By Andrea Vahl
You may have noticed some of your fellow business owners are getting just a little bit fed up with Facebook.
If you’re trying to use it to grow your business online, you may have joined them. You might be tired of the moving target that Facebook marketing presents. You might be annoyed at new “features” that seem to make the experience worse, not better.
And of course, lots of people are talking about the latest aggravation — the question of whether or not your Page’s updates, images, and links are reaching enough of your fans.
But there are things that are still working — and working well — on Facebook. So if you’re going to stick with it, let’s get into whatdoes work.
Before we get into the details, let’s step back and cover a very important concept that will help you understand how the Facebook News Feed works: EdgeRank.
What is Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm?
You may have heard of EdgeRank. Maybe you’ve read that it’s an evil force to keep your posts out of the hands of your fans. And, in a way, that’s true. EdgeRank is Facebook’s proprietary algorithm that determines what goes into the News Feed of every person on Facebook.
The average Facebook user has 245 friends — according to a recent Pew Research study. Because a Facebook user is connected to a lot of Pages and Groups, the News Feed would be more like a Twitter feed if they saw every story that was posted from every friend, Page, and Group they were connected to.
(Stay with me, I know some people would like to see every single post, and I’ll get to that.)
Facebook is similar to Google in that it wants to show the most interesting things in the Feed just like Google wants to show you the most relevant items for a search. So Facebook keeps track of how you behave on Facebook.
Let’s take a look at the actual EdgeRank formula:
Before we get all freaked out about this mathematical equation, I’ll boil it down to one simple concept — fresh, interesting content wins. But there’s a little twist: you have to continue to be interesting. Let’s dive deeper and describe the three factors that go into this formula.
Affinity is a measure of how often a person has interacted with another person’s or Page’s content in the past. So I might Like, Share, or comment on every post that my friend Beth posts, and so Facebook realizes that I find Beth’s content interesting. Facebook makes sure that Beth’s posts go into my News Feed every time.
But Beth might find my posts boring and dull. She never Likes or comments on my posts. (Damn that Beth.) Facebook then does not put my posts into Beth’s News Feed. This works the same with Pages that you Like, but it’s more of a one-way street.
So Page owners need to make sure their content is interesting and they are encouraging Likes, comments and Shares so that their posts continue to show up in their Fans’ News Feeds.
Weight is a measure of how many comments, Likes, and Shares a post is getting — sort of a post “popularity contest.” The more popular the post is, the more likely that Facebook will show it in your News Feed, even if you haven’t had an “affinity” with that person or Page in the past.
Let’s say I’ve never interacted with the posts from the Denny’s Fan Page, even though I’m a Fan. One day, all my friends are commenting on one of their posts about Moons over My Hammy. Facebook decides that I may want to see that post too, and puts it into my News Feed.
Decay is basically how old the post is. Facebook usually shows recent content in your News Feed, but an older post that has a higher weight or affinity can beat a less interesting newer post.
Now that we have EdgeRank defined, I want to make sure that you know that it is a proprietary algorithm and no one besides Facebook can “measure” your EdgeRank. The best gauge you have for how much interaction you are getting on your Page is your People Talking About This Number.
The People Talking About This (or PTAT) number includes all the following activities that happen on your page over a one-week rolling period:
- Liking a page
- Posting to a page’s wall
- Liking, commenting on, or sharing a page post (or other content on a page, like photos, videos or albums)
- Answering a question posted to an event
- Mentioning a page in a post
- Phototagging a page
- Liking or sharing a check-in deal
- Checking in at a place (if your page has a place merged with it)
All of these activities equal engagement with a Page. They will all increase the Affinity between a Fan and your Page.
If you take your PTAT divided by your total number of Fans, then you get a number you can compare to other Pages to see how their engagement compares to yours. The People Talking About This number is public information.
A healthy Page typically has a PTAT percentage of 2% or more.
OK, now that we’re all on the same page (so to speak), let’s get into what’s working right now and address some of the Facebook conspiracy theories that are circulating.
Images get more engagement, text has more reach
Images are kicking butt by getting more comments, Likes, and Shares in general. One study by Hubspot found that photos were getting
<href=”http: blog.hubspot.com=”" blog=”" tabid=”" 6307=”" bid=”" 33800=”" photos-on-facebook-generate-53-more-likes-than-the-average-post-new-data.aspx=”">53% more Likes than the average post.
And a little mind-blowing factoid is that Facebook users are uploading 300 Million images per day. That is a lot of cat pictures.
So does that mean you should only post pictures? Not necessarily.
