Wednesday 4th of March 2020
Ranking signals are indicators of a user’s past behaviour, and the behaviour of everyone else on the platform, too. For instance: are you sharing particular posts with your friends? How often do you like posts from your employer? From your family? Do you have a tendency to watch live video? What’s your favourite Group? How many posts are, theoretically, available for you to look at, right now? How current and relevant are they?
The algorithm assesses a multitude of factors before it decides to display what you subsequently see in your feed.
Facebook broadly divides these factors into three major categories:
Last year, Facebook introduced a new tool to help build more transparency and user control into their Newsfeed. The “Why am I seeing this post?” button; which does exactly as it says: it helps people understand why the algorithm has shown them a particular post.
It also lets people tell the algorithm directly what’s important—or not so important, or downright irritating—to them. Meaning they can tell Facebook that they want fewer posts from a particular person, or to see more from a particular Page.
Facebook then subsequently also began directly asking users questions, via a series of surveys and features, to get more context on what content matters to them. These surveys asked users:
Who their close friends are;
Facebook used all these answers to update the algorithm with the patterns they observed. For instance, the Pages and Groups that people identified as being most meaningful were often the ones that they’d followed for a long time, the ones they engaged with often, and the ones that had a lot of posts and activity.
Some tips for working with the Facebook algorithm to maximise your audience
So with all of these changes happening, what can businesses and brands do to make sure their Facebook strategy is more closely aligned with Facebook's algorithm?
Start conversations that get people talking
According to Facebook, one of the algorithm’s key ranking signals is whether a user has previously engaged with your Page. And while no one is going to interact with your brand Page like they would with their friends’ pages, those likes and shares go a long way towards increasing your reach on future posts.
That means you have to put in the effort before the algorithm can start to recognise and reward your Page’s value.
The best way to earn more engagement is to be genuine, factual and helpful. Entertaining, interesting, or inspiring also help, although we appreciate it's not possible to be all of these things to all people, all of the time, and sometimes not even appropriate . It's about understanding the context, knowing your audience, and striking the right balance.
And always remember that you don’t need to create controversy to get engagement.
Post when your audience is most frequently active
'Recency' is another ranking signal that influences how the algorithm selects which posts to show people.
But when is your audience online? Well, according to recent data from research undertaken by Hootsuite:
This isn't a rigid rule, just one of several identified trends. It's often worth taking a look at your own Facebook Page Insights or scheduling software analytics (if you use it) to test and benchmark the best time for your own specific audience.
Don't post content that will get you down-ranked
We know you probably wouldn't do this anyway, but it bears repeating. Just for reference, here are a few categories of content that Facebook has explicitly stated will get your Page down-ranked immediately:
Links to sites that use scraped or stolen content with no added value
Borderline content (a.k.a offensive, even if not outright prohibited content)
Misinformation and fake news
Misleading health information or posts making dangerous or questionable claims
"Deepfake" videos or manipulated videos flagged as false by third-party fact-checkers. i.e be careful what you share!
Try incorporating video into your content output
In 2019, Facebook announced that the Newsfeed will progressively include more quality, original videos. The algorithm is increasing the influence of these three ranking factors:
If you’re a video creator on Facebook, keep those guidelines in mind so that you’re giving the algorithm the right kind of video it wants.
Tip: If you’re a bit handy at creating video, make sure you’re using Facebook Live Video if possible, which averages more engagement than regular video.
Post frequently and consistently
According to Facebook themselves, pages that post more often are more likely to be meaningful to their audience. Therefore, posting frequency is a ranking signal that can also affect how high up in people's Newsfeeds your posts appear.
Gradually establishing some sort of business and audience relevant Social Media content calendar can help contribute to you achieving the kind of consistent quality that will keep your audience engaged and attentive, help your Page synchronise with wider themes which matter to people, and enable your brand to become part of these wider conversations. It will also help you get more organised at the same time.
Use Facebook Groups that are meaningful to your audience
Groups continue to be a very active part of Facebook, according to user behaviour. As a result, Facebook said people may see more content from groups in their Newsfeed
Facebook itself is doing its part to promote the feature with a redesigned Groups tab that shows new activity. It is also helping people discover new communities with a 'Suggested Groups' sidebar (as well as in other high-visibility spots throughout the platform, like the Gaming tab and Marketplace).
With Facebook now also devoting greater screen space to Groups, and the algorithm prioritising Group content, brands should plan to take advantage.
Maybe you could consider starting a new Group, based on your brand Page. A Group can be where you initiate discussions, provide education, share problem-solving advice and maybe even a little entertainment about the topics that matter to your audience (and your business). You can perhaps even be a little more frivolous and adventurous with a Group page than you might feel it appropriate to be with your own business Page.
Build on your organic successes with paid ads and sponsored campaigns
While your brand’s organic content can enhance your relationship with your audience, Facebook ads still remain the best and quickest way to increase your brand awareness and accelerate your engagement with the largest potential audience of Facebook users, in the shortest possible time. This is useful if you have a particular offer or campaign which you are keen to capitalise on, and maximise the success of.
And Facebook’s targeting capabilities may become even more important for advertisers who care about audience data and insights, given Google’s recent announcement that Chrome is phasing out third-party cookies.
It's therefore worth monitoring and being aware of what is your highest performing content is, to make sure you can then develop the ability to turn this into low-cost ROI advertising for your brand’s voice and campaigns.
Do put some proper thought and planning into a sponsored ad or campaign though. Facebook ads are great, but they can also be a quick way to waste some cash if you don't set the profiling, targeting and campaign objectives correctly. Make full use of those tools they provide. If in doubt, ask!
Also pay attention to any 'advisories' you may get, having submitted an ad to Facebook for approval. Even if your ad is showing as approved and active, if they say that your ad may not be reaching its maximum potential audience, boy do they usually mean it. So if necessary, amend the ad to take account of any advice they provide. It's usually just something basic like the ad having too much text, to be honest. So keep the ad as simple and eye-catching as possible, and save the text for the accompanying post which contains the ad.
Tip - when you set-up a sponsored ad on Facebook, you can specify in the profiling that you would also like it to deliver to Instagram as well (as long as you have an insta account to link it to) and you get this option at no extra cost on top of the budget you have set, so when it comes to maximising your reach and making the most of your budget, it's definitely worth doing.
Let your followers know how to prioritise your content in their Newsfeeds
With Facebook’s move towards increased transparency in how the Newsfeed ranks content, your audience has greater control than ever over what they see.
Let people know that when they follow or like your Page, they can also use the “See First” preference to let the algorithm know that your posts are important to them.
Of course, this tactic works best when you are consistently producing content that resonates with your audience and directly supports your overall Social Media plan. It's not so great if you're just getting started, or if your audience is regularly changing.
Encourage your own network to be your ambassadors
The decline of organic reach has forced Digital Marketers and Social Media managers to become more resourceful and make more of tried and tested techniques like word of mouth. Albeit in this case, the online equivalent of that.
This is certainly the premise behind concepts like 'influencer' marketing, but another, possibly even more authentic way to spread the word is by encouraging your company's employees and also customers to become more active, and act as your advocates.
The simple process of liking, sharing and engaging with your content could actually extend its audience and reach by a vast amount. And a few positive testimonials and reviews never go amiss when it comes to endorsing your credentials, particularly when it comes from an independent third party.
Make it as simple and easy as possible for your network to do all of these things!
Hopefully you will find some of the points for consideration within this article of use, and may even feel inspired to put some of them into action. If you are facing Social Media challenges of any particular type, though and feel you could do with some additional assistance, you know where we are.