Facebook Algorithm: How it Works & 18 Tips to Beat It
“My content doesn’t get the same reach on Facebook that it used to!”
“Why does Facebook constantly change their algorithm? I can never keep up.”
“We are the ones giving them money. Why are they always making it harder on us to get our content to our audience?”
If you have ever asked any of the above questions, you’re not alone.
For years, marketers and advertisers have been noticing changes to Facebook’s algorithm. And each time it seemed to hurt their organic reach and ad performance with Facebook marketing.
Although there are tons of factors at play, and the Facebook algorithm isn’t the only thing affecting the reach of your content, it is one of the most important.
That is why it is critical that us marketers stay up to date on all the changes and updates as Facebook roles them out.
We need to understand how it works so that we can change the way we update our content posting so that we can attract more eyeballs.
Because typically, more ????means more ????
That’s why I’ve put together 18 things to consider to not only increase your reach, but to also lower your cost per acquisition.
Tip #18 might be a game changer you’ve never heard of before.
What is the Facebook Algorithm?
The Facebook Algorithm is essentially the machine learning that goes into what a user sees on their newsfeed when they log into the platform.
Understanding how it works is the mystery and where it gets tricky.
Before I get into that, let’s go over a brief history of the algorithm’s biggest changes the last several years so we can understand more what Facebook deems important:
2016 is when Facebook started shaping the modern algorithm. At this time, they made a push to begin prioritizing posts from friends and family over posts from brands, entertaining content, and measuring a posts value based on the time spent with it, including an emphasis on live video. This is where they started making the push for engagement value and close friends above all else, moving to the core of why Facebook was originally created, which was to connect users all over the world.
2017 can be considered “the era of video.” This is when a push was made to focus on quality videos and completion rates of videos. Quality videos that people were actually watching, along with Facebook live videos that had high engagement is what started taking over in 2017. 2017 is also when they introduced new reactions outside of the standard “likes”, such as the heart and angry face emoji. This is especially important because the algorithm started giving more weight to emoji reactions than with a regular like.
2018 continued the 2016 push for quality of content and “bringing us closer together.” What was meant by Mark Zuckerberg here is that the algorithm will begin predicting who you interact with more frequently and prioritize their posts in the feed. They wanted to improve quality over quantity
This was a big concern for a lot of new brands because that meant it was harder to build engagement and an audience. So this began changing the way brands wrote and published their content because high-quality engagement was more important than ever before
2019 Facebook made a push to make feeds more personal by introducing surveys. The goal here was outside of friends and family to find out even more information about brands you like and dislike and what type of content you prefer. That way the algorithm could tailor it’s feed to your preferences.
2019 also became a year of controversy. A study in May of 2019 found that controversial and “fringe” content was also being prioritized. Posts that sparked controversy and got people to react was spreading more rapidly. During this time, they found that all news sites and publishers got big boosts in engagement, with Fox News dominating all of them.
Lastly, Facebook continued their video push in 2019. They announced they will continue to push not only video, but quality videos. This focused on video length, video duration, video loyalty (returning viewers), and original videos.
The Algorithm in 2020
2020 has been the year that Facebook is trying to simplify and help with the understanding of how the new algorithm works.
While all the ins and outs are fairly complicated, it can be simplified down to 4 main factors
Inventory is all of the available content that lives on Facebook that is could potentially live on a user’s feed.
Signals are the indicators to Facebook that help them prioritize what should be showed to each individual user. While a lot of signals go into the ranking, what Facebook values the most are:
- Who: Which friends, family members, or organizations that you interact with the most.
- Type of Content: These are the types of content users prefer, whether that’s videos, photos, articles, links, etc.
- Interactions With Post: This is one of the most important. This is the number of likes, reactions, comments, and shares.
Prediction utilizes past behavior and what Facebook knows about you and your habits to reasonably predict what content you are more likely to engage with and from him.
Score is Facebook’s quality ranking for every piece of content out there for the users. The higher the relevance, the higher the score, and therefore more likely to show up on the Facebook newsfeed.
