They say that Facebook organic traffic has just about dried up.
A study by Social@Ogivy found that organic reach has declined to 6 percent.
However, some businesses seem unaffected by Facebook’s algorithm changes. Take, for example, the Super Baby Facebook page. They were facing declining organic reach yet managed to reverse the trend. They increased their organic reach by 3000% without paying for ads.
- So why is it that some pages are unaffected while others are?
- Why can’t we reach more people with our updates?
- What kind of content should we be sharing?
In this post, we take a fresh look at the topic with the aim of getting high-quality traffic from Facebook whether it be conversions or just high engagement.
- Understand how the News Feed algorithm works and identify its critical factors.
- Discover what causes the widespread sharing of Facebook posts.
- Find actionable tips to improve your social media campaigns.
How Facebook’s News Feed algorithm works
To increase your social traffic on Facebook, you first need to understand how the News Feed works. As with other platforms, the algorithm is always changing, but we can delve into some of its core principles.
According to Facebook –
The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time, so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.
Since Facebook’s objective is to show the most relevant and engaging stories to users in their News Feed, the algorithm needs to sort through thousands of potential stories to choose the best content and put those in the first few dozen slots to get you to browse through them.
The stories get ranked and shown in order of importance, like your sibling getting married, an article that 10 of your friends have shared or stories from brands you have liked etc.
Facebook prioritizes stories you’ll likely engage with by liking, commenting, sharing, clicking on and spending time reading. The more engaging the content, the greater the chance of having you revisiting Facebook and enabling it to accomplish its mission of connecting people while also earning revenue from ads shown in the News Feed.
The decline of organic reach on Facebook
Over time, as more people have joined the Facebook platform and each shares more content, there is more competition for the limited space available in a News Feed. Viewership of the News Feed hasn’t grown as fast as the amount of content shared.
This has caused a decline in the reach of what is visible in a News Feed. In other words, the percentage of people who see a story out of all those eligible to view it has decreased significantly.
This is why Facebook Pages see the percentage of their followers who see their content shrinking over time. It’s an inevitable result of people sharing more frequently, rather than some conspiracy of Facebook’s to force businesses to buy ads.
The best way for you to counteract this decline of reach for your own content is to learn what Facebook’s algorithm prefers.
Factors influencing what a user sees
The algorithm considers thousands of different signals. Despite the vast amounts of data these signals provide, the algorithm is constantly tuned.
That way, it becomes difficult to have only Buzzfeed-engineered posts showing, i.e. posts that promote likes and clicks but may not provide much value to the audience.
The algorithm updates take into account inputs from different thousands of signals. They are also affected by input from 1,000 panel members who provide insight to the social network about what matters to them.
The video below from the VP of Facebook’s News Feed provides more light on the topic.
Here are 4 main factors that decide a story’s relevance and therefore its visibility to a user.
According to Techcrunch, a Facebook post’s relevance is calculated with a formula like the one below.
- Post – How many others have posted the same thing? Does it resonate with the audience? How many other people engaged with the post? Is the target audience interest in the content?
- Creator – Does the creator provide value for readers? What has past user interaction with the page that made the post been? Does the post resonate with others?
- Type – The kind of post, who posted it and whether the user prefers such posts.
- Recency – How recently the post was published? Is the content relevant now?
So, are the Facebook algorithm changes a bad thing?
According to Facebook, not necessarily. They say that Pages whose content gets shares and engagement won’t be affected.
Jon Loomer suggests that pursuing reach is a mistake because it means very little.
Instead, he says we should measure traffic to the website, leads and purchases that result from our Facebook marketing efforts. Increasing your reach on Facebook doesn’t guarantee these things.
So, what can we take away from this?
To give your posts the best reach, you need to post content that your audience will not just like but the kind of content your audience will share.
