Outside of my corporate job, I happen to have a pretty large business interest in the fashion world. In the past few weeks, more than one model or photographer has asked me or mentioned that their Facebook pages are dying and that ‘No One’ seems to ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ their posts anymore. I answered a few questions and explained a few things on how to circumvent this, but then I noticed that there have been a lot of articles in the press recently with headlines like ‘Organic Reach is Dead‘ from Socialmouths and ‘Facebook Organic Reach Dead‘ from Top Dog Social Media and more out there… Well, what can I say, these ‘pundits’ cannot be farther from the truth. Take a look at the stats on the right. These are from a post on one of my Facebook Pages for a ‘non-promoted’ post. Every stat you see here is completely organic reach achieved through smart Facebook posting.
Let me make a categorical statement here:
Facebook pages and posts organic reach is alive and well and works very well for those who are producing truly interesting and engaging content.
Let’s start with some basic facts of life… Facebook is a business, and like every business it needs to make money to survive and grow. Without advertising, there will be no revenue, and, in turn, there will be no money to pay the brilliant engineers who bring this incredible piece of software artistry to you guys everyday, 24×7, around the world. So STOP CRIBBING ABOUT THE ADs!
That said, Facebook will NOT have a platform to show ads on if people do not SPEND TIME on the platform. So, the most important thing for them (as I see it) would be to ensure that there is really interesting content out there that is being Liked, Shared and Commented upon, on a daily basis.
What, When, and Who?Disclaimer: I am not a Facebook Employee and nor has a Facebook employee or officer vetted/endorsed what I wrote below. I am just an avid user of the platform with my own user, advertiser, and business owner perspectives and below are my best guesses on the hows and whys of the Facebook feed.
Facebook bases WHAT to show, WHEN to show it, and WHO to show it to based on an algorithm that used to be called the EdgeRank back in 2011. EdgeRank has evolved and changed as Facebook has gotten smarter about how to make money while maximizing ‘True Value’ content in the feed. Here are some of the things that determine whether your post will get a huge organic reach or if it will be shown to a tiny fraction of your Fans.
Facebook calculates affinity score by looking at the actions that users take on your posts:
- Strength of the action
From left to right in order of strength (lower to higher)
Picture View < Link Click < Post Like < Comment < Post Share
Meaning your post gets the maximum points for every time it’s shared, a little less points but substantial value for every comment on it, a little less for a ‘Like’ on the post and so on.
- User proximity
From left to right in order value (lower to higher)
Friend < Fan < Friend of Fan < Friend of Friend of Fan ….The farther the user is from you, that person’s action on your page’s post has higher the impact as the post is termed as globally engaging.
- Frequency of action
As soon as you post your update(picture/link), the clock starts ticking. The frequency and number of post likes, comments, and shares on the post will determine 2 things:
1) If people will see the post more than once on their feed
2) If ‘Story Bumping’ will be activated on your post
Story bumping is a new feature recently (2013) activated on the Facebook feed.With story bumping, Facebook said that “popular page posts would have a higher chance of being shown even if they are a few hours old” by going to the top of the news feed if the stories were still receiving a lot of Likes and comments.
- Strength of the action
Every action that a user takes creates an edge, and each of those edges, except for clicks, create a potential story. Each category of edges has a different default weight.
- For example, a ‘SHARE’ creates a brand new story which is now getting published to potentially a brand new audience and thus has a very heavy edge weight.
- On the other hand, a ‘LIKE’ also creates a story but it’s a related story in the sense that it just notifies ‘Friends’ of a person that their friend has Liked a post (when they see the post). Thus, Like has a much lower edge weight.
- ‘COMMENTS’ on posts create a third type of story which is a notification to everyone who has Liked or Commented on the post previously, appearing in notifications prompting the user to go read the new comment. It’s almost as if you ‘Subscribe’ to a post by Liking or Commenting on it.
