Facebook can be a powerful tool in getting your message out to customers (both current and prospective ones), but it’s awfully hard to connect with customers if they rarely see your updates. That’s been a big concern lately, thanks to Facebook’s persistent emphasis on paid advertising over organic posts.
Clients had indicated that fewer than 4 percent of their fans (the term for people who “Like” a company page) are seeing the company’s updates at any given time. That’s like sending out a direct mail to 25 leads and only one of the mails getting delivered!
Speaking of fans, Facebook hasn’t made many lately among businesses. Internal algorithm tweaks, most recently a big one in December 2013, have severely limited the number of organic updates being seen by fans of company pages.
Facebook acknowledged as much in late 2013, noting that “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
The intent of the changes, as least according to Facebook, was to weed out spammy, unengaging content from the average news feed. In reality, it’s led to an incredible loss in overall organic reach for most brands.
As of April 2012, brands on average were reaching 16 percent of their total fan base per update. (That’s not an especially impressive number, granted, but it is four times what we’re seeing now.) Scott DeLong, owner of ViralNova, tweeted that “running a business on FB is like opening a McDonald’s on an active volcano.”
Criticism such as that prompted Facebook to finally address the issue in an official blog post. Facebook Ads marketing head Brian Boland claimed the decrease was necessary because the average user on Facebook is bombarded with more than 1,500 stories per day. Facebook needed to cut that number back to about 300 (which is what the news feed can display).
Boland said that to determine which 300 stories would be displayed, Facebook was algorithmically assigning higher scores to (what it considered) quality content options and lower scores to (what it considered) spam.
That sounds fine in theory, but it’s proven to be decidedly less so in practice. Facebook has been largely unresponsive to inquiries about what it determines to be high-quality content and how it determines which brand messages will appear which consumers in the news feed.
Cutting to the bottom line, this is a clear move by Facebook to move brands to Promoted Ads. If you want to reach your audience, Facebook is saying, pay for it. If you don’t want to dig into your budget, get used to being satisfied with your posts only showing up every once in a while.
How can you best adjust to the changes? Well, let’s get the obvious option out of the way first: Use Facebook ads. The free ride is over. Facebook let you build a community for free, but now it wants its cut.
If you have a specific update, promotion, or announcement you must ensure achieves the highest saturation possible, you have to pay for that reach. Use the promoted post to make sure it happens.
With that said, there are some ways to increase your reach that won’t impact your wallet:
Share high-quality content: When you’re competing with 1,500 pieces of content every day for your fans’ attention, that content really needs to rock.
Stop sharing memes and unsubstantial blog posts. Start sharing high-quality blog posts that appeal to your fans’ interests, superior graphics that elicit emotional connections (pictures still have the highest EdgeRank in the news feed), and owned exclusive content such as ebooks, white papers, and infographics.
Post more often: This is a good time to remember the words of “The Great One,” hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
If you’re posting once or twice a day, crank up your posting frequency for a couple of weeks, then track your reach increase via Facebook Analytics. You should see a marked improvement.
Posting 4-6 times a day raises your chances of getting more eyeballs and increases the likelihood that one of the posts will resonate more with fans.
Use Facebook Insights: Insights gives you a lot of great information about the people following you. One of the most useful data points regards when your fans are online, helping you effectively target them. You can also see which types of posts are resonating with your audience.
Engage with fans: Remember that Facebook isn’t designed to be a one-way street. Far too many Facebook company pages are littered with unanswered questions or comments from fans. Why would these fans visit again if they never get a response?
Updates that generate more shares and comments get shown more widely in news feeds. If someone leaves a comment or shares a status update, acknowledge them. Also consider interactive posts that prompt fans to actively engage with you, such as caption or trivia contests.