Let’s examine the characteristics of posts that get shared:
1. Use cultivation strategies
A study on how Fortune 500 companies were growing their brands on Facebook looked at 6 cultivation strategies. They were:
Openness and disclosure – Peeling back the curtains to show what happens behind the scenes
Access – Being available to customers and followers to increase reach and interactions with the business
Positivity – Making your customer experience as pleasant and enjoyable as possible
Assurances – Making your customer feel that their concerns/issues are important and valid
Networking – Connecting and sharing common interests with followers
Sharing of tasks – Collaborating with followers and fans to solve problems of mutual interest
The top 3 strategies that were found to work well on Facebook are openness and disclosure, access, and positivity.
2. Discover the best time to post
While there is a lot of data on the best times to post to Facebook, you need to remember that each audience is different. So, don’t just follow the prescribed times, instead use them as a guide to experiment as you test and determine what works best for your audience.
Consider posting when most people are offline for example. There is a greater chance of your posts appearing in your audience’s news feed and thus be read.
Jon Loomer did just that and found his reach was better during off-peak hours.
3. Include this ingredient
A powerful ingredient you can add to your overall communications is transparency.
Because it shows your audience what is happening behind the scenes and helps build trust.
On a retreat to South Africa, the Buffer team shared pictures of their time there. As you can see in the posts marked in orange, those posts worked quite well.
So, what can you do given that you may not be working at an exotic location?
Consider posting something personal or that shows the human side of your business.
Buffer, for example, shared this post in which they are testing multi-person Facebook Live.
4. Ask questions
Posts with a question get more engagement than posts without a question.
The Australian Open used this technique to increase their Facebook audience reach. This post for example generated 129 comments at the time of writing.
How do you ensure you get engagement with your questions?
- Ask questions that are specific and easy to answer.
- Ask questions that cause a visceral reaction.
5. Respond to comments/ Show people you are listening and paying attention
What could be worse than going to a Facebook page, leaving a comment and then hearing nothing?
People like feeling special and want to connect, so be approachable and let your audience know you are paying attention to your page.
Once your audience knows you are paying attention, they will likely be back and engage with your content.
When they engage with your content, acknowledge them, even if it is with a like.
Zappos is an excellent example of a company that is very responsive to their customers and fans. To promote one of their products, they shared this post.
The comments show how they engage their followers.
Pages can’t tag people on Facebook except if someone leaves a comment on an update. You can tag the person when you reply to the comment. Depending on the person’s privacy settings, they’ll be notified about your reply and revisit the thread.
You can also tag other pages. When you do so, they will receive a notification and hopefully return the favor.
6. Use positivity
Facebook’s controversial emotion experimental study altered the News Feed algorithms to observe the reactions various content types created among Facebook users.
The results were –
For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.
What does this look like in terms of Facebook posts? After viewing a number of posts, these were my observations.
They used 1 or more of the following
- Positive language and upbeat words
- Referenced followers or community members by using “HT” or direct address
- Engaged the community with questions
- Bright, happy images or smiling people
- Exclamation points!
Here are a few examples:
Michael Hyatt posts great visuals like these.
Check out the comments to customers on a post by JetBlue.
7. Embed your Facebook posts in your blog
This is a simple technique to use if you have a blog. Facebook can affect your reach, but the audience on your blog is something they cannot affect.
To increase your reach, embed Facebook updates that are performing well onto your blog. That will give your content a lot more visibility and attract more people to your Facebook page.
To embed a post, click the drop-down arrow in the upper right corner of a post. Click on the embed option.
Then copy and paste the code into your blog.
Another way to increase your reach is to feature your Facebook updates in a Like box on your websites sidebar.
When people see the updates, it encourages them to like your Facebook page but also to head over to the page and take part in the conversation. To install or update your Like box, visit the plugin page and configure as needed.
8. Use visuals as eye candy to stand out
Buzzsumo research shows that Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.
The Merrymaker Sisters, for example, showcase their recipes with great visuals that generate engagement on their page.
Not using visuals isn’t an option anymore given the trends over the past few years.
There are several ways in which you can incorporate visuals to increase your Facebook reach.
- Create quote images
- Create tips from your blog posts and place them on related images
- Use visuals to develop thought leadership in your niche like Michael Hyatt
- Use visuals as eye candy to stand out in our News Feed.