With all of this in mind, knowing how to beat the algorithm and build better engagement with your audience might sound like a tall task, but there are strategies you can easily implement to increase your brands’ effectiveness in the feed.
We’ve compiled a list of 18 strategies and tips to beat it ??
18 Strategies to Beat the Facebook Algorithm
- Start Conversations
The goal here is to start conversations that get people talking on your posts and ads. We know that signals are key, so getting more signals to your post will help improve your ranking overtime. Social engagement is key to helping your organic posts rank higher and your ads to perform better.
The easiest way to do this is to be genuine. A lot of people think building controversy is the way to go. Although that can be effective, that shouldn’t be the exclusive strategy.
Other great ways are to be funny, entertaining, to talk about what’s popular and “in”, to share interesting and inspiring topics, and by asking questions. This doesn’t mean yes or no questions. Open-ended questions get the ball rolling. Mix that in with some tasteful controversy from time to time and you will have a winning formula!
Milk Makeup did a great job starting a conversation by asking their audience what their weekend plans were.
- Audience First
Facebook is one of the best social network platforms out there due to its targeting. Not just for paid ads, but organic posts as well. Facebook has an option to set preferences for who can see it per post. The goal here is to focus on engagement, which in turn would increase engagement.
However, this doesn’t just mean targeting. In any advertisement or organic post, keep your target audience in mind while crafting the content. Whether that’s the imagery, the message, the headlines, keep the audience in mind first, then the rest will fall into place.
Another big “audience first” push lately has been with local content. As Facebook’s main goal is to build meaningful interactions, local content is starting to trend higher than a lot of national content. This also helps brands that are more local and regional.
Posting content that focuses on specific cities or regions, especially where a brand has a strong presence, is recommended.
Local Anaheim, CA restaurant Cortina’s did a great job of this with partnering with the Anaheim Economic Development Team. Shortly after the coronavirus stay at home orders were initiated, the two companies collaborated to focus on local and small businesses for delivery and takeout since they were still open.
This collaboration on local to Anaheim businesses drove a lot of engagement!
- Facebook Page Insights
In order to beat the algorithm, you need to know how your content performs and your need to know who your audience is. You need to understand what works and also what does not work. The easiest way to do this is with Facebook Page Insights.
This tool gives you insight into your top posts and bottom posts. You can track engagement over time, page views over time, audience demographics, and what time of day gets the best engagement. You want to understand your posts and have a question about it? There’s a good chance Insights has that answer!
- Post at the Right Time
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “timing is everything.” That is just as true with your content pushes. If your audience is not online, you should not be posting.
Recency is another “signal” that helps decide which post to show. So the newer, the better.
You need to post during peak engagement hours. Every brand is different because each brand has a unique audience. If you don’t know what time of day your audience is most active, try posting at different times of the day and track performance over time with Facebook Page Insights (tactic #3). Over time you will start to see some trends and will know when the peak engagement hours are for your brand.
Once you know when your audience is online, plan your content calendar around that so that you are publishing at the right moment. The timing is just as important as the content itself.
- Avoid “Down Rank” Content
Facebook has various categories of content that they have flagged to “downrank” not just that post, but your page as well. To avoid this, just avoid the following types of content:
- Grey Area Content: This content isn’t exactly prohibited, but it lives in that borderline grey area. If you have to question if you should or shouldn’t post something, you probably shouldn’t post.
- “fake news”
- Sensational health claims and misleading health information (ex. “Guaranteed to lose weight!”)
- Manipulated videos also know as “deepfake” videos
Just follow this rule of thumb: “if you have to ask, just pass!”
- Video Focused
As we covered in 2019, Facebook has continued to make video a top priority. Also, Facebook themselves has outright admitted and said that video drives better engagement.
So video needs to be baked into your strategy someway and somehow.
Now video doesn’t have to be expensive. Not everyone has a film and product crew handy, so there are a lot of cheap, inexpensive, and sometimes FREE ways of producing high-quality videos for your content posts.
