Are you wondering how the Facebook algorithm works? Using my experience with numerous agency clients I’m going to explain a little bit about how it works as well as give you some tips on how you can get your posts to perform better in the algorithm.
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Do you dread the Facebook algorithm? It feels like it changes all the time and makes sure that us businesses can never reach anyone without paying money, right?
That’s not entirely true. And by the end of this I hope you’ll have a better understanding about how the Facebook algorithm works and how you can get a little bit more reach without spending money.
So how does the Facebook algorithm work?
In a nutshell, it’s there for one reason and that is to make sure that every time anyone logs onto Facebook, they see stuff they like for as long as possible. That’s how Facebook makes their money.
I know, a lot of the common belief is, “oh, the algorithm is there to help Facebook make money.” Yes, but it does that by keeping people happy on Facebook. The longer you and I spend on Facebook, the more money they make off of us because they get to show us more ads. In fact, when somebody buys ads on Facebook, it’s a bunch of different companies all trying to reach, let’s say a 35 year old woman. They’re all bidding on who will spend the most to show an ad to her. But the way the bidding process works, it does factor in who will spend the most, but it also factors in the quality of the ad.
It’s true. Facebook would rather take less money to show a better ad to that 35 year old woman because it will keep her on Facebook longer.
News Feed Surprise
One of the things that Facebook does for each of us as consumers is it shows us things that our friends and family like. The algorithm assumes we will like the same things our connections like.
Have you ever had someone pop up in your Facebook feed that you haven’t seen there for 6-8 months? Usually the post is about a major life event, getting engaged, married, having a baby, graduating. By the time you see it, the post might already have hundreds of likes. Because SO many of this person’s friends liked the post, Facebook decided it must be something great and that you’ll want to see it (even though you don’t normally care about that person’s posts).
The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem
I love this story. Writer Chris Aldrich shared the story about how his mom was messing up his reach in the Facebook algorithm. The short version is that every time he posted on Facebook, his mom would immediately click Like. Then his post would get very little reach beyond that.
Because his mom Liked a post, Facebook’s algorithm decided it must be content of interest to his family, so they’d show it to other family members. Since Aldrich often wrote about things like theoretical math, which most of his family did not care about, the posts quickly died off.
He started setting his post’s privacy so everyone could see them except his mom, and immediately his Facebook reach shot back up!
Does Facebook Have A Top Friends List?
On the consumer side, people often complain about only seeing posts from the same twenty people. There is some truth to that, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to reach your consumer. Every one of us has a top group of friends that Facebook’s algorithm has decided are most important to us. They are the people and brands we engage with the most, so Facebook shows us their content the most. It’s also why you should love getting birthday greetings on Facebook.
The Facebook Birthday Marketing Trick
If you use your personal page to talk about your business this can work for you. When you get all those Facebook birthday greetings from people you otherwise never hear from, take the time to reply to them. All of them.
Don’t just click Like or say, “thanks.” Respond and start a conversation. If they reply back to you (and they usually do), you have a great chance of sneaking back into their top friends list.
It was not an accident that I launched the Five Minute Social Media YouTube channel the day after my birthday. On my birthday I got a bunch of messages. I replied to all of them. Then when I announced the channel on Facebook the next day, I received a lot more engagement and got comments from people that usually don’t comment on my stuff, all because I used the birthday engagement to sneak back into their top friends list in the algorithm.
For any friends reading this, I also appreciated the birthday greetings – I didn’t just use them promote my channel launch.
Why Do Some Posts Get Zero Love?
Debbie posted a question in our Five Minute Social Media Facebook group asking why some Facebook posts seem to get zero love. A page that has thousands of Likes can post something that only reaches 14 people.
Every time a post comes out on Facebook, whether it’s from a business page or a personal page, Facebook starts showing it to a handful of people. If nobody engages with it, nobody clicks Like, nobody comments, nobody shares it, Facebook will think, “this isn’t something people want to see.” For business pages, sometimes that’s the end of the line. They’ll show it to 12 people. Nobody engaged? It’s done.
They’re not even going to bother to show it to anybody else, even if they’ve Liked your page. That’s why it’s important that the quality of your content is as good as possible all the time.
BTW, there’s no shame in using your personal account to like & comment, and asking friends to do the same, to jump start the algorithm.
How To Get Around The Facebook Algorithm
If you’re looking for “hacks” and “tricks” to beat the algorithm, you won’t find them here. While they do exist, they are usually very short lived. For example, marketers figured out you could hack the algorithm by posting captions such as, “Like this post if you love puppies too!” Then Facebook updated the algorithm and now they will actually penalize you for using what they call “engagement bait.”
Here are actual things you can do to get your content more reach:
1. Post Great Stuff
I know, it’s probably annoying to hear that over and over again, but it’s true.
2. Don’t Use Engagement Bait
“Tag that friend who loves pizza so much they’d marry it!” Nope.
3. Ask For Comments
Getting Likes and other reactions on your post helps you in the algorithm, but comments carry way more weight. All comments are good, but comments back and forth are Facebook’s favorite. Don’t reply with generic things. “Thanks for your comment,” won’t do you much good. Instead try and ask the commenter a question so they’ll come back and comment again.
4. Use Video, Preferably Live
Currently, nothing gets more reach on Facebook than video content, and nothing gets higher engagement than live video. If you’re a smaller brand it hurts the ego to go live and have zero to four viewers, but get over it. Lots more people will catch the replay.
5. Avoid Posting Links
Posting links is okay if you are trying to drive traffic to a website with purpose, but don’t just post an article to fill a void in your content calendar. A lot of web pages take a long time to load, especially on an old smartphone with a slow 3G connection. If a page doesn’t load within three seconds, over 70 percent of people will abandon it. Facebook will stop showing that link if it loads slowly. Links also take people off Facebook, and of course they want people on Facebook.
6. Ask Fans To Utilize The “See First” Feature
There are a couple of Facebook pages that I like to see all of their content. I’m a failed minimalist, but I still like to see posts from the Becoming Minimalist Facebook page in hopes of being inspired. You can ask your most loyal fans to utilize the “See First” feature for your page.
This video shows how to do it:
A Good Reason To Spend Money
If you’ve got a good message that brings your company business, consider boosting or turning your post into an ad. Just remember that even if you’re spending money on it, the quality of the content still needs to be great.
I had a client in the medical field and we were utilizing several types of content each month. All of it seemed to be working. Then we decided to double the boosting budget.
When we did, some of the content started reaching 10 times as many people! Meanwhile other content only saw reach grow about 30%. That is mathematical proof that better content will go much further, even with the same budget. If you’ve never put money behind a post before, check out this tutorial on boosting Facebook posts.
Got more questions? Join us in our free Facebook Group. Request to join and I’ll approve you – Would love to have you there!
Need some ideas for quality content? Download my free list of 24 Social Media Content Ideas For Business Owners.
Jerry Potter is the Creative Director and CMO for Mastodon Media, as well as the founder of Five Minute Social Media, a YouTube channel that teaches small business owners to maximize their social media marketing. Living in Seattle, he spends his time with his wife and two Tiny Humans, and is on a quest to prove Diet Coke is actually good for him.