9. Recycle your evergreen content
You are probably aware that one of Google’s ranking factors is freshness. Well, it doesn’t only apply to Google. Evergreen content is timeless and will be useful to your audience for longer periods of time and will most likely continue to earn likes, shares and comments.
Due to this increased engagement, the Facebook algorithm will ensure that your post gets distributed further and that it appears in feeds for longer periods.
For example, take this post on Dave Ramsey’s page.
The above post appeared over 24 hours ago (at the time of writing) and was still earning shares and likes.
Jon Loomer suggests giving your old evergreen content a new spin and schedule them for multiple times to reach new audiences in different time zones.
For example, Claire Pelletreau repurposed a blog post that resonated with her audience for her Facebook page.
What constitutes evergreen content? Here are a few ideas:
- How-to guides
- Industry research
To help with scheduling your evergreen posts, use a tool like MeetEdgar.
10. Work to become a valuable resource
If your content doesn’t cause your audience to click-through, then your audience isn’t going to engage and you will struggle with growing your reach.
The value of your content goes beyond the value it provides. In other words, the right content needs to be posted in the right order to the right audience at the right time.
For example, Kim Garst generally posts engaging images, videos and links.
Each time someone likes, comments or shares a Facebook post, they are essentially sending a signal to Facebook that similar content will lead to more engagement.
This helps get more visibility in the News Feed.
On Facebook, your audience is wanting to be entertained, they want you to show your personality and that you are real.
If you are just posting links on Facebook, consider mixing up the content types. Once you have found the right mix, you’ll get your audience coming back for more.
11. Post audience tested content
The best way to increase your reach is to post content that you know your audience likes.
If a piece of content has been successful on Facebook, then chances are it will be successful again. To leverage this, look through your Facebook Insights to see which posts have gotten the most reach. These are posts that are likely to resonate with your audience again, so be sure to post them again and at a different time.
You could also use a tool like PostPlanner to discover content that audiences similar to yours like. This way a lot of the guesswork is taken out of the process.
12. Build a community for your most engaged audience members
With 1.71 billion monthly active users using Facebook, building tightly knit groups seems like a good idea. In fact, the platform encourages the creation of communities.
Major brands that dominate Facebook have 1 thing in common: they have built thriving communities that keep their fans coming back for more. They focus on providing value daily and worry little about organic reach, likes, shares, clicks etc.
For example, Dan started the 7 Day Startup group which has over 9750 members and growing.
What can you do to create a community on Facebook?
Start your own Facebook group or join a highly active and relevant group that is aligned with your business goals.
Starting your own group is a great way to complement your existing Facebook marketing strategy. It also allows you to deepen relationships with your most engaged audience members.
Here are a few steps to keep in mind while creating your own group:
- Set the tone – While starting the group ensure you lay down rules for posting in the group and highlight the groups purpose or value proposition.
- Start conversations – While you don’t want to sell or promote your products/services, you do want to kick off conversations in the group. Also, ensure you have set the appropriate privacy settings.
- Moderate – All posts in the group need to be moderated and spammers blocked.
- Be genuine and helpful – Be of service to those in your group or other groups.
- Be active – Being active in groups is a great way to drive people to your own group.
- Engage and inform members – Keep those in your group informed about developments in your business, including services and products. It also provides a way to ask people for their input on questions you have.
- Convert prospects into buyers – When people sign up for your email list, encourage them to join your group. It can become a major source of new clients.
- Customer support – If you have business that cannot provide 24/7 support, then your active Facebook group gives customers a place to connect, share and collaborate. You can also encourage your brand ambassadors to engage on your behalf.
For more on building your Facebook Group, you can check out this post by Ryan Stewart.
13. Use organic post targeting
Targeting your posts isn’t just for Facebook ads. You can target your organic posts.
You can target the audience for your posts based on a few options including:
- Education, location, interests, age and gender
- Date for your post to stop showing in the News Feed (but will continue to show in your page’s timeline)
You will need to have this option enabled on your page. If it isn’t already, then visit your page settings to turn this on.
You will then notice the targeting option at the bottom of the post you are drafting.