- Promo.com: At KlientBoost, we are big fans of promo.com. Their tool has a flat monthly price and countless video templates that make producing and editing high-quality videos a breeze at a fraction of the cost of a production-quality video.
- User-Generated-Content: More commonly known as UGCs, and often referred to as influencer marketing, UGCs help leverage a cheap and sometimes free way to get video content usable for your brand. This could be a customer (often influencers) who upload a video reviewing the product, unboxing of the product, a podcast, product in motion (lifestyle), and much more. It’s simply your customer and your product together, but uploaded by the user. They are cheap and powerful due to their native and organic feel.
- Facebook Live: Facebook live is a free and a great way to engage with your brand. It allows your audience to have direct access to you. It’s also been found that Facebook Live drives far superior engagement.
Makeup giant Sephora has done a great job staying engaged with its audience by frequently posting Facebook Live’s of various makeup tutorials which drive very strong engagement.
- Consistency, Consistently
Brands everywhere think that they need to post every day, or multiple times a week to stay relevant. While that may be the case for some, that is not the case for all brands.
The truth is, you need to post at whatever cadence works best for your brand.
Facebook has also said that you do need to post “often” in order to stay relevant and impactful with your audience.
So the key here, utilize Facebook Page Insights, find the times that your audience is most active and plan around that.
It could be multiple times per day, it could be once a day, or it could be twice a week at a specific time. But regardless, know where that is and keep a consistent pace of posting to stay relevant for your audience.
- Relevant Facebook Groups
Although there are constant changes to the Facebook platform, Facebook does do a good job keeping you up to date with a lot of these changes.
At Facebook’s 2019 F8 Conference, they announced there will be a big push to make Groups a cornerstone of Facebook. They have stayed true to their word by continued advertising of Facebook groups, including this popular TV commercial on a basset hound FB group.
The most important announcement from the F8 Conference was when Facebook said people “may see more content from Groups in their newsfeed.”
So what does that mean for your brand?
We recommend you join relevant Facebook Groups to your brand and audience and just get conversations started. Don’t be “salesy” as that is frowned upon, but conversations are key to brand introductions.
Also, if you are extra adventurous, consider starting your own Facebook group. It doesn’t have to be specific to your brand as a whole. But it could center around brand themes, where the goal is to get conversations started, discuss, educate, solve problems, but most importantly, entertain your audience! (starting to notice a conversational theme yet? ??)
- Ask For Follows
Your brand has fans, even if you’re new. You have friends, family, customers, or just general fans and supports. If they aren’t already following you, they should be!
So why not ask for it?
The key here is to avoid “engagement bait”.
Basically, while posting on Facebook, they don’t want you to explicitly ask for a follow, like, comment, or share. They want that to happen naturally.
To avoid this, ask for follows outside of Facebook, especially on high profile content. Do you have a blog post that gets a lot of traffic? Ask for a follow at the end. What about a YouTube video that’s trending? Ask for a follow at the end.
- Have Your Audience Prioritize You
Facebook has done a lot of work on helping their audience control what they see on their feed. From surveys to brand lift studies, they want to put the most relevant content at a users fingertips.
To make that even more apparent, Facebook rolled out a “see first” feature. This feature follows its namesake and when selected, makes that brand’s content appear first on the news feed.
Now while you can’t outright create a post to tell your audience to select “see first” to us, you can do it in a tasteful way “offline” from Facebook.
On external sites (company blog) or during phone calls, onboarding, or wherever you ask for followers to your page, tell them they can also set the “see first” preference if inclined.
The best way to outsmart the algorithm is to get your audience to tell the algorithm that they want YOU!
Of course, this will work best if you are producing high-quality content that your audience loves. If you aren’t driving a meaningful impact, why would they choose your first?
- Ask Open-Ended Questions
As I just mentioned in the last point, Facebook hates engagement baiting. Although you can’t explicitly ask for a comment saying “comment below!”, you can ask for comments without asking for a comment by asking an open-ended question.
