Facebook News Feed Algorithm Unlocked: Optimizing for Greater Reach, Engagement

Opinion: Gone are the days when only a few brands had active business pages and could easily stand out

The explosion of content has made it more difficult for businesses to gain exposure in Facebook’s News Feed Facebook

To say that Facebook is overcrowded is an understatement. Every minute, 300 new profiles are created, 293,000 statuses are updated, 510,000 comments are posted and 136,000 photos are uploaded. There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it.

And this explosion of content has made it more difficult for businesses to gain exposure in Facebook’s News Feed. In fact, more than one study has revealed that over the past few years, organic reach has significantly dropped.

One study from EdgeRank Checker found that between February 2012 and March 2014, organic reach for the average Facebook page dropped from 16 percent to 6.5 percent. And another report found that publishers experienced a 52 percent decline in organic reach after Facebook adjusted its algorithm to prioritize content from friends and family. Today, your reach may be as low as 2 percent.

Gone are the days when only a few brands had active business pages and could easily stand out. But the good news is there’s an easy way to tackle this dilemma.

How does Facebook’s News Feed algorithm work?

To play the game, you must know the rules. So first, let’s talk about how Facebook’s algorithm works and what’s behind its News Feed ranking.

Facebook designs its algorithm around individual user preferences in conjunction with the following News Feed core values. “These values guide our thinking and help us keep the central experience of News Feed intact as it evolves,” vice president of News Feed Adam Mosseri wrote:

  • Friends and family come first: Stories from your friends and family appear higher in your feed.
  • Your feed should inform: Stories that are interesting and informative to you appear higher in your feed.
  • Your feed should entertain: Stories that Facebook finds entertaining to you appear higher in your feed.
  • A platform for all ideas: Facebook doesn’t favor sources or ideas. It delivers stories that are most meaningful to you.
  • Authentic communication: Facebook will only show stories that are genuine, not “misleading, sensational and spammy.”
  • You control your experience: Post features such as “see first,” “unfollow” and “hide” let you choose what you want to see.
  • Constant iteration: Facebook is dedicated to continued improvement.

5 ways to optimize your Facebook strategy for greater reach and engagement

Now that you know how Facebook’s algorithm works, let’s dive into some tactics that will help you boost content performance.

  1. Pay to play: It’s simple: If you want to get your content in front of more people, you have to pay for it. Like any other marketing platform, Facebook is more effective for businesses that use paid media. With paid media, your business reaches greater audiences with greater accuracy than possible with organic content. And you don’t need a huge budget or a lot of experience to advertise on Facebook. Here’s a tip if you’re just starting with boosted (paid) content: Let your organic post run for at least 24 hours before boosting. This will give your post some traction before boosting, leading to better performance.
  2. Share thumb-stopping content: Some people think if they post more often, organic reach will kick back up, but that’s not necessarily true. Although posting regularly is an important part of building a reputable presence, it’s the quality of the content that matters most. Share content that your audience actually cares about—content that makes them stop scrolling through their feed and delivers on the promise of its headline. One highly relevant, shareable and visually appealing piece of content is worth more than three ordinary posts.
  3. Use video and native content: Facebook video garners triple the engagement and 1,200 percent more shares than text and image posts combined. Also, when compared with YouTube videos shared on Facebook, native videos uploaded to Facebook have 10 times more reach. Facebook video works well because in addition to shares, likes and comments, the algorithm takes into account how much time people spend on a video. Tip: Most users watch video without sound, so design your video’s story for sound off and add captions. And Facebook’s automated caption tool is available in Ads Manager and Power Editor.
  4. Encourage engagement in unique ways: You can’t ask your fans to like or share your posts—Facebook identifies these phrases as spam. But there are other ways you can urge users to engage. For example, a travel agency could post a video or image of a beach in Bali with a caption that reads, “Tag a friend who you’d want to go here with.” This would initiate a stream of comments and, thus, increase reach. Or instead of prompting users to tag a friend, you could say, ”Tell us where you plan to travel this summer.” This will boost engagement and reach—and give you valuable customer insight, too.
  5. Post on trending topics: When people go online, they expect to see posts that reflect what’s going on that very moment. Stay up to date on the trending stories, events and holidays your audience is most interested in and create content around those topics. Whether it’s Major League Baseball Opening Day, the Tony Awards or National Best Friends Day, trending topics are ranked higher. And if you use an associated hashtag, you could gain more exposure. This kind of marketing strategy requires a social media management tool that allows you to schedule your content across multiple social media platforms and get in-depth analytics.

As Facebook’s user base grows, so, too, will the amount of content and the factors that play into the News Feed algorithm. It’s important now, more than ever, for your business to have a share of voice on the biggest social network. And this handful of simple tactics will get you started in the right direction.

Kristoffer Nelson is chief operating officer of advertising technology company SRAX. Follow him on Twitter at @toffernelson.