On clicking the icon, you can select audience categories for targeting your post.
Look at your Facebook insights to get data on your audience, and use that to choose categories that would further your objectives. You can then compare the results with the average engagement on other posts where you haven’t used organic targeting to see how they performed.
14. Publish videos natively in Facebook
Studies have found that native videos have become the strongest performer in the News Feed. As result, Facebook released their auto playing feature for videos in the feed in addition to favoring native videos.
Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner says that they have found video to be a great way to get exposure in the News Feed. They have been producing weekly videos which have worked well for them. The post below is an example.
They even use a native video in the About section of their page to promote their conference.
BuzzFeed Food pins popular videos to the top of their page. These posts continue to get engagement and shares thereby increasing their reach like this one.
To make the most of publishing native videos:
- Ensure that you edit the video so it has a good thumbnail
- Ensure there is movement in the opening seconds of the clip to get your audience’s attention
- Keep the video short. 2 minutes or less.
- Use good lighting and editing to make it as professional as possible.
- Add a call to action to engage your audience
- Use the video insights to find out what works best with your audience.
15. Use less than 2 hashtags
According to research from various sources, using more than 2 hashtags decreases interactions and in most cases Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag.
The takeaway is to experiment with hashtags and find what works in your niche or industry. Use them as they were designed to. In other words, use them to help continue or create new conversations around topics of interest to your community.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Use a hashtag when it makes sense and that people can filter on to find relevant conversations
- Use industry specific hashtags or create your own if they add relevance to your audience
- Use tools like hashtagify.me to find trending and related hashtags
- Use it for cross platform branding
- To see if a hashtag has any traction, just do a hashtag search on Facebook graph search
16. Test your posting schedule and frequency
If you look around the web for optimal posting times, you will find a bunch of options including ones like this.
However, it would be best not to follow these recommended times.
Instead, look at your Facebook Insights and find when your audience is online. Try posting around those times, and test posting during off peak times as well.
Buffer, Track Maven and Jon Loomer have all had success with posting during off-peak times.
Why does it work?
- You get to reach an audience in other time zones
- Your post receives higher engagement and as it does so, Facebook will share the content with more of your fans.
Tip: Notice what your competition is doing with a tool like Fan Page Karma
17. Partner with Facebook pages in your niche
In my interview with Nathan Chan of Foundr magazine, he said that partnering with others helped grow his Instagram following. He struck shout out-for-shout out deals. A similar strategy could also be used on Facebook.
For example, The Huffington Post and Elite Daily share posts from each other. They both have similar sized audiences who share common interests.
Hence why you see posts like this on The Huffington Post’s Facebook page.
And posts like this on Elite Daily’s Facebook page.
This strategy would work well if you reach out to pages that have similar audience interest and size. As your audience grows, you can do deals with pages that have larger audiences.
Another way to do this is to guest curate for other pages. You can choose a few Facebook pages run by other businesses offering products or services that are complementary to yours. Since the target audience is similar, your expertise will benefit their followers. You could then curate content in exchange for a credit on their page.
Another option is to conduct Q&A’s with different experts in your field on your Facebook page. Ask each expert to promote the event.
Followers and fans can ask questions and the interviewees can respond inline via the Reply option, making the Q&A easy to follow.
Mark Zuckerberg ran a Q&A on Facebook with great success, as you can see in the post below.
18. Get to know Facebook Insights well
No matter what tactics you use, you will need to find those that work. In other words, you need to test your content and measure the results. This is where Facebook Insights can help.
You’ll find data worth exploring by exporting the last 6 months of your Facebook Insights. Then study the results to find what worked for your page.
Pay attention to posts that resulted in you gaining new fans and ones that got you shares, for example.
Focus on those that have worked and try some of the tips above.
Over to you
Increasing your Facebook traffic organically has gotten harder but can still be done.
However, it will require creativity and agility to be more visible in your audience’s News Feed.
You can start with 1 or 2 of the strategies we shared in this post. Look at your Facebook Insights to see how they performed and tweak as needed.
Also be sure to download the little used tips to increasing your Facebook traffic.