Breaking Down Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Update

Posted on: 02/21/17, 12:50pm

Facebook recently announced changes in its evaluation and ranking methods concerning branded posts and profiles appearing within users’ News Feeds. It was a very official, albeit humdrum, way of saying that the platform will show its users more content that A, they like on a regular basis, and B, their friends engage with on a regular basis.

If you know the following, and its importance to today’s Facebook landscape, feel free to stop reading and go on with your day.

  1. Know who your superfans are, all of them.
  2. Tailor content specifically for these superfans.
  3. Know when your superfans are online.
  4. Post when your superfans are online.

On your way out? Thanks for the clicks. Still here? Cool.

Algorithm has become a sigh-inducing word that leaves marketers shaking their heads and wondering why Facebook doesn’t want them to win. “Pay to play” and “maximize reach” litter any conversation about social media marketing and campaign development.

Does it have to be that way? Do brands really need to sink excess amounts of cash into Facebook campaigns to succeed? A couple lines in the latest update suggest that costs may not need to be so high.

Let’s break it down.

Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them. Today we’re announcing two updates to better rank posts in your feed:

Have you read Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans? If so, you’re ready for this update. If not, check it out. It’s long for a blog post (4,200 words), but it’s well worth your time. This core audience is going to be your key to success on Facebook, at least for the time being.

 

What are these “new signals”?

According to Facebook, your News Feed ranking is founded on “authentic communication” is monitored and evaluated according to “how close you are to the person or Page posting, as well as more universal signals like the overall engagement (likes, comments, shares) that a post has.”

The post goes on to say that Pages will be automatically categorized to determine authenticity. Pages will be divided up based on spamming content and if they’re trying to game the system (eg. asking for likes, comments, shares). This will be an ongoing model that continually evaluates the Authenticity of a Page based on a given post. Another signal will be negative actions (hides, unfollows, etc.). Based on these criterion, Facebook offered this glimpse of sunshine.

“If a post is likely to be authentic based on the new signals we look at, it might show up higher in your feed.”

In short, if you aren’t spamming or begging fans to like you, Facebook is more likely let you keep on keepin’ on. If you’re constantly posting updates with phrases like “What do you think of our…” or “Tag a friend who…”, well, you might be in for an uphill battle.

Then there’s one more bit. The title concerns authentic content and timely stories. What does “timely” mean? First, if an event is taking place, and a lot of people are talking about it, Facebook will likely show more stories around said event. The second part to being timely may involve your posting method. If Facebook is valuing ‘in the moment’ content, prescheduled content could be a signal to Facebook that a brand is simply posting, rather than contributing.

 

So how do we beat this?

Glad you asked! If Facebook wants authentic, in-the-moment content, give it authentic, in-the-moment content. How do I do that? Short answer: Activate your superfans.

Long answer:

  1. Know who and where your superfans are. Who are the people who like or comment on every single piece of content you post? A few names should come to mind immediately. Start keeping track of these people. They’re the ones who will make the difference for you under Facebook’s new rules.
  1. Know when your superfans are online. Why? On to No. 3.
  1. Post when your superfans are present. Wait, if my superfans like everything I post, why does it matter when I post it? Great question! The algorithm is built on momentum. If Facebook recognizes that people are liking a piece of content, the more likely Facebook is to push it out to other people.

Note: Don’t confuse reach with your goal. Reach is the destination, not the path. People have to like your content in order to receive higher reach. That’s why it’s key to know when your biggest fans are online. Knowing that they’ll immediately see your content guarantees early likes, which Facebook likes.

  1. Don’t set it and forget it. You can post the same content you were planning to schedule, just post it yourself instead of using Facebook’s scheduling option. Again, prescheduled content could go against the ‘timely’ condition, limiting your reach.
  1. Be present. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to respond to your fans. It’s no different than texting a friend because, well, that’s essentially what you’re doing. Don’t overthink it. 
  1. Market, Don’t Sell. DON’T SELL!? Obviously, you have sales goals, and odds are that social media is one the tools you use to meet those goals. It doesn’t have to stop being a tool, but it’s necessary to balance your sales pushes with your educative, community-based posts.

Note: Mentioned above, it’s momentum. If you consistently get high engagement, Facebook is going to naturally rank you higher in your fans’ feeds. However, if you’re consistently posting low engagement, Facebook may put you in a self-dug hole because no one enjoys seeing your content.

These aren’t end-all, be-alls that guarantee instant, exponential growth on Facebook. However, a consistent approach with these practices in mind will result in consistent, improved brand performance on the platform. Add strong targeting and watch your CPM and CPE plummet in paid campaigns.

Whew. That was a long one, huh? We’ll keep it a little shorter next time, probably.

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