A recent article about Facebook content reach recently came up in my feed, shared from some social media colleagues based in Thailand. I shared it immediately, but thought it was well worth expanding on.
Whenever I start working with new clients who are unfamiliar with Facebook and social media in general, I always discuss why and how we will seek to engage with that client’s target audience. Many think that achieving 1000 likes for a post overnight is a realistic goal – leading to an explanation of how Facebook will promote your content. This then leads to a discussion about social media spend, as increasingly, adding paid spend to your social media activity is a necessity to ensure the content you have put your heart and soul into gets eyeballs.
I know the scenario many of you face: You make a killer video, spend hours on awesome blog post, or have an amazing graphic, post it to Facebook and get one like from a family member!! ARRRGHHH!!!
Facebook’s first NewsFeed in 2006 was a chronological feed of all the activity of your connections. As Facebook became more popular, the News Feed got more cluttered, so Facebook started using Likes – along with other measures including shares, comments and clicks – as an indicative measure to show users the content likely to be of most interest to them. This worked for a while, but there were a couple of problems with this basic approach.
Problem No. 1: People clicked ‘Like’ for different reasons – funny cat pictures were getting heaps of Likes, and thus, flooding people’s News Feeds. People started losing interest in Facebook as their feeds became crowded with junk.
In 2013, Facebook launched a new algorithm that would uncover ‘high quality content’, the first iteration of the News Feed algorithm.
Problem No. 2: People were adding more friends and Liking more Pages, meaning there was more and more competition for attention in the News Feed. But people only have so much time in the day to check their Facebook updates.
According to Facebook, the average Facebook user might have 1500 posts eligible to appear in their News Feed on any given day, but if people have more connections and Likes, that number could be more like 15,000. It’s simply not possible for users to read every single relevant post, based on their connection graph, each day – Facebook’s challenge with the algorithm was to create a system that uncovered the best, most relevant content to provide users with the best possible experience in order to keep their audience coming back. (emphasis added).
These were the two major challenges facing Facebook in developing the News Feed algorithm. And despite the protestations of brands who were forced to sit idly by as their organic reach slowly declined (and who are rightly annoyed at Facebook for promoting Likes as a means of reaching audience, then reducing their relevance), the numbers show that Facebook’s machine learning curation process for News Feed is actually working. In their most recent earnings report, The Social Network reported that engagement was now up to 46 minutes per day, on average, across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, with Monthly Active User numbers continuing to increase.
In 2014 Facebook News Feed Director of Product Management Will Cathcart outlined the‘most powerful determinants of whether a post is shown in the feed:
In all, the main thing to focus on in order to maximize Facebook reach is quality content, as defined by audience response.
Essentially, if photos get the most response with your audience, keep posting photos. If short videos float their boat, keep making videos. If an in-depth blog post gets the most likes, keep writing!
To help reach your audience, I’ve previously blogged about ad spend on social media, and how it is now part and parcel of any strategy. If you want some great insight into why, click through to this great article by Jeff Bulas “10 reasons why you should spend 10 per week on Facebook advertising.”
By now many of you would have noticed the new Reactions feature on Facebook. The new emoji-based feature extends on the basic “Like” function and offers a more descriptive way for users to interact with posts, for the obvious reason that not every post is likable. Over the coming months, users who use Reactions to posts will provide valuable feedback to social media and marketing professionals.