The Facebook algorithm is seen as something almost mythical by many marketers. Get your posts wrong, and hardly anyone will see them. Get them right, and there’s the potential for huge engagement and interaction with your target audience.
What makes it more difficult to decipher the Facebook algorithm is that it continually changes. In fact, there have just been some changes made recently, with more set to be deployed throughout the coming year.
Bad news for brands? Not necessarily says Alexander Porter of searchitlocal:
“Facebook's algorithm changes are often shouted down by companies who proclaim it's the 'death of businesses on social media'. But that's not true. It's only the death of BAD businesses on social media. Facebook's algorithm is simple. Create content that people want to see, share and speak about. Do that, and the algorithm will love you.”
It’s natural to worry about how recent changes in the Facebook algorithm will impact your brand strategy - because they will. But they don’t have to impact it in a bad way if you understand the changes and how to work with them. This article will tell you all you need to know about adapting your brand strategy for the 2020 Facebook algorithm.
The Facebook Algorithm: 2020 Changes - So Far
Users Can Now Take Control of Facebook’s Ranking Signals
Since the beginning, there have been ranking signals that show how likely a particular user is to engage with a post. Thankfully, you don’t need to know every ranking signal to know the algorithm. But it is useful to understand that they are split into three groups:
Who a user interacts with the most. Facebook keeps track of whose posts a user is liking and sharing the most. Those lucky relatives and friends will take up more space in the user’s timeline. However, this also applies to the brands they interact with. If a user likes two different coffee brands but only ever likes posts from one of them, then it’s likely the algorithm will mainly show them posts from this preferred brand.
The media in the post. Whatever you do, don’t just write some text and post it as a Facebook post. That’s boring and won’t get any shares. You need to use images, videos, and other interactive media. Facebook tracks the type of content that each user seems to prefer—it knows whether someone is more likely to interact with videos or images, for example. It will then make sure that that particular user sees more of their favorite media in their timeline.
The post’s popularity. If a post is already doing well and getting plenty of interactions, then it’s a good indication to the Facebook algorithm that people like what they see. The post will then start to gain more interaction, as the algorithm will place it forward in more timelines.
But how do these ranking signals work?
For instance, if a user continually likes Adidas’ posts, the Facebook algorithm will show posts from the brand more often. Similarly, if a user interacts with Adidas’ posts that contain images rather than video more, they will see more photos and imagery in their timeline.
What’s new to the Facebook algorithm in 2020 is to give users greater transparency into why they are seeing certain posts. For instance, there’s now a button on each post that Facebook users can click on, and a pop-up will explain why the algorithm chose it for them.
Image source: cnet.com
It’s also started to give users more control over their own ranking signals. Everyone who uses Facebook can now indicate who their close friends are and how interested they are in seeing content from brand pages. They can even tell Facebook how valuable each post they see is to them.
Say a user adds a relative to their Close Friends list. That relative’s posts will appear right at the top of their newsfeed and will start to bump down branded posts and ads. Now that the user is in the driving seat, brands need to work extra hard to prove that their content is valuable to them.
Organic Reach Is Falling
Back in the day when brands were just beginning on Facebook, the organic reach potential was huge. Over time, this has drastically changed. The decline is said to have started back in 2014 and ever since then, organic reach has slowly been getting worse. Currently, the average organic reach is a mere 5.5%, down by 2.2% from last year. There are a few reasons why people think this has happened.
Facebook themselves say that organic reach has dropped because of the huge number of competing brands on the site. More brands are now paying for sponsored posts and ads, so the site prioritizes those over regular posts. But is that the only reason why organic reach is doing so badly nowadays?
There are a few studies that have since picked up on a few potential factors. One study carried out by SOCIALBAKERS showed that video is the best-performing post on the site. They discovered that video achieved 8.7% organic reach; posts with just links gained 5.3%; and text-only posts achieved a reach of 5.8%. So, if you are excluding video from your Facebook brand strategy, you are going to have a problem.
