How Facebook’s Changing Algorithm Impacts Your Business…

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… And What to Do About It

By Sherri Huleatt

In January 2018, Facebook released its new “meaningful interactions” algorithm to highlight more content from family and friends and less content from brands. While this might be a welcome change for the everyday social-media consumer, it’s anything but welcome for businesses scrambling to break through the social-media clutter.

According to a 2018 study by Buffer and Buzzsumo, which analyzed 43 million Facebook posts, overall Facebook page engagement dropped 50% in 18 months during 2017 to 2018; the average engagement per post also was down by a whopping 65%.

Shawn Kemp offers insights into this trend as CEO of ActionSprout, a Bellingham-based social-media software company (with locations also in Seattle and Portland) that Facebook refers to for nonprofit insights and data. Kemp said that most Facebook users have the possibility of seeing as many as 1,500 News Feed stories a day, but the average user spends only enough time on the site to actually see about 250. Because of this, he said, Facebook constantly updates its algorithm so users are more likely to see the content they want.

So what can your business do to remain relevant in the face of Facebook’s constantly evolving algorithm? Before addressing that, a quick refresher on how the algorithm works:

Facebook ranks your content in the News Feed based on average time spent interacting with a post, when it’s posted, the story type, the completeness of your page’s profile, and how informative the post is. In other words, the more engaging and relevant your post is, the more likely people will see it.

Facebook also now prioritizes “active interactions”—such as commenting and sharing—rather than “passive interactions,” such as liking and clicking a post. Even something as small as someone “loving” your post rather than “liking” it can earn you bonus points.

According to Kemp, posting more engaging stories frequently can make a major impact on reaching your audience. “You need to post at least once a day in order to send enough signals to Facebook, so they know who to show your posts to,” Kemp said.

If you’re struggling with content creation, he suggested sharing existing articles, images, and videos. Content-curation tools, like Feedly, Scoop.It, and Buzzsumo can save you a considerable amount of time, Kemp said.

Facebook Groups also rank high in the News Feed and can be managed by Pages. Kemp recommended that you post at least twice a week to your Group and always reply to members’ comments to gain increased engagement.

Going forward, Facebook will continue to prioritize content from family and friends. “Focus on giving people a reason to share your stories,” Kemp said. “Make it about your supporters so they look good when they share it.”

More than anything, he said, post relevant, quality content that your audience wants to engage with—not just what you want to share. For example, treating Facebook as only a repository for your latest products, sales, and events most likely won’t garner the quality engagement you’re looking for. Instead, ask questions, share behind-the-scenes videos, and post entertaining quotes, photos, and/or GIFs that elicit an emotional response (i.e., mix up your content so it’s not just about you, it’s about your customer).


Five Tips to Improve Your Facebook Strategy:

  1. Ask questions: The modern-day consumer isn’t shy with opinions (surprise, surprise). That’s why asking questions not only engages your customers, questions rack up comments, which is highly favored by Facebook’s algorithm. Ask what people are reading (relevant to your industry), do a product mashup and ask your followers to vote for their favorite, or post a photo and ask people to caption it. The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to have fun.
  2. Make it visual: Kissmetrics, a marketing automation company, says Facebook posts with photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs than text-based posts. Don’t have a graphic designer or photographer? No problem. Use free tools like Canva—which comes with hundreds of free design templates, icons, and stock photos—to create professional-looking graphics, without the price tag.
  3. Share videos: Facebook says that live videos get six times as many interactions as regular videos and lead to more discussions among followers. Use Facebook Live to show behind-the-scenes clips, team interviews, new-product reveals, and more.
  4. Advertise: Shawn Kemp at Action Sprout said, “Five dollars on a highly engaging story goes a long way.” Advertising extends reach to your audience. Get the most bang for your buck by testing ads to discover what’s most effective. He recommended AdEspresso as one of the best tools, which easily tests up to 100 ad variations at a time so you can see which combination of copy, visuals, audience, and platform get the most conversions.
  5. Reply to comments: This is good customer service, and it also signals to Facebook that your content is creating real discourse—winning you bonus points with the new algorithm. What if someone leaves a rude comment? Put your most friendly foot forward and respond with patience and empathy—apologize, offer a solution, and ask if you can take the conversation offline (or in a more private forum, like a direct message).

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