Although Facebook was originally created for students, it didn’t take long for businesses to recognize it as the marketing and advertising juggernaut that it is today.
In 2007 Facebook launched “brand pages” which allowed users to engage and interact with their favorite brands and enabled businesses to effectively market their products and services to the masses. The best part, of course, is that it was all free! But since then, it’s become increasingly difficult to ensure your followers see your content.
Facebook isn’t the gravy train it used to be, and here’s why:
Facebook is competitive
As the world’s largest social media network, there’s a lot of competition out there. News feed real estate is limited and it would be physically impossible to show users every post from every page they follow. Especially when you consider some pages post multiple times per day. Facebook uses algorithms to determine which content to display in a user’s news feed. According to TechCrunch, Facebook’s algorithm includes several core factors, including how interested a user is in a particular page, how well the post performed in terms of engagement, the type of post (i.e. status, photo, link, etc.), and when it was posted.
Facebook doesn’t like free promotion
Even if you’re posting great content your audience engages with on a regular basis, Facebook doesn’t want you promoting your brand for free (that’s what paid ads and sponsored posts are for). In June of last year, Facebook announced they would be reducing organic news feed impressions for brands, in an effort to show users “higher quality content”. They also updated their news feed spam algorithm to penalize brands using manipulative tactics, such as like-baiting and posting frequently circulated content and spammy links.
It is important for brands to build online communities and connect with their target audience through social media, but what happens when you’re left talking to an empty room? In this post I’ll discuss a few strategies that can help brands reclaim organic visibility, boost engagement, and improve Facebook ROI.
Create Killer Content
One of the most effective ways for brands to increase their organic visibility is to consistently post quality content. I’m sure by now you’ve probably heard the tired cliché “content is king”. But if you think about it from the user perspective, that’s all that really matters – especially on social networks.
Similar to Google, Facebook puts a lot of emphasis on content quality and relevance. When deciding which posts to include in a user’s newsfeed, Facebook looks at engagement metrics, such as likes, shares, and clicks to determine the quality of each post.[pullquote] Typically, higher quality content yields a higher click-through-rate (CTR) and generates more likes and shares.[/pullquote]
Facebook also factors in how many times a user has engaged with a particular page. So the more someone engages with a page, the more likely it is the page’s content will appear in that user’s newsfeed. This is why it’s so important for brands to consistently post quality content. When your audience loses interest, you lose organic visibility. Conversely, higher engagement can boost your reach.
But how can a page boost engagement when no one sees their content? This is where I would recommend experimenting with some paid promotion. Facebook allows you to “boost” posts so that they appear higher your followers’ newsfeeds. The engagement you get for promoted posts helps to establish your credibility and effectively increases your organic reach. The amount of promotion needed really depends on the value your content provides for your audience. The better the content, the better the results.
Use Facebook Insights
The more you know about your audience, the better. Facebook Insights is a proprietary analytics platform that provides of variety of different data sets to help page owners measure the performance of their content. Currently Facebook Insights is broken down into five separate tabs: Likes, Reach, Visits, Posts, and People.
- Likes reveals the total number of people who have liked your page within a specific time range and also where the like happened (i.e. on page, page suggestions, mobile, desktop, etc.) You can also see a breakdown of paid vs. organic likes, as well as how many people “unliked” your page.
- Reach is an important metric because it tells you how many people have seen your posts. You can also see some positive engagement metrics, such as likes, comments, and shares.
- Visits gives you a breakdown of which pages (tabs) were visited (i.e. timeline, likes tab, custom tabs, etc.) and also which referring sites (external) brought people to your Facebook page.
- Posts analyzes your content based on post type, targeting, total reach, time of day, and engagement.
- People shows you the demographics of your fan base. You can see things like gender, location, language, and compare people reached versus people engaged.
Content performance shouldn’t be based solely on vanity metrics. For example, if your visibility is down, you can’t expect to see much in terms of engagement. If you’re only looking at likes and shares, you might be missing the bigger picture. Facebook Page Insights gives brands a 360 view of how their page is performing. Frankly, I’m surprised by how many brands aren’t taking advantage of this data. There’s a ton of value here, it’s relatively easy to use, and best of all it doesn’t cost a thing.
Use Competitor Insights
Even if you’re a top influencer in your niche, there’s still a lot you can learn from your competition. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our brands that we miss out on what’s going on in our industry. The great part about social media is it is relatively easy to see what your competitors are up to and whether their strategies are effective or ineffective.
There are countless tools available to help you gain competitor insights. Some of the most popular are Simply Measured, Social Bakers, and Quintly. My personal favorite is Buzzsumo, which is designed to help brands identify the top performing content for any keyword, topic, or brand name.
If you look at the screenshot below, you can get an idea of how the tool works. You’ll notice for each keyword/topic, you can view the top content, influencers, and sharers, based on a variety of metrics, including social share, number of backlinks, domain authority, and social influence (follower count, total page likes, etc.).
This is just one example. My recommendation would be to do a Google search for “Facebook competitive analysis tools” and find the one that best suits your needs and budget. Also, although these tools can save you a lot of time, you can do most of this research on your own. You can start by manually searching for your competitors on Facebook and seeing which posts and content received the highest level of engagement. In addition to the content itself, try to determine which post types are most effective.