Time decay with ‘Story Bumping’
As a story gets older, it loses points because it’s “old news.” EdgeRank is a running score which gets lower as a story gets older. The probability of your seeing a post gets lower and lower as time passes after the post. However, the new feature of ‘Story Bumping’ circumvents Time Decay by showing posts as old as a few days to people who have previously had a high ‘Frequency of Action’ on a particular users or Page’s posts. So if you always Like everything that Playboy posts, you would see their posts appear on your stream even if you were gone from Facebook for a few days. In fact, you would see a bunch of their posts together.
Personally, I consider ‘Story Bumping’ as the most innovative new feature of the Facebook feed. That is because it allows relevant content that is of interest to me to appear on my feed even if I am not ‘CONTINUOUSLY’ attached to Facebook. When I log in to Facebook at the end of the day, I now see the posts that are most relevant to me presented in my stream even if they are hours and days old. In fact, I could see the same story bumped to me multiple times if Facebook thinks I have a high probability of taking an ‘Action’ on it.
Overall, the whole algorithm is tuned towards creating more Stories and Actions which generate more Engagement and higher levels of Audience Retention. It’s not rocket science, but it’s pretty fucking brilliant!
The 1,2,3 of Facebook Feed Success
Here is the ‘Facebook for Dummies’ version of how you can make your Facebook Page/Post ‘POP’ular
1) Watch the Clock
Go to your Facebook Page insights and click on the ‘POSTS’ Tab. There is a graph there that will tell you the average number of people on your page at different times of the day. Plan your posts around the peaks of the chart. By posting on the peaks, you can maximize the chances of more people viewing your posts.
But there is s flip side to this… If you are a global company or an online service that sells globally, your target curve for this chart should be as close as you can get to a FLAT LINE. So use this chart to also find out which areas of the world you are weak in (based on time) and try to focus some regionally targeted posts for those time zones to ‘FLATTEN’ the curve.
2) Learn from your posts (be analytical)
Your business is unique and so is your audience. What makes your audience (Fans) connect to your brand, to LIKE and SHARE your posts is generally different for each business and industry. Don’t make your Facebook stream a news feed… People are not interested to ONLY hear about the great things your company/brand ALL THE TIME. You need to mix it up with posts that bring the latest and greatest in your field, even if some of that is coming from competing brands. You can share exciting news, images, and posts about TRENDING TOPICS that can be loosely tied to your line of business too.
Keep your stream fun and light so people will enjoy seeing what you are posting, and limit SELF PROMOTION to less than 30 percent of your posts, preferably.
3) Invest in your posts
The most successful posts on Facebook are pictures and videos. Thinking that you can just grab random images from the internet or post banners from your promotional items will elicit a favorable response from your audience is plain foolish in today’s social media. Images that represent your brand’s philosophy, custom infographics, custom photo shoots, 1 to 1.5 minutes long produced videos posted on a regular interval will associate your brand with QUALITY content in your audience’s minds. Spending a week to script and produce a video that is funny or moving and eschews your brand philosophy can go a long way to give your Facebook page a huge AFFINITY BUMP. This will drive new Fans, encourage more shares, and get your post(s) picked up for STORY BUMPING. If you can achieve ‘story bumping’ status for your Facebook Page posts and then continue to post quality content that 10 percent of your fans always interact with… You are golden.
But remember, Facebook is continuously scoring your posts and engagement, so there is no time to rest on your laurels… Just like the stock market, you cannot achieve success by standing still or maintaining your position. You are either GOING UP or you are GOING DOWN. Even if you see your Fans number holding steady, your ENGAGEMENT is dropping every day you don’t have successful posts on your stream. One good way to get new Fans for your page is to use the ‘Promoted Posts’ feature (I know this post is about organic reach… but I need to state the facts). If you are smart about promoting the right posts and get the right kind of people to follow your page, you will get a lot more engagement through ORGANIC REACH. Use Facebook ads and promoted posts to reach those people who are not ALREADY YOUR FANS. Use it to collect new interested people into your circle and then use some of the ideas I shared here to get the ORGANIC reach you need to have a dedicated fan base.
It’s not rocket science but its pretty fucking brilliant!
Quick example: check out the meteoric rise of Facebook popularity of Actuate Corporation on Facebook. They went from 7,500 fans in Oct 2013 to nearly 64,000 Likes in Oct 2014 (currently the most popular BI & Analytics company on Facebook).