Regardless of why organic reach is falling, brand marketers are now relying on sponsored posts and paid ads a lot more on the platform. This hasn’t deterred companies, though, who are willing to include Facebook in their paid advertising. There are estimated to be 90 million small businesses on the platform and 87.1% of their brand marketers use the site for marketing.
So, it seems that despite all the hurdles that marketers face, most are still very willing to put plenty of time and money into Facebook.
The Facebook Algorithm Can Recognize Low-Quality Content
The big drive at Facebook right now is to create a better online experience for its users. And that involves showing them valuable posts from people they are interested in, instead of clickbait from big-name brands. If a page is posting rushed content that is being published just for the sake of it, it won’t get much organic reach at all.
Generally speaking, low-quality posts and ads are ones that can be seen as click-baity or disruptive. For instance, any branded post that is clearly withholding information or using sensationalist language is going to get penalized by the Facebook algorithm.
Here’s an example:
Image source: nealschaffer.com
This post is encouraging users to click on the link by withholding the answer to their question. How have researchers made everlasting ink? Well, you’ll need to check our site to find out...
Facebook Limits How Many Ads a Page Can Run at Once
The final update to note for the 2020 Facebook algorithm is that it will limit the number of ads a page can run at once. This change isn’t expected to be rolled out until the middle of the year, but it’s best to get prepared now because this is one extra chink to organic reach’s armor.
There is a silver lining to this, thankfully. This new change will only be affecting a small percentage of pages. What’s more, no one is 100% sure on how much the limit will be—if you don’t already post more than one or two posts a day, you might not even notice it.
How to Use the Facebook Algorithm to Benefit Your Brand Strategy
Create Engaging Posts
Don’t always push for the hard sell.That’s not the point of Facebook and you will probably end up penalized by the algorithm. Facebook should be a balance between promotional and story posts. Showcasing your brand’s values and story is just one way to engage your target audience, with 89% of consumers staying loyal to brands that share their values. Replying to comments and running Facebook competitions also increases engagement, which, in turn, can help to boost organic reach. The more interactions people have with your posts, the more people the algorithm will show your posts to.
Award-winning Social Media Consultant, Chantal Gerardy, believes it’s possible to increase engagement if you keep your content relative to your target audience:__
“Facebook is about building meaningful relationships, and this stems from two-way conversations. However, sometimes people don't engage with a page but just watch it. When they do this, Facebook can't work out what they are interested in. That's why you need to provide relevant content. Know who your target audience is and what they are interested in and provide information that will encourage them to stay. It doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be, all about your product. Think of it like going on a date. Would you come back for a second date if the other person was all "me, me, me"?”
Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash
As long as you are already aware of who your target audience is, then this shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll know what they want to see and read apart from all the info about your products. If your audience cares about social and charitable matters, then you should be posting updates on all the good that your brand does behind the scenes. Perhaps your office just held a bake sale and raised lots of cash for a local charity? Let everyone on Facebook know—this is something that will appeal to their values.
Just bear in mind that one issue a lot of brands have on Facebook is promoting content that is too generic. One of the big USPs for Facebook is that it creates authenticity—it’s a way for people to keep in touch and see what’s been going on in each other’s lives. As a brand, you need to show your authentic side too and show consumers who the people behind your logo and branding are. Posting about the office bake sale and other charitable ventures is a great way to do this.
Pushing more than just product information doesn’t just mean doing more charity work. You need to find out what your own target audience is interested in the most. Maybe they want more industry insights or they want to hear more about your brand’s story and what motivates you to keep pushing for success.
But are ads the main thing you should be prioritizing? Chantal believes brands should try a different angle. Rather than trying to beat the Facebook algorithm, why not just work with the site? Rather than pushing out constant ads, think of your profile like a second website:
“For one, make sure that you have your page set up correctly; make sure you have the right location, an area code for your phone number is included and your business is listed in the right industry. Fill in all the features Facebook asks for. Facebook put those features there for them, not for you. Think of Facebook as a stalker. They carefully follow your page to find out as much information about you as possible. In the end, it is for your own good; they‘ll be able to match your content with the best possible people.”