Build a Community
It’s not about you – it’s about them. For brands, social media is about building online communities and providing value for your audience. The top brands dominating Facebook all have one thing in common: they all managed to build thriving communities that keep their fans coming back for more. And you know what? I highly doubt they have any issues with organic visibility. Brands with strong online communities don’t need to focus on impressions, clicks, likes, or shares. Instead they focus on the value they provide on a daily basis. The rest will come naturally.
Ask yourself: what are we really offering for our followers? Most websites have an “About Us” page that reflects the company culture, core values, and other things that help separate them from the herd. Think of your Facebook page as an “About You” page for your followers. The content you post shouldn’t promote your brand, but instead should promote the values and interests of your brand loyalists.
I’ve unfollowed quite a few brands that have a Facebook page for the sole purpose of pushing their products and services. [pullquote]Outside of a stray “like” here and there, it’s tough for your followers to regularly engage with this type of promotional content because it’s usually not that interesting. [/pullquote] Facebook is filled with so much self-serving garbage that if the content seems the slightest bit promotional, people will generally ignore it. The less people who engage with your content, the less your content will appear in users’ newsfeeds.
Social media should be a conversation. If your posts and content don’t start conversations or at a minimum, add to conversations, then you’re doing it wrong. Remember that engagement is a two-way street. Communities should go beyond sterile boardrooms and logos. They should reflect the personalities that helped shape your brand.
Don’t Be Lazy
Sometimes it’s not about what you do, but what you don’t do that makes you successful. There’s a lot of shortcuts that brands try to take to artificially inflate their presence on social media networks. Unfortunately, many of these shortcuts end up reducing brand’s organic visibility.
Here are some practices that brands should avoid to boost and maintain organic reach on Facebook:
Buying page likes
For brands that are just starting out with social media, this can seem like a good idea. Find someone on Fiverr that guarantees you 5,000 “real” fans for five dollars and call it a day. If only it were that easy. There are several reasons buying fans is a bad business decision. The most obvious reason being they don’t provide any value since they’re not real people. Also, consumers are smart enough realize when fans are fake. A page with 20k+ fans and little to no engagement is a pretty big red flag. However, the main reason I recommend brands refrain from buying fans is because it could kill your organic visibility. The fake fans drive down the average engagement for your page, which means Facebook will be less likely to show your content to your real fans.
Posting a ton of promotional content
There’s nothing wrong with promoting your services or products every now and then. After all, if businesses can’t show off what they do, then there isn’t much of a reason for brands to invest in social media. But brands that are overly promotional might begin to see their organic reach fade. Facebook serves content based on interest – not intent. People don’t use Facebook to shop for products and services – they use Facebook to be social and engage with people and content that they find interesting. In an effort to enhance the user experience, Facebook recently announced they would be reducing overly promotional content in the newsfeed. If you want to advertise on Facebook, I’d recommend buying ads.
Using manipulative tactics
Contrary to popular belief, click bait, like bait, share incentives, and other shady tactics aren’t good for engagement. When Facebook updated their spam algorithm, they specifically targeted pages that were using manipulative tactics such as these. Like Google, Facebook is constantly fine-tuning their algorithm to weed out poor quality content to enhance the overall user experience. One of the ways Facebook is doing this is by demoting pages that post frequently circulated content. It’s a given that great content gets shared often. But when Facebook deemphasized pages that frequently shared recycled content, users reportedly hid 10 percent fewer stories. Brands should post as much original content as possible to provide their audience with a more meaningful experience.
Stealing other people’s work
You should never steal other people’s content and try to pass it off as your own. This is something that isn’t talked about enough in our industry. I’ve seen countless brands use copyrighted images without obtaining the proper license. Heck, I’ve even done it myself. Having personally dealt with copyright infringement issues, I can tell you that the consequences aren’t cheap. There are specific laws in place for using copyrighted material for commercial purposes.
If you use Facebook to promote your brand, this is technically considered commercial use. Some images are approved for commercial use and don’t require a license. However, most copyrighted material is protected under copyright law. In addition to being called out for using content that doesn’t belong to you, brands could face legal consequences for copyright infringement. Brands should only use images that they own or that are licensed for commercial use.
Putting It All Together
Social media isn’t easy. There are no shortcuts and no substitutes for quality content. Facebook’s gargantuan user base gives brands the opportunity to reach virtually anyone. Success comes from making sure your brand is seen and heard. It takes a lot of time and effort to do it right. Although there’s a lot that brands can do on their own to grow their presence on Facebook, sometimes businesses need a little extra help. The truth is it’s a full-time job.
If your business doesn’t have the resources in-house or can’t afford to hire a dedicated social media manager, I would recommend hiring a consultant or an agency to help steer you in the right direction. Even larger, well-established brands need to optimize their content strategy to ensure their content is seen by their followers. It all comes down to creating value for your audience.
Featured Image: Anya Ku via Shutterstock
Image #1: Twin Design via Shutterstock