An easy way to do this is to poll your audience and let them lead the discussion.
Loot Crate did a great job with this to spark a conversation about Marvel characters which led to over 2,700 reactions, almost 200 comments, and almost 500 shares!
- Get Brand Advocates Involved
A great way to build up your engagement on Facebook posts is to get your brand advocates involved, especially early on when building a brand.
A brand advocate isn’t necessarily a customer. It could be anybody! Friends, family, employees, customers, or just general fans and supporters!
This is huge, especially with Facebook prioritizing content from friends and family. If you want to expand your reach, get your advocates involved. Reach will follow.
- Platform First
This tactic is quite simple.
If you want to grow your audience on Facebook, expand your reach, and build engagement, the easiest way to do that is to keep them on Facebook!
A lot of people try to link back to their site and get people to take a specific action.
That is a great strategy for advertising, but not necessarily but your organic posting, although there is a time and place for that.
Instead of linking externally, build engagement by posting videos, photos, and Facebook Live’s. Facebook has said they prefer their own content native to the platform.
So although you may want users to buy a product now, to avoid Facebook making your posts disappear in the feed, keep your audience on Facebook. The more engaged your audience is, eventually they will come running to your site ??
- Make Each Post Unique
This strategy is one of my favorites because it’s also applicable to advertising on Facebook.
In short, it’s really hard to continually come up with new content (or ad) ideas. It’s very common for people to run out of ideas for content to promote.
A common strategy built out of this is repurposing content.
It’s okay to post a previous post that drove great engagement.
But the key is to make it different each time.
Although the “content” of the post itself is the same, test variations each time you repurpose. That could be new imagery, new thumbnails on video content, a new headline, or new body text altogether.
Tales of the Cocktail did a great job repurposing the same piece of content years later. By switching up the text, they were able to drive 2x the reactions and 10x the comments!
- Facebook Official
While I am not talking about becoming boyfriend and girlfriend… it’s time to get Facebook official. What I mean by that is to get verified!
This infamous blue, sometimes gray badge is your right of passage into being considered legit. This not only proves yourself to Facebook, but to your users that you have a strong brand presence.
What this does is proves you are who you say you are, but it shows overall authenticity and ultimately helps your rank higher while people are searching.
Just about everyone these days has heard of hashtags (#overit). But hashtags, if done properly, are critical for marketing success, especially on Facebook. By implementing hashtags, you will be able to reach people you previously were unable to while they are searching for similar topics.
A few quick hashtag tips:
- Relevant: keep them relevant to the post and relevant to your brand. Don’t let people find you for completely irrelevant topics
- Don’t overuse: You don’t need to use them in every post and you also don’t need to use 127 per post.
- Use the same hashtags as Instagram and Twitter
- Create your own hashtags if applicable to your business
This may sound self-explanatory but you would be surprised at how many businesses don’t reply to their audiences.
If someone comments on one of your posts, reply back! Be available. Let them know that they are heard.
In addition to the user feeling heard, it also creatives an identity that you are responsible and available, which are great qualities to represent.
The hardest part about organic posting is that it is tough to scale. Facebook Ads are one of the easiest ways to scale your business at a relatively low cost.
We’ve already talked about the targeting capabilities of Facebook and how creative makes a big impact organically. These same tools are available to you in the Ads Manager and are just as important to advertising.
The best brands with social marketing supplement organic with paid, to expand overall reach and grow their business.
Where do we go from here?
Facebook still remains as one of the easiest and most convenient sources of reaching your audience.
Establishing a presence and understanding who they are and how and when to reach them is critical for continued success and growth.
Although Facebook keeps you on your toes with constant algorithm changes, they do make those updates readily available.
So it’s important to continually adapt with the times and stay up to the date with all of the algorithm updates and bake those into your marketing strategies so you always know how to beat it.
In short, drive meaningful conversations, be available to your audience, and provide great interactive content.
And if you do… your audience is only a click away!
What was your favorite tip? Let me know if there is anything you are excited to test! ??