Chantal also reiterated just how important it is to catch a user’s attention as soon as they land on your Facebook page:
“In the first three seconds that somebody visits your page, they will decide to leave or stay. Maximize your banner to explain what your brand is all about so you can capture them in those three seconds.”
It seems that even if your organic reach does seem to be on the decline, there are other ways you can capture a new audience on Facebook.
Create a Publishing Schedule
Ideally, you need to post at least once a day. But be aware that posting more than twice a day could see the benefits of regular posting diminish. That’s because your posts could be misconstrued as spam.
Once you get the balance of regular posting right, you’ll notice the following benefits:
It’s a chance to build on customer relations. The more you post, the more chances customers have to comment and reach out to you. By responding to these, you can start to really build on your relationship with customers and gain their trust.
It increases brand awareness. As engagement with your posts increases, they will be seen by more Facebook users. That means your brand is out there being shared and seen by as many consumers as possible.
You’ll notice an increase in traffic to your site. As well as increasing brand awareness, posting more should see higher CTR to your site, too. The posts will be in front of more people, and that should convert to a lot more clicks on links in posts.
Consumers will find your business easier. So many people use social media to find new brands and businesses. Posting regularly increases your chances of being seen and if your posts are full of useful information and details, then this should have excellent consequences for your local SEO.
As well as posting at a consistent rate, you should also endeavor to post at a consistent time. Publish posts when you know your audience is going to be online. This will be different for B2Bs and B2Cs. B2Bs tend to find that engagement is highest through the mornings and early afternoon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. For B2Cs, it’s more advantageous to post around lunchtime on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
Once you find the time that gets you the most engagement, be sure to post at it every day. Your engagement should gradually grow, and you should be able to claw back some organic reach.
Use Paid Advertising to Support Organic Growth
Around 46% of users on social media are already thinking of making a purchase. You can use paid reach to capture their attention and get them into your sales funnel.
What’s more, paid reach is a great way to increase the lifecycle of all your posts. On average, posts that haven’t been sponsored will only stay relevant and be engaged with for 5 hours.
You can increase this by paying for content promotion. Initially, the sponsored posts will be put right in front of people. If these users then interact and engage with these posts, then the organic reach should increase, too. This will create a knock-on reaction: once all the engagement from the paid reach transfers into organic reach, you should find that interaction lasts on posts longer.
So, paid advertising will increase initial distribution, however organic reach will slowly take over and help your post stay in people’s timelines for a few more days or even weeks.
Another way to see this is to think of the Facebook algorithm as a funnel. All that paid content attracts users to your page. Content on the page should then direct them to your site or wherever you want them to go from there. Ensuring a post is engaging will mean that this funnel continues for much longer.
Focus on Top-Quality Posts
If the Facebook algorithm thinks that you’re pumping out low-quality posts for clicks or to bait engagement, these posts will be relegated right to the depths of the timeline and won’t be seen by your target audience. Facebook doesn’t want its users to have a low-quality experience so if your brand is creating one, it’s going to get downgraded.
If you’re worried you might accidentally post something engagement-baity, there are a few warning signs to stay away from.
Don’t be tempted to post any memes, photos, or videos along with a comment like “tag a friend who does/likes X.” Basically, any posts that try to get users to interact in a specific way, tag certain people as defined by the post, or encourage votes on topics by liking or sharing.
So, how can you improve the quality of your posts? You just need to ensure that they create meaningful interactions.
Add as much information to them as you can, whether that’s useful details about your product or news regarding your company. This is the kind of stuff followers want to know about a brand. It can be something as simple as updates to your store’s opening time, for example. Even small snippets of info can be meaningful and could prompt your followers to share and like your posts.
