Facebook isn’t making life easy on anyone right now. All the family drama and political posts aside, checking Facebook statistics can make you feel like a 90’s emo kid.
So. Much. Angst.
A lot of business owners are wrestling with declining post engagement and reach that seems to shrink week-by-week, unable to understand the cause of the problem. Facebook is as prolific as Google with updates to their machine learning algorithm.
Understanding that algorithm and the more than 100,000 ranking factors is next to impossible.
So how do you reach more fans with your updates? What kind of content do you need to share to get the most engagement and get it visible in newsfeed?
Why Your Facebook Reach Is So Low Right Now
You’re not alone. Reach has been on a steady decline for businesses for a couple years now, especially since Facebook switched from Edgerank to the machine learning algorithm in 2013.
A study by Social@Ogilvy found that Facebook reach, on average, has plummeted to a meager 6%. That basically means that for every 100 fans you have, only 6 of them are going to see your content.
Granted, you can boost your reach with boosted Facebook posts. But that’s not organic.
It makes sense to a certain point for Facebook to limit the reach of pages. Given that the average Facebook user in the U.S. likes 70 pages, the sheer volume of content from brands they follow would overcrowd their feed.
There’s also the financial side. Facebook is a for-profit, publicly traded business. There are more than 18 million business pages competing for the attention of users. A reduction in organic reach drives those businesses to invest more in sponsors posts and ad content.
Interestingly enough, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert did a nice mashup graphic that shows declining Facebook reach stacked against the rising Facebook stock price back in 2014.
How Facebook Decides Your Reach Right Now
If you’ve got this one figured out to a T, you can make a lot of money.
There’s really no definitive answer, which is intensely frustrating to business owners and marketers alike. What I can say for certain is that the ranking and reach process is extremely complicated.
Facebook uses more than 100,000 different factors that weigh into what pops up on a newsfeed for a user.
That means that trying a different type of content might not work. And adjusting your post timing might not work.
Or it will.
There are a couple weights we know are factored into visibility and reach, starting with the fact that the original Edgerank algorithm wasn’t replaced. It was folded into the new algorithm. So these factors are still important:
- Affinity – your relationship with your followers and how they interact with your brand.
- Weight – Different types of content are weight differently, and Facebook gives more weight to visual content.
- Decay – Older posts are far less likely to show up in the feed.
There are other factors that weigh in, including:
- Available bandwidth of the follower.
- The user’s interaction with Facebook ads.
- Which types of content the user most engages with (photo, text, native video, live video).
- What types of posts the user hides or reports as spam.
PostRocket shared a great infographic that explains the Facebook algorithm (Edgerank specifically) and it contained this golden piece.
Facebook isn’t necessarily out to grind down the reach of publishers just to drive them to purchase ads and boost content.
Brian Boland, VP of Advertising Technology for Facebook cites two major reasons for the decline in organic reach.
- There are more than 3 million links shared every hour on Facebook, so there is a massive amount of content being pushed out to followers.
- Facebook wants to improve the user experience and only show people the most relevant content to increase engagement. So only the most relevant, high-quality stories (300 or so) will actually appear in a user’s news feed.
Brian’s advice to publishers was simple:
“Publish great content – content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think or, in some other way, adds value to their lives.”
That sounds a lot like the drum we’ve been pounding in content marketing.
What’s even more interesting is that he suggests we stop worrying about organic reach and instead focus on targeting other business objectives on our Facebook pages. Like what? Maybe driving in-store sales, opt-ins or video traffic.
Don’t let this disappoint you. Reach is still an important thing to strive for, because you want more people seeing your content. That’s how you stay engaged with them.
Before we get into how you can improve your reach organically, without buying into Facebook advertising, let me cover a few things that you shouldn’t do.
- Don’t automate – Remember this is a social platform and you need to give the perception of having a human touch. Vary your posts, change up the type of content you share to your audience and make it obvious that you’re not just putting out scheduled links to your blog posts.
- Don’t just promote – It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be heavily promoting your products and services. Facebook is based heavily on interest, not intent. Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your updates should be social, with only 20% promotional.
Even then your promotional content should still be more of a point of engagement rather than selling something.
- Don’t throw best practices to the wind – Never buy Facebook likes. This is a waste of time. It will cause your engagement to plummet. Along the same lines don’t spam your followers with click-bait content or a bombardment of valueless updates. Facebook cracks down hard on spammers.
How to Organically to Grow Your Reach Without Paying a Dime
1. Figure out the best time to post your content.
There is a tremendous amount of data on the best times of the day to post to Facebook. Don’t just follow the data and do what the herd does. Your audience is your audience, and like they are all individually different, they’re also different from industry to industry.
