the days where everything you posted was seen and engaged with, now as little as 2.5% of your audience may see what you post as a business. That’s right. Two people could see a post per 100 page likes you’ve got. Don’t even think about reaching a new audience. Not unless you pay.
Facebook has your brand over a barrel.
It’s true. They signed you up and it was all sweet. Everything was great. You were creating a community, people were engaging with your business and your content – then it started to dwindle. Quite simply, Facebook changed the rules.
Is it possible to beat the Facebook algorithm?
There are still a few small ways in which you can give your business a better than average chance to get your content seen, without forking out for Facebook ads. That’s because the Facebook algorithm has a weak spot – it gives priority to their own new features. It also gives priority to content they want to see do well.
- Use video. Facebook loves video – in fact if you use their live video feature you can expect to be pushed to the front of the queue for all your followers – in fact many of them will even receive notifications to alert them you’re live.
- Use photography. Quality photography receives high engagement on Facebook, in fact – mixed with video in a Facebook ‘canvas’ post you can guarantee success in reaching your audience.
- Pick a good time of day. Using Facebook data you can work out the optimum times for posting to your audience. Make use of this.
- Use quality links. You may think the cat gifs you’re sharing are funny – but unless Facebook thinks so, you could see your page penalised in terms of reach. If sharing content, try to do from your own website or source content from a quality website – not one which is full of clickbait posts.
- Consider paying. It sounds harsh – but we’ve had previous experience in beating the Facebook algorithm for client success. It doesn’t have to cost the world either.
If you’ve read this and think, “Brilliant – this is all we need” then you’re lovely. But wrong.
Facebook changes the rules, constantly. The only way to stay ahead is look ahead and that can sometimes be difficult when you’re concentrating on running a successful business. However, we can help.
Want to stay ahead of the game? Then you need to speak to our award-winning PR agency
We’d love the chance to help your business find out the many ways that our PR services can also boost your social media presence – while also delivering value across newspapers, magazines, TV, websites and a host of other media.
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