Tips on working around an algorithm that works against small businesses
When it comes to sharing a message, Facebook is a powerhouse. The social networking site provides an incredible opportunity for people to connect with one another. Until recently, it was also a great place for small businesses and non-profit organizations to build community while maintaining a tight budget.
After the company was criticized for letting public and corporate content crowd out personal moments, it changed its newsfeed algorithm in a way that makes it trickier for businesses to get their content seen, says Jen Salamandick (Bachelor of Business Administration ’11), strategy director and partner at local digital agency Kick Point.
If they’re not already, the average person will soon see posts more relevant to them – and most business pages aren’t likely to make the cut. “You’ll see more content from friends, family and groups that you’re involved in and less content from small businesses and not-for-profits,” says Salamandick. “That content will be held to a much higher standard than it was before.”
If you’re one of the many people operating a business Facebook account, Salamandick has advice to help get your posts seen.
Create meaningful content
Give the people what they want, she says.
“If you’re posting stuff people don’t care about, then it’s your own fault [if they’re not engaging with it],” she says. “If you’re posting things that are engaging, you’re asking questions, you’re talking about things people want to talk about, you’ll get engagement.”
Know your audience
Don’t make assumptions about what your audience wants to see, Salamandick says. If you do, “then you’re already doing something wrong.”
Facebook Pages have a lot of analytics built in. With Facebook Audience Insights, you can explore audience demographics, location, preferred devices and more. It’s free information.
Measure your progress to inform future content decisions.
“Take the data that those people are giving and go from there,” Salamandick says. Check to see which of your Facebook posts have done well in the past, then post more in the same vein. Measure your progress to inform future content decisions.
Pay to play
Social networks are crowded, creating a lot of noise. You can get heard by paying for posts on Facebook (and other social platforms), and Salamandick says that’s a direction she typically pushes people. It has to be done correctly, by targeting your posts at specific audiences.
“You can spend a lot of money and not get anywhere if you’re broadly targeting,” she says. When boosting posts, clearly define who you’d like to have engage with your post.
“Video gets a way higher engagement rate than anything else,” she says. “But you have to be doing video right.”
Eighty-five per cent of Facebook videos are watched without sound, so caption them. Square video also tends to perform better. According to Wochit, one reason is the greater amount of space the video takes up on your screen. The presence is more commanding than conventional formats. They’re also cheaper. Buffer discovered that it costs 7.5% less to get someone to engage with a square video.
People don’t even have to directly interact with your video for it to make an impact.
Interestingly, people don’t even have to directly interact with your video for it to make an impact, Salamandick says. Facebook tracks when people stop scrolling to watch a video, even on mute. A user can watch, not click to like, comment or even turn on the volume, and Facebook considers your post meaningful content because someone paused to consume it.
That video is then more likely to turn up in other newsfeeds, and Facebook will continue to feed similar videos to that user. Salamandick says a great example of this kind of content are the videos by Buzzfeed’s Tasty.
This is an interesting user-driven tactic, says Salamandick. Instant Pot, for example, has a Facebook group for people to exchange recipes and comment on content. The page was started by Instant Pot, but the company is mostly hands off with it now. Customers carry the conversation according to posting guidelines. The page sees thousands of posts a day.
Groups are more likely to be seen in the newsfeed than Pages, due to personal interest, and the content is guaranteed to be relevant. When someone posts in the group, users are notified.
“Encourage people to help other people, so it’s not always coming from you. It’s cheaper that way, too. Your customers and clients are doing the work for you,” Salamandick says. And all the content is still associated with your brand, keeping it top of mind.
Stick with it
Salamandick says not to give up if your tactics aren’t working.
“There’s still value in Facebook.”
“There’s still value in Facebook,” she says. Consider it an ongoing experiment. You’ll need to adjust, assess and play around to see what will work best for your page and your audience. Once you hit the right formula, your engagement measures will show it.