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Leveraging the Facebook Algorithm

Retailers regularly ask me, “Why didn’t I see my store’s Facebook post show up on my timeline?” or “How do we get more people to see our posts?” I explain the mysterious, ever-changing Facebook algorithm and encourage them to either post within the current best practices for getting organic reach (which regularly changes), or I suggest trying a boosted post, Facebook ad or contest. But I’m going to change the way I approach the answer to this question from now on.

Last week I attended an AAF-KC Accelerations Breakfast with guest speaker, Ramsey Mohsen of Did You Know. He broke down the best ways to leverage the Facebook algorithm so businesses and brands don’t always have to turn to paid promotions and contests.

Some of you might be asking why Facebook even uses an algorithm to determine what content you will see. Put bluntly, when you have more than a billion people logging in to a platform, putting everything in the newsfeed is overwhelming. So Facebook uses a formula to determine what content will actually appear in your personal newsfeed.

Mohsen explained how incredible the Facebook algorithm (called EdgeRank) is in terms of determining what content you will see on your timeline. Facebook has created an individualized experience based on behavior and your connections on the platform. While it is ever-changing, the platform does stick to a basic formula for their algorithm:

Affinity x Weight x Time Decay

Affinity is the viewing behaviors of a Facebook user. Weight refers to how often a post is shared. Time decay is described as the length of time since the content was posted.

Mohsen highlighted three types of content that are more likely to get engagement and be shared by your fans:

  1. Consumption (be entertained)
  2. Proxy (start a discussion)
  3. Identity (hey that’s me!)

He also reminded the audience on the fact that you don’t have to create slick graphics or high production value videos to generate organic reach on Facebook. You just have to make sure that the content is engaging to your followers in one or more of the three ways described above.

Mohsen shared some tips that he and his colleagues at Did You Know have learned over time through data research about what type of content to share (and not share) on Facebook to increase engagement:

  • Links that take you outside of Facebook will get lower priority because Facebook doesn’t want people to leave the Facebook.
  • Photos and videos get more organic reach than text and links.

He also emphasized that Facebook builds specific fans’ connection for each content type. So you could share the same content in several different formats and it would reach different audiences based on your followers preferences for which types they’re more likely to engage with.

It’s also important to pay attention to the first hour after your content is posted, referred to as The Golden Hour, because the data that comes in during that time will likely determine the post’s lifespan.

Something else to keep in mind to help boost your post engagement over the long-term is to avoid the overuse of contests. Mohsen explained that Facebook contests can do a disservice to you because those people only liked your page to get the contest and won’t engage with any other content besides contests. So ultimately it won’t help your organic reach over time.

Finally, Mohsen ended with a Q&A. He shared some great Facebook tips and tricks during that time:

  • Facebook doesn’t penalize you for posting too frequently. Just make sure the content has value-add for customers so they don’t unfollow you because you’re constantly posting content that they don’t care about.
  • “Share partner” relationships can dramatically help grow your audience. Work with other businesses and organizations in your area to promote each other’s content and reach a wider audience.
  • Posting visual content (photo & video) in 1:1 square ratio covers more real estate on the newsfeed and increases the likelihood of it being seen.
  • The time of day you post is still important. Testing how well content does at different times is still best way to determine the best time of day to post on your page.
  • Including captioning on video is going to become more important because many people are viewing videos on mute. Facebook is making that even easier with automatically captioning videos you post directly on Facebook.

The Facebook algorithm sometimes seems mysterious and it has a history of evolving over time so it isn’t always easy to pin down. But if you pay attention to how your posts perform, you might just be able to leverage the Facebook algorithm to your benefit to build a great Facebook following for your brand.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie