The grumbling has been growing louder, small businesses are tired of watching their organic Facebook reach plummet. It's a miserable feeling and many are scaling back their Facebook marketing efforts in search for greener pastures. The truth is, with 1.4 billion users, Facebook can't be ignored. Businesses must adapt to the algorithm changes, not jump ship.
Before we learn about the ways you can boost your organic Facebook reach, let's first get to know the gatekeeper--the News Feed Algorithm.
Understanding Facebook's News Feed Algorithm
Facebook's main objective is to foster relationships and form connections between people, they do this by showing the most relevant content to the right people. It shows posts from people and pages that users engage with most. At any one time, there could be over 1000 posts competing for a spot on a person's news feed. It's just not feasible to show someone every single post from every single person they're friends with or page they follow. That would be information overload and your head might explode. Facebook doesn't want that.
It has been reported that businesses are only reaching 2-3% of their fans. Most take this as a sign that Facebook wants you to start paying for reach by boosting your posts. Boosting a post is a paid way to expand the reach of a post to more of the page's fans. An extremely unpopular idea since many businesses paid to get those fans in the first place. Pay to get and pay to reach, insanity most say.
There are actually more than 1000 different factors that Facebook's algorithm uses to determine which posts show up in users' news feed. Most of these factors are unknown, but here are some we know about:
- How complete the page profile is, including company contact information, description, website link, etc
- A user's previous interaction with the page
- The number of likes, shares, and comments the post gets from the user's friends and extended reach
- The type of post it is (photo, video, link, status update)
- Taking into consideration that when a user likes something this means that they want to see more of it so Facebook shows them more
- How frequently content from the page is hidden, the more people hide content the less it will be displayed
Tips on How to Increase Facebook Reach
While businesses are reporting organic reach of 2-3%, I've seen many business Facebook pages reporting average organic reach of 30-40%. These high performing pages follow Facebook posting and engagement best practices. Below are ten best practices to follow for a rockstar Facebook page.
1. Social Signals: More Engagement, More Reach
Facebook is a social place and the news feed algorithm rewards businesses that are social. The more likes, comments, and shares a post gets, the more people Facebook is going to show it to. Think of the engagement as a voting system. A "like" counts as 1 vote, a "comment" counts as 5 votes, and a "share" 11 votes. The more votes your post has the more organic reach you'll see.
2. Study Your Facebook Insights
Go into your Facebook Insights and click the Reach tab. Here you'll see a list of the most recent posts and the reach they received. Look and see what type of posts generated the most reach. Was it a photo post? Was it a video? Was it a photo post with a link? Was it a link post? Was it a post that asked a question? There are many different variables that you can test. Once you find a good post type that resonates with your audience, give them more. Feed the engagement engine!
3. Post Remarkable Content
Once you understand the type of content that works best for your audience, create more. A lot more! Use this proven post type and be creative with it. If video performs the best, use it to give author intros to blog posts. Use it to show your company's culture. Constantly test and see what style works. People are starving for anything that stands out and is unique. An entire book could be written on creative post ideas, but it's really up to you to figure out what best resonates with your audience. All audiences are different. Find the right combination and your organic reach will grow and grow!
Test. Be different. Be creative. Run contests. Be human.
4. Add Targeting
Since we know that engagement increases reach, we need to target people most likely to engage with our posts. For example, let's say you sell flip flops. You have Facebook fans all over the United States, but it's December and there's a foot of snow covering everything north of Tennessee. You would lose organic reach if people covered in snow have no interest in engaging with a post about flip flops on sunny beaches. Target only a few southern states where you know they'll be more apt to like, comment, and share your post.
5. Post at Peak Times
Another way to increase Facebook reach is to post when your audience is active and online. Go back into your Facebook Insights and click on the Post tab. There you'll see a graph that shows when your posts receive the most reach. Schedule your posts during those peak times and you'll see an increase in reach.
6. Ask Questions
If you want people to engage with your post, ask them to in the form of a probing question. Do a photo post and ask your audience a question to encourage answers in the comment section. This creates a more intimate relationship between you and your audience. It also offers valuable insight into what matters most to your fans.
7. Keep it Short
40 characters was found to be the most effective post length in a study by Jeff Bullas of retail brands on Facebook. Bullas measured post engagement, defined by "like" rate and comment rate, and the ultra-short 40-character posts received 86% higher engagement than others. The 40-character group also represented the smallest statistical set in the study (only 5% of all posts qualified at this length). Best practices on Facebook also include the next most popular set: Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66% higher engagement.
8. Use Video
Facebook has said that video content is going to be the wave of the future. You can already see Facebook rewarding businesses that upload video content with increased reach. Be one of these companies and test your video use on Facebook. Share short 30-second to 60-second videos that interest your audience.
Pro-tip: Don't post a YouTube video link, make sure you upload the video directly to your Facebook page. The difference in reach is huge. Remember that Google owns YouTube, and Facebook and Google are competitors.
9. Overlay Copy on Images
Photo posts have traditionally performed well as far as Facebook reach, but recent research shows that photo posts aren't getting the reach they once did. Mix things up and add a creative quote or phrase to your photo. You'll see a much higher engagement rates and reach with this style of post.
Apps like Over on mobile and Photoshop or HubSpot on a desktop are simple ways to add text to a photo.
10. Be Human - Be Social
Facebook is a social network, people use it to be social with others. They want to message friends, watch movie clips, and share fun content that interests them. Don't schedule a post and forget about it, engage with people! Engage with them in the comment section, like their comments, answer their questions. Give your business a human voice and show people that you care.
Facebook's News Feed Algorithm and organic reach is something that will continue to change. As marketers, it's our job to adapt to these changes and test to find the best solutions. Just because some businesses have seen their organic reach fall off a cliff isn't cause for panic. Now more than ever it's important to provide content that is relevant, entertaining, and engaging to your audience. It means there's more opportunity for those businesses looking to be successful and flexible enough to survive and adapt.