Facebook’s News Feed: Ask Me Anything

Last week, I held an “Ask Me Anything” event where for 3 hours I took questions. Here’s one of my favorites. Look for the next one on November 20.

ask me anything

Hi Kathleen! My question is: I’ve seen a lot of people in a large Facebook group talking about their posts being hidden, unseen and forgotten. Does Facebook actually favor some posts and, if so, how do you work and optimize the system so that your post gets seen by the most people?

Posting in a Facebook group

In a group like that one, Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t come into play. The most recent posts appear at the top, and new comments on each post bump the post back up to the top again. Likes do not. That explains why a post in a group may get “lost.” With almost 13,000 members, new posts appear all the time, pushing the older ones down. A post that generates lots of comments will tend to stay at or near the top, giving it the opportunity to generate even more comments.

A tip to help this: after you post, click on the time you posted. This will take you to the URL for just your post. Copy and paste it somewhere you can find it again (I use Evernote). Next time you want to find it again, go to that URL and add a comment. That will bump it back up, giving it another chance.

Marketing within a Facebook group presents its own special set of challenges. More on that here, here and here.

 

Making more news feeds

In the general news feed, it’s a lot more complicated. Facebook’s priority is the user, which makes sense, because without users, businesses wouldn’t want or need to bother with Facebook.

There are multiple variables that affect whether your post will appear in your fans’ news feeds, and the degree to which those variables are weighed is Facebook’s secret. However, it seems they include timing (day of the week, time of day; newer is better and the quicker the post gets engagement, the more people will see it) and also includes popularity (of your page with each fan, of your type of content—photo, link, text—with each fan). Paid reach affects how your posts perform, as well (not a big surprise, but check out this post).

All of that said, a few tips:

Quality matters.

Some content providers are weighted more heavily than others, so choose your link sources wisely. In general, the better your content, the more popular it will be, so keep posting great —perhaps even EXCLUSIVE—stuff!

Timing is everything.

Put your Facebook insights to good use. Facebook will tell you exactly when your fans are online, and which types of posts they prefer. This page should post around 9:00 pm, when things have likely quieted down for their fans in the evening.

 

Facebook news feed

 

Facebook news feed

Check your insights regularly to see which posts perform well, and do more of those. According to this, link posts do better—which is a HUGE change. Less than a year ago, photos got far more engagement than any other type of post. That brings me to my next point.

Still worth a thousand words

Also, some of the image posts that had been popular in the past are not as effective as they once were. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, but choose—or better yet, design—them carefully (I can help with that!). Check out these tips.

Moving pictures catch the eye.

Facebook recently began auto playing videos, so that could be an effective choice for your content. It does need to be uploaded directly to Facebook to get it to auto play, so pasting in a YouTube link won’t get you the same results.

Make it shareable.

Shares get exponentially more people to see your stuff. So what makes people share your content? Derek Halpern of Social Triggers nailed that here.

Congratulations!

To be frank, I consider this a bit of a slimy hack, but it might be helpful. Take advantage of the fact that Facebook makes it a high priority to deliver big news (like a wedding or a new baby). So you can try dropping a hearty “Congratulations!” in a post from time to time.

Pay attention to what everyone’s talking about.

Posts about trending topics get a boost. Keep in mind that jet because a topic is trending for you, it may not be for everyone. Facebook tailors your trending topics based on your interests.

Answer the phone.

Be responsive when fans do interact with your page. Reply to their comments and get a conversation going. If your page only “broadcasts” content without replying back, it’s like having voicemail on your business phone, but never picking up to talk with your customers, and never calling back. More on that here.

Ask your friends to come out & play!

You can also encourage your fans to submit content, like a photo contest. You may not get as much response as you might have a year or two ago, but those that do submit content are your die hard fans.

Don’t pander.

Facebook will penalize your post if you ask—or worse, beg—for likes, comments and shares. Click-bait is now being penalized in the news feed algorithm. Keep in mind that there are actions that users can take that will negatively affect your posts, like hiding a post or unliking your page.

Power to the people

Do share posts from your business page to relevant groups and to your personal profile, and consider asking employees and friends to do so, too. Content on personal profiles aren’t subject to the same volume control, so it should result in more eyeballs on that post. Share carefully: don’t spam your friends and family with business stuff, but a carefully chosen share from time to time could pay off.

Play nicely with other pages.

If you tag other pages in a post, that update is more likely to be seen by their fans, and especially by people who like both pages. Choose strategically.

So it’s not easy to master unpaid Facebook marketing. But is it worth it?

Maybe.

It depends whether your customers are on Facebook. Some pages—most recently Copyblogger—have decided it’s not worth it for them. They continue to use other social media networks that are a better fit for them.

Also, keep “digital sharecropping” in mind. You don’t want to rely too much on media that belong to other people in order to reach your customers. 

Once you do reach people on Facebook, encourage them to head to your website, and especially to opt in to your email list. That’s where you’ll be able to build the relationship and reach out to them on your own terms.

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