Use that data as a point of reference and then experiment with your own content schedule. Test, retest and test some more.
One thing to try is to post in the off-hours when far more users are offline. When there’s not much being shared to your audience, your posts have a higher chance of popping up in their feed and standing out.
Jon Loomer tested this theory on his Facebook page and compared posts made during peak hours (from 6am to 3pm) with content posted during off hours (10pm to 3am). He even tracked the performance of different types of content.
In every case, his reach was greater during off hours.
A possible benefit to this, and a big one, is that if you can ramp up engagement of off-hours content overnight, your content is likely to be sitting at the top of the news feed for users when they wake in the morning and start checking their feed.
2. Build engagement by asking your followers questions.
One of the goals with Facebook should be to build a community of followers that feed off one another, talk back to you, share and stay engaged.
A terrific strategy to accomplish that is to ask them engaging questions. Don’t throw out links, don’t promote anything, and don’t even try to add extra value to it.
Just ask a question. Every customer wants to be heard. Let them.
You can ask your fans to share about preferences, their plans, memories they have, goals, accomplishments, and more.
When Skittles asked their fans to describe the moment they opened a pack of their candy, they got tremendous reach. Just a simple text post.
Keep your questions super simple and easy to digest. Remember to keep them specific to their lifestyle in relation to your brand, and monitor feedback so you can comment and engage.
The more responses you get, the higher the reach for your post as it starts showing up in the feed of other followers.
3. Embed your Facebook posts.
Facebook may be reducing organic reach for everyone within their platform, but if you have a blog then you’ve got an audience they can’t touch. This is especially true if you’re raking in a lot of traffic with your content marketing.
Improve your reach by combining your content marketing with your Facebook content.
By embedding your Facebook posts on your blog, you can provide a lot more visibility to content you really want to promote. This is a great way to attract new users as well as improve your reach and engagement.
It’s also extremely easy to do.
To embed a post, click the drop-down arrow in the upper-right corner of a post, click “embed” and paste the code into your blog.
4. Fans go crazy over one type of content in particular
I’m not talking about freebies and giveaways.
I’m talking about transparency.
People love transparency.
Transparency is a powerful engagement tool because it shows your audience what is going on behind the scenes. In some cases, it can be far more educating than putting out regular content.
Being transparent is easy and there are a few ways you can do it:
- Post something very personal and interesting that shows the human factor behind your brand.
That’s it. I guess there’s really just one way to do it.
Buffer took this approach and shared a number of pictures from a company trip they took with their team to South Africa.
The results they got from sharing that very transparent content were surprising. The following chart shows the greatly improved reach for their posts relating to the trip (marked in orange) vs. other posts that were general updates.
You don’t necessarily have to head back into manufacturing or show team images and video. Sometimes your followers just want to know more about you and see you.
The best marketers today know that their followers want transparency.
They share photos and videos that feature them so their fans stay more connected.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is killing right now with his personal engagement. He regularly posts videos and pictures of himself working on his #comewithmeifyouwanttolift campaign. After running a campaign promoting his shirts, he decided to do give some fans a treat and personally called them to say thank you during a live feed.
The engagement and reach were off the charts.
Sure, Arnold is a celebrity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get the same type of lift in reach and engagement from taking the same approach to transparency and outreach with your fans.
5. Make sure you’re responding to comments
This is something I see that makes no sense to me.
You’ve gone to a tremendous amount of trouble building a fanbase, sharing content and growing your brand on social media. So much so that you have an audience that takes time from their busy day to comment on your page.
Then you don’t respond to their comments.
Those are 100% loyal fans who are connecting with you, and they absolutely are hoping for a response. It makes them feel valuable and it validates their interest in you.
Zero response means you’re telling them that they’re not worth your time.
This can create a chain reaction where other users won’t see you reply, so why should they bother commenting. You’re not going to engage them.
I’m frequently busy to the point that my head spins, but I still take the time to response to hundreds of comments every day on various social channels.
Commenting improves engagement, and engagement improves reach.
You want more organic reach on Facebook.
So do I.
So does everyone.
So what do you do? For starters, keep your expectations realistic. Facebook owns Facebook, and they can change your organic reach any time that they please.
Beyond rolling with the punches, however, you can play smart. Figure out what engages your followers, feed them what they want, and keep things real.
You may not curate a frenetic mess of frothing-at-the-mouth fans on Facebook like you could a few years ago, but you should still be using Facebook to improve your brand, grow your business, and build a tribe.
What Facebook tactics have brought you the most success with increasing your reach?