Lots of brands are currently finding that venturing into video posts can bring them great results. As Georgina Williams, a Social Media and PR Executive at Zeal told us:
“We are staying ahead of the 2020 Facebook algorithm changes by optimizing video content to include high-quality visuals as well as capture and retain the attention of followers. Another top focus is writing engaging copy that can encourage meaningful interactions with our followers.”
If you aren’t already using fantastic videos alongside attention-grabbing copy, you really should be. It takes a lot more to interest today’s social media users and with so much viral content, you need to be able to pack a punch with your posts by making significant noise among your competitors.
Want to see another example of a brand doing video well? Alexander Porter from Search it Local explained how this format has made waves for their brand:
“We're tapping into this by creating video content that is designed to solve the problems of our audience. We genuinely want to help them, and videos are the ideal way to do this because a) video content is the preferred content type in 2020 and b) this content type is more engaging than blog posts or articles. We don't create this content to drive leads. In fact, we don't even add CTAs. Facebook content should be considered 'top of the funnel' content with the goal of generating awareness. And we've seen excellent results so far with video content increasing our number of page likes, clicks and engagements. Using video should become a central part of brand strategy, as it will help you tap into Facebook's algorithm, and help get people talking to you and about you.”
Post to Facebook Groups
Did you know that pages can now post to Facebook Groups?
Over the past few years, Groups have become one of the most visible parts of the entire site. And this is largely down to the big redesign that Facebook gave its Groups section not too long ago. The Groups tab now shows users’ activity and it’s even easier for users to find them. It’s safe to say that a large majority of your target audience will be in Groups that pertain to their interests. If your brand lines up with these interests, then your posts could look right at home in these Groups.
It’s also worth noting that Group content is prioritized alongside posts from friends and family. So, posting updates in a few groups will help the Facebook algorithm putting your content right up there with posts from users’ personal contacts.
One example of a brand utilizing groups is Better Proposals. Adam Hempenstall, the CEO, tells us that 90% of their posts on Facebook are now in groups that relate to their products. As well as group postings, the brand has also chosen to slim down their use of Newsfeed posts and only use their page as a way for consumers to reach out to them:
“At the same time, we focus on being present with our company page so we can answer customer questions. In short, the algorithm has made us lose all hopes for achieving anything organically and now we use Facebook only as a customer support channel since so many of our customers spend time there.”
Prioritize What You Post on Facebook
If you’ve already planned your social media strategy for 2020, you might want to reconsider your ideas for Facebook based on some of the new aspects of the algorithm. Going forward, you should prioritize the ads and sponsored posts that have the best chance of providing value to your audience. Remember, the Facebook algorithm will make sure a user sees posts from their connections first before any posts or ads from brands.
Get your priorities right with your future posts, and they should still be seen despite the algorithm’s preference for personal posts.
Facebook knows that its users still want to see and interact with brands on the platform, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to let brands spam everyone on the site. Make sure your profile page serves a purpose and acts as a resource that your target audience will want to keep on referring back to.
Track the Impact of the Facebook Algorithm on Brand Performance
Even just using the basic data provided by Facebook can give you some great insights. You’ll eventually be able to spot patterns about the types of posts that are getting the most interactions with your followers. Once you start to spot top-performers, you can then prioritize your Facebook strategy to include more of these.
Facebook Insights are quite detailed and you’ll be able to see demographics of those who see and interact with your posts and the number of people clicking through to your site.
Using this information, you can then fine-tune your ads to the type of content your target audience responds to the most.
Georgina Williams from Zeal explains how tracking helps their brand on Facebook:
“We know that page posts that generate conversations between people will show higher in a user’s news feed. Therefore, we are analyzing our audiences closely to ensure that copy is relevant to their preferences.”
Using all of this tracked data to tailor your content also ensures its longevity despite the Facebook algorithm. You’ll be posting content that your fans and followers would want to see, so they’ll be more likely to continue to engage with it. That, of course, is good news for your organic reach.
The changes to the Facebook algorithm may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that your social media strategy is going to go down the toilet.