Good morning to everyone except for Karen, the social media marketing client (and ‘can I speak to your manager?’ kind of gal) who just asked you: “Wow, why do our organic Facebook numbers look so bad?” Well, Karen, the short answer is the Facebook algorithm – or, in simple terms, the process that controls the ordering and presentation of posts so users see what’s most relevant to them. Read on and we’ll explain how the Facebook algorithm works in 2021, and ways to outsmart it to make it work for you.
First, what is an algorithm?
In the social media world, an algorithm is a machine-learning apparatus that ranks all content on four main ranking signals in 2021 – recency, popularity, content type and relationship. In its most basic definition, it’s a means to decide the content that a user sees when they log into the platform. So, instead of posts appearing in chronological order in a user’s newsfeed, the algorithm assesses and scores posts before ordering them based on interest. This happens every time one of the 2.7 billion Facebook users refreshes their feed. The reality? Each time there’s a change to Facebook’s methodology and a sweeping change occurs, us marketers tend to panic. But there are ways to survive the new algorithm by making some changes to your content strategy in order to bolster your organic reach.
How to beat Facebook’s algorithm and increase organic reach
Facebook’s ongoing algorithm changes all point to how it forces brands to roll with the punches and adapt. Case in point: our client, Evaton Mall, which was tragically hit and completely destroyed by the unrest and looting in South Africa in July 2021. During the big cleanup and rebuilding of the mall, we paused all Facebook Ads and only posted the odd update on progress for the local community. Whereas this client’s boosted posts usually only reach up 25 000 people, these organic posts far outperformed them. The top-performing post reached an incredible 211 786 people with 1 841 reactions, 842 likes, 305 comments and 1 172 shares, while the second best-performing post reached 101 648 people with 5 091 reactions, 1 231 likes, 1 039 comments and 333 shares. How did we make that happen, though?
Let’s take a look at how brands can work with the algorithm to optimise their organic reach. These are our top 4 tips for adapting to (and outsmarting) the Facebook algorithm:
- Reply to your audience: Our top tip is to start a conversation. Facebook puts a significant emphasis on more comments and engagements, and nothing gets that going faster than replying to your audience. We received hundreds of comments on both of the abovementioned posts and made sure that we replied to every single one to bump up our reply game. It’s very important to prioritise building connections with each person in your audience, especially in the case of a community mall – make them feel heard, make them smile or inspire them to screenshot your reply and send it to their group chat with a single-tear smile emoji. Whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a whole team of community managers in place, the Facebook Business Suite app (yes, it’s free!) makes managing these conversations at scale a lot easier.
- Shoot for ‘love’ and ‘wow’ more than likes: Not long ago, Facebook rolled out ‘Reactions’ –which allows users to select from six emotions, namely ‘love’, ‘care’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ – and it appears that ‘love’ and ‘wow’ have more weight than just regular old likes. So, this is your chance to create content that targets emotional reactions. If you’re not sure what’s going to resonate with your audience, looking at your Facebook Insights is a great place to start.
- Timing is everything: You’ve heard this one a thousand times, but we have to stress it again because Facebook keeps stressing it. Post when your audience is online, because the newest posts go to the top of the newsfeed. You can use your Facebook Insights to figure out when your audience is most active. What we found is that posting too early or too late did little for our engagement when the audience we were trying to reach was a middle of the day type crowd.
- Become a favourite: Did you know? As part of Facebook’s push to let people have more control over what they see, each user can add 30 business pages as their ‘favourites’. Those 30 lucky pages get an automatic free pass from the algorithm, so you want to be among them! Let your followers know that they can prioritise your content in their newsfeeds, if they want to, by clicking the three dots above the feed of your page, ‘follow settings’ and then ‘favourites’.
Like it or not, the Facebook algorithm isn’t static, and it requires brands to rethink their content strategies regularly. At the end of the day, these sorts of changes keeps us on our toes – they’re the nature of social media marketing as a whole. How do you feel about the new Facebook algorithm?