A recent phenomenon has surfaced and been confirmed by many Page owners and number crunchers that Text posts have been getting much higher Reach. Meaning those posts are going into more of their Fans’ News Feeds.
If you look at your own Facebook Insights and sort by the Reach column, you can see if this is true for your Page. The green quote symbol next to the post indicates that it is a Text post.
So should you be posting only Text posts? Not necessarily. Now take those same Insights and sort by your Talking About This number to see which posts are getting the most engagement. You can also sort by the “Engaged Users” column, which measures the posts that people have clicked on the most. You will probably see a similar set of posts but maybe more Link posts.
So what should you be posting? Here’s the answer — variety. Since text posts are getting to more of your Fans right now, make sure you post some text posts. Since photos are getting more engagement, post some of those.
And since you want to link back to your blog or website to drive traffic, post links!
Just make sure you are watching your own statistics and not relying on what others are telling you to post. See what works for you.
The truth about Promoted Posts
Many people have been speculating that Facebook is deliberately not showing Facebook Page posts in the News Feed in order to increase advertising revenue.
The fact is, Facebook is a public company and does need to make money. I don’t think they’ll allow a mass exodus of brands and businesses away from the platform — I believe there will always be a balance between paid and free reach for businesses.
What we do know is that Facebook made changes to their algorithm in September that have resulted in a decrease in the Reach numbers of many Pages. Facebook continually tweaks their algorithm — another reason not to rely on them as the sole site for your marketing.
Facebook posts have never reached 100% of your audience. The important thing to remember is that if you have good engagement on your Facebook Page, you are going to reach more of your audience for free compared to Pages that have poor engagement. So be interesting!
But if you do want some of your posts to get pushed into more of your Fans’ News Feeds, thePromoted Post can be a good way to do that. The Promoted Post only goes into the News Feed of your current Fans.
By the way, I highly recommend you do not opt for the Friends of Fans option that is offered. There are just too many reports of posts going to untargeted people that make no sense for your Page to advertise to.
When should you use a Promoted Post and how do you get the most out of your investment? I suggest using them if your engagement has dropped off significantly, and for occasional marketing messages.
Make sure the posts you promote are fun, interesting, and valuable to your audience. Promoting content your readers don’t want just won’t do you any good. They can be a good tool to re-engage your audience, but you can only get a good response of Likes, Shares, and comments with audience-friendly content. Again, I would use them sparingly for marketing messages.
What about Interest Lists?
Maybe you’ve seen the posts from Pages telling their Fans to add them to an Interest List.
But does it help? Yes — sort of. But the reader does have to remember to click on the Interest List to see the posts from time to time, which many people don’t think to do. Once someone has created an Interest List, it shows up in the lower left corner of their Home page.
Once the user clicks on the Interest List, they see the posts from the Pages or people that they have put on that list. Even that isn’t perfect. If the list gets large, Facebook still does not show every single update. But you might as well educate your Fans on the use of Interest Lists, since it can’t hurt.
Facebook Pages Feed
Facebook recently introduced the Pages Feed on the Home page of personal profiles. This is similar to Facebook Interest Lists, but Facebook has automatically added all the Pages users currently Like onto this List. All you have to do is to click the Pages Feed to see a dedicated News Feed of Page updates.
This is not perfect either. (Starting to sound familiar?) I have found many updates missing, and they are often not in chronological order. But again, this can only help your Page be more visible to your audience, so let your people know about this option.
Facebook Page Notifications
Yet another fancy tool that Facebook has released is the option for your Fans to request a Facebook notification (the little world icon that appears in the top menu bar of Facebook) whenever a Page posts a new update. All you need to do is go to the Page itself, hover over the Liked button, and then click Get Notifications.
Once again, not perfect. People have to watch their notifications closely, and if they are getting too many notifications, they will miss your update. But I do get the notifications of the Pages I have requested. One more tactic for the “this can’t hurt” folder.
The magic formula for Facebook success
Here’s the magic formula — there is no magic formula!
Facebook constantly changes. Not all of those changes work the way they’re supposed to. And the user experience may not be the same from page to page.
Everyone’s audience is different, and responds to different types of content. So watch your own statistics, try different things, and track your results. The magic formula is creating the good content and engaging updates that your audience craves.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, the moral of the story is don’t rely too heavily on Facebook for your marketing. Make sure you are spending time and effort converting those Fans into email subscribers by offering them freebies, webinars, or other goodies.
And of course, make sure your posts are fun and interesting. It’s called social networking for a reason.