Photo: Jordan Whitfield, via Unsplash
What is Facebook Zero? Back in January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a major change to the platform, a shift in focus from “helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
Any time a marketer catches wind of updates to an algorithm, we cringe and hold our breath. They’re not all a big deal—these tweaks actually occur pretty frequently as each platform strives to create a better user experience. But this one is expected to have widespread repercussions for businesses and marketers, and here’s why:
As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
Uh oh. You mean the decline in organic reach we’ve seen over the last year and change is only going to get WORSE? What are you trying to DO to us, Zuckerberg?!
Oh, right. Make people enjoy using Facebook again. Okay, that’s fair. Obviously that makes things a little more difficult for us, but all is not lost! Let’s take a look at a few simple, actionable strategies that will keep your business showing up in the news feed.
You may wonder what could have driven Facebook to make such a drastic about-face in their strategy, and the unofficial consensus is that it’s most likely a response to the proliferation of fake news on their platform in recent years.
By opening the feed up to brands and news outlets, they essentially turned Facebook from a place where you keep up with friends and family to a place where you go to find out what’s happening in the world. And then, usually, argue about it with your friends and family.
Placing the emphasis back on personal relationships may mitigate some of the damage incurred by this little foray into journalism. Given that a Google search of “fake news on Facebook” returns over 6 million hits—plus the recent Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal—this was probably a good move on their part.
So how can a business stay visible on the new Facebook? This is one of those times when there’s an infuriatingly simple answer, but it’s more easily said than done. They want more meaningful interaction between people? Then we give them content people want to engage with.
Create Meaningful Content
We’ve been moving in this direction for a while now, but there’s no way around it anymore. Unless you want to put money behind everything you post on Facebook, you’re going to have to put in the effort to create content your audience will like, comment on, and share.
According to their announcement, “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
The days of Facebook as free advertising space are gone. I mean, you can keep doing it, but all you’re likely to get in return is the lonely sound of crickets. Pure promotional posts that advertise your business but do nothing to try and spark interest are just going to sit and gather dust.
Image via Buffer
Shares, comments, and reactions provide the greatest benefit in terms of post reach, so what you need is to open a dialogue with your audience. Escapology Montgomery does a great job with this by posting riddles and brainteasers, which is perfect for an escape game:
What other types of content are good at generating interest and engagement? These two posts from Partners Realty are good examples: a local news article relevant to their industry and a behind-the-scenes/welcome to a new member of their team.
Avoid Engagement Bait
A tactic well known to marketers, it seems most people doing the actual posting for Facebook Pages aren’t aware that this type of content has been actively penalized by the platform since last December.
People have told us that they dislike spammy posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. [...] This tactic, known as ‘engagement bait,’ seeks to take advantage of our News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach.
They now demote individual posts of this content type, as well as whole Pages for being serial offenders. That means if you regularly use the “like and share” approach, it’s not just those posts whose reach will suffer; it will be all of your posts. Their recommendation? To focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories.
Encourage Follows and “See First”
It often comes as a surprise to learn that just because people have liked your Page doesn’t mean they’re going to see what you post. Even before, Facebook prioritized their News Feed to show what it thought each person was likely to want to see, based on their previous activity.
Let’s say Aunt Janet liked your Page—because, well, she’s your aunt and she loves you. But she doesn’t actually care about digital marketing, so she pretty much just scrolls by any of your posts that do show up in her feed. Facebook knows. Facebook is programmed to recognize that Aunt Janet isn’t interested in this content, so it’s not going to show it to her anymore.
Aunt Janet probably doesn’t know this, or that her liking and commenting on your posts makes them show up on HER friends’ feeds, magically increasing your reach. So what can you do? Ask your followers to choose to see your content.
This feature has actually been available for years, but most of us either don’t know it’s there or don’t bother to use it. Choosing to see a Page first greatly increases the chances of your content appearing in a fan’s News Feed where they can see it. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll engage with every post of yours they see, but at least now they have the option. You can’t like or comment on a post that’s not there, after all.
So take a quick screenshot of your Facebook page (or you can use mine as an example) and post a message to your followers asking them to choose YOU.
Start a Facebook Group
A Facebook Page is fairly one-sided. Sure, people can comment, but you control the overall content and conversation. Facebook Groups, on the other hand, are like little communities where people can come together around a given topic, share their thoughts, ask questions, and just generally enjoy conversing with others who have the same interest. For instance, I belong to a Group for bloggers:
Think about what topics are relevant to your business. Let’s say you own a furniture store—what could you build a group around? Your members would likely be interested in home decor, how to best use their space, design inspiration, even cleaning tips.
Just remember, your job as the Group administrator is to facilitate conversation, not to advertise or sell yourself. This is a chance to establish your business as an authority in your field. For more information and tips on getting started, check out this Hootsuite article on Facebook Groups for business.
You had to know THAT was coming.
Video content on Facebook has more reach than any other type. Why? Because Facebook prioritizes it, especially Live video. Because it’s native to the platform, they have a vested interest in promoting it. Why encourage clicks to YouTube when they can emphasize a video that was uploaded directly to Facebook?
There are a million and one statistics that prove the value of video in your marketing content mix. Here are just a few:
Still one of my favorite examples of Live video is Riverview Auto Sales’ “hail of a sale” promotion from last April. By the time they were ready to go, the worst of the storm had already passed by—so they improvised by just throwing stuff at him. That’s dedication. And it got them over 19,000 views!
Facebook is still a valuable tool for businesses—it’s just going to require more strategy and effort, which is why we’ve added social media consulting to our services. We’ll sit down with you one-on-one, listen to your goals and needs, and recommend what we think will work best for you. Every business is different; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to digital marketing.
Get in touch via your preferred method, and we’ll set something up!
This post focused on maximizing organic Facebook reach. We’ll cover the ins and outs of paid Facebook advertising in a separate post coming soon!
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.