Understanding Facebook's ranking algorithm

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What the Algorithm?!

Facebook uses an algorithm to determine which posts are shown to which people, its aim is to create the most interesting stream of content possible, personalised for each of its 2 billion users. There’s no guarantee that all of your followers will see all of your posts, in fact, an average post from a business or brand is only seen by 16% of their followers.

So how do you get your content to show up in your followers’ news feeds? It helps to have a basic understanding of Facebook’s algorithm to give you the best chance of being seen by your followers.

When a user visits Facebook, there are thousands of potential posts that might be displayed in their news feed. The sophisticated Facebook algorithm takes these posts and arranges them according to how likely the user would be to interact with the content. This algorithm fundamentally controls who sees what from your business page, and there are several ways you can ensure that you are getting the best exposure for your posts and brand.

The Facebook algorithm is constantly evolving in order to provide a better experience for users. But few changes to the algorithm have sparked as much interest and conversation as the ‘meaningful interactions’ update in which Facebook said it would be prioritising posts that create meaningful conversations, especially those from family and friends.

The reaction to this update was one of concern from brands and businesses wondering whether or not their organic reach would be compromised, causing them to reach an even smaller percentage of their audience on Facebook.

Active and Passive Interactions

When considering the types of content that Facebook will favour in the news feed, it’s important to distinguish between “active” and “passive” interactions.

Active interactions such as sharing, commenting and reacting are much more highly valued by the algorithm than viewing, clicking or hovering. One reason why Facebook will be prioritising posts from family and friends over public content from pages is that they believe a person-to-person connection is more valuable than a person-to-page connection. In other words, content from friends and family tends to spark more “active” engagement from users.

1. Commenting

At the very top of the new Facebook algorithm in 2018 are genuine comments driven by quality content not click bait. You should focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories that do not use engagement bait tactics.

2. Sharing

Directly behind commenting in the new Facebook algorithm for 2018 is sharing. This is both people sharing links or content within Messenger or engagement with a post shared by a friend. In other words, Facebook is placing a great deal of emphasis on posts that are shared publicly as well as privately. The other key thing to notice here is that it’s no longer enough just to have someone share your post. Facebook will now favour shared posts that spark conversations among friends.

3. Reacting

The third signal that Facebook will factor into their algorithm is reactions. While not as strong as comments or shares, reactions remain a form of “active engagement” that will help brands posts reach more people within the news feed. While not every post is shared or commented on, using a reaction (i.e. the emoticons that allow you to show your feelings.)

Actions for Your Business to Get Rank

1. Focus on compelling content that connects people

Focusing on content that connects people through meaningful interactions may look and feel similar to your current Facebook marketing strategy, but it’s a fundamental shift in how you approach content - instead of creating content, for your brand, that people interact with, we need to start creating content, for the people, that will spark enough emotion to generate a comment or share.

Consider these questions when creating content for your strategy:

  • What are your customer’s challenges?
  • What are your customer’s motivations?
  • What do your customer’s love to interact with?
  • What do your customer’s care about?

2. Post content that naturally creates meaningful interactions

There are some types of content that naturally spark more meaningful interactions among users. Video is one of those and it can have a powerful impact on your Facebook success. Video and livestream are known to be super highly ranked by the Facebook algorithm, so create more video as your key playbook for getting seen.

Creating compelling content

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The most important thing to do when you’re building up your presence on Facebook is to focus on creating compelling content and building a connection with your followers.

If you create posts that your followers love, they’ll share them and it will increase the connection they feel to your business and brand. If you're new to the world of Facebook and aren't sure what to write, look at your favourite brands and other businesses that are in your sector. See how they are engaging, who the main influencers are and what posts are getting the most attention. What works for others is likely to work for you too.

Don't forget that sharing the posts of others not only builds your community, it also provides you with content on your page. This is a good way to get some additional content when you are learning what your audience responds to, and will expose you to a wider audience.

There are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re creating content that resonates well on Facebook.

Text, link, image or video

There are a number of different kinds of posts that you create on Facebook. You can create a post that is just text, or you can include an image, video or link to your post. When your followers see your posts, they’re likely to appear in the news feed alongside posts from friends, families and other brands. Because of this, it’s very easy for text-only posts to get lost in the stream.

To try and ensure that you have the best possible visibility for your content, you should aim to include a link, image or video with all of your Facebook posts. This will ensure that the post is more likely to capture a readers attention in their news feed and will also be more likely to receive likes, comments and shares. Of all of the different styles of posts, video posts are the most successful. For that reason, it’s a great idea to prioritise great video content wherever you can. Use short video services like Instagram to make quick and compelling clips that are highly shareable.

Use high resolution images

Your followers will view your social media content on a variety of different devices. Some will view it on mobile phones, some will view it on laptop computers and some will view it on the latest and greatest high-resolution desktop displays. To make sure your content looks great no matter how it’s viewed, it’s important to make sure that you consistently use high-resolution images. If you use a digital camera or smart phone to take your photos, then you should be in good shape, but be wary of resizing images before uploading them. If you upload the highest resolution version you have, Facebook will do the necessary work behind the scenes to make sure that the image loads quickly on people’s devices. Of course make sure you own the images you use, and if people, especially children are in the images, that you have their permission to post.

Keep your text short and snappy

While it’s possible to write long posts on Facebook, as a general rule the most successful posts are those with less text. In fact, even though Twitter is hailed as the king of brevity, with a character limit of 280 characters per tweet, on Facebook, posts that are 250 characters or less are more likely to be liked, commented on and shared than those that are longer. Where possible, you should aim to keep your text short and snappy, so that people can read it quickly when they’re on the go.

Be conversational

Of all the social networks that people use, Facebook is the one people are most likely to use to keep in touch with friends and family. Because of this, people come to Facebook expecting a pleasant, conversational feel to the posts in their news feed. If you want your content to be compelling, try to be conversational. You don’t need to hide the people in your business behind a corporate voice; on Facebook, it’s important for the human being behind the keyboard to shine through.

Measuring your success

As you work to build your audience and increase engagement on your Facebook page, you’ll need to be able to measure the relative success of your approach and learn from your successes and failures. Fortunately, Facebook pages include a powerful analytics toolkit, called Facebook Insights, which can help you to figure out whether your Facebook strategy is working for your business.

You can find the Insights panel by clicking the Insights button at the top of your business page (near the search bar). The Insights tool will give you detailed information on how many people like your page, how many new people have liked your page recently, how various posts are performing in terms of reach and engagement and demographic information (such as statistics representing the people who like your Facebook page).

Using the Insights tool regularly can help you to get a clear-eyed view of whether your Facebook strategy is working as planned. However, it’s important not to use the Insights tool in isolation. Rather than passively checking in on the Insights data every once in a while, you should instead focus on setting goals for yourself and using the Insights data to measure your success. Analytics of all kinds are far more powerful when you correlate them to planned actions that are taking place in the real world. If you run a promotion, try a new technique or change your posting schedule, you can use Insights to determine whether your actions had the desired effect. By paying close attention to how your community responds to your efforts, you’ll be on track to consistently improve your use of Facebook and the return for your business.

Learn more about Facebook Insights.