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Keeping Up With the Facebook Algorithm

Having a hard time keeping up with all the Facebook changes? Catch up on them all here!

When Facebook announced their new algorithm this summer, brands weren’t sure how it was going to impact their Pages.

By the end of 2013, the impact became crystal clear, as every Page saw the following trend in their organic reach:

 

Anonymous Facebook Fan Page

2-6-2014 5-01-02 PM

From September 2013 to January 2014, this Page saw a 60% decrease in organic reach… Ouch!

For brands that put a lot of resources, advertising dollars, and time into building a Following on their pages, this was a huge let down. As reported via Business Insider, only 15% of Page Followers actually see content that is posted with this new algorithm in place. Frustrated marketers have been trying to figure out how to outsmart the mysterious algorithm, but keeping up with what seems to be daily changes in Facebook’s functionality has proven to be challenging. There is no point in fighting it–Facebook always wins.  What marketers can do is learn to adapt to this ever-evolving social platform.

So why did this happen?

Facebook says the reasoning for their new algorithm is to provide its users with “more high quality” content and ensure that the organic content its users see from Pages is interesting to them.

Our goal is to show the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.” –Facebook 

Is this change really based on providing a better user experience or is this about … money? We get it; Facebook doesn’t want to give away any more free advertising. Since becoming a publicly traded company, money is definitely at the forefront of all business strategic initiatives. Got to keep those shareholders happy.

Facebook gave something special to brands that they didn’t have before, a free platform to communicate with their current and potential customers. Now they’ve taken it away and oh-so abruptly, stressing out and confusing all marketers in the process.

What to do now?

Fan Pages have a choice – figure out how to create more engaging content OR pay to get their content out there.  The first option is much harder to tackle.

"It doesn't mean every single person who's connected is going to see it, but the more engaging content the more people are going to see it” --  Brandon McCormick, Director of Communications for Facebook

There is a lot of noise and confusion among marketers on what content is considered “high-quality content” by Facebook. Can I post memes? What about links? Are text posts okay or not okay?  I really want to post this hilarious cat photo, but should I?

Produce “high quality content,” Facebook says. What does this really mean?

Below are some questions Facebook asked when they were figuring out what would determine whether content is high-quality. Companies should use these questions as a basic guideline when creating their Page content.

  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

These are the questions that drive THE secret Facebook machine.

The best way to establish great content is to really know who you are speaking to. Do you know your Facebook audience? Once that is determined, the fun begins. Creating engaging content shouldn’t be a chore – it should be fun. The content should be relevant to your overall brand messaging and you should be excited to share it with your followers.

Content Changes you need to know:

MEMES

…Are OK! They are engaging, fun, and users want to see and share them with their friends.

dog

When Facebook stated, “Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook,” the key part of that statement is “meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook.” If you upload the meme via Facebook, your meme will be less penalized than a meme hosted on Imgur, livemem and makeameme. Facebook is not planning on eliminating memes completely, just the low quality ones, and why would they want to eliminate them? Memes are eye-catching, engaging, and have a high percentage of being shared. I personally love them.

So keep posting memes of that adorable puppy dressed as Yoda—just make sure it relates to your branding or the message you’re trying to communicate!  And don’t do it ALL the time. Suggested frequency is once or twice a month.

Text Posts

Do not post text updates on your brands Fan Page. Text updates from users are being ranked differently than text updates from brand pages. Facebook is realizing that text updates from Pages don’t have the same effect as text updates from users.  So keep attaching those eye-catching photos!

Links

Facebook recently announced that embedding a link in a post without using link share a no-no. They advise that if you want to post links, use link share with all of the appropriate Social Metadata pulled in.  To make this link share more prominent, Facebook changed the dimensions of the link image so it could successfully compete with photo posts. Image dimensions need to have a 1.91:1 ratio – the width of your image needs to be 1.91 times the height.

If you are sharing your own articles and blog posts, make sure your featured image is at least 560 x 292 px2-6-2014 5-55-09 PM

CTAs

Do not ask or tell your audience to “Like”, “Share” or “Comment” your posts or page. Facebook is against brands building engagement by telling their users to do something – engagement should happen organically and naturally. They want users to act upon content that catches their interest and attention, not an order.

Are other CTAs ok – “Read,” “Click,” “Save,” “Buy,” etc.? That remains to be seen. If you do use these CTAs, keep track of your organic reach and observe if you notice a decline.

other Facebook changes … Are you keeping up?

Story Bumping

This change should actually help brand Pages. Facebook launched their new tweak in their algorithm that aims to push older stories that receive a lot of engagement to the top of a user’s news feed.  Since users have so much content to sift through on their news feed, this change helps users see posts that they otherwise might have missed, thus giving Page content a second chance to engage the viewer.

Facebook states that this change “improves the experience of the News Feed”:

  • In a recent test with a small number of users, this change resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages.
  • Previously, people read 57% of the stories in their News Feeds, on average. They did not scroll far enough to see the other 43%. When the unread stories were resurfaced, the fraction of stories read increased to 70%.

But what if your content is not considered “high-quality” enough to even make the News Feed in the first place? Then Story Bumping helps you not.

Trending

Facebook’s latest feature called Trending is “designed to surface interesting and relevant conversations in order to help you discover the best content from all across Facebook.” What makes this feature different than the Twitter “Trends” or the “Trending” on Google+?  Facebook’s list is personalized based on the user’s interests. Also, each headline has a mini description that explains the reason why this topic is trending. Groovy.

pic

News

Another development in recent months, which everyone probably noticed in their News Feed, is the emphasis on news articles.  Facebook is determined to push more news-savvy articles on users’ News Feeds. This is due to Facebook having conducted an internal survey that determined that users want to see high quality articles about current events rather than memes.  Personally, all I see is this crime happened here, Bieber getting arrested there, and oh, an article on how a farting cow caused a methane gas explosion on a German dairy farm …. Kinda missing all the funny memes I used to see right about now.

"This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently."-- Facebook

Facebook stated that they want to help its users discover the latest news on their feeds, and so they’ll be bumping up links to high quality articles that are about current events. Why would they be so concerned about this? This may be because Facebook is not the #1 channel being used by those who consume news via a specific social medium, as findings from the Pew Research Center found. Twitter leads Facebook in the percentage of its users who get news this way. So is this a way for Facebook to dethrone Twitter and Reddit and become the #1 social channel for news on the internet? Might be. Facebook has to be #1 in everything, of course.

paper-facebook-app Facebook cares so much about being the go-to news source that they just launched their new Paper app. The news reader app will provide content from 19 different topics and feature the same News Feed users are used to, just “prettier.” 

“Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full screen, distractin-free layouts. We've also made it easier to craft and share beautiful stories of your own.” --Facebook.

 

Death to Sponsored Stories

Another recent change Facebook announced is that they were killing Sponsored Stories. This may be due to the fact that Facebook got hit with a class action lawsuit that claimed that the ads violated user’s rights by publicizing their “likes” and online behaviors without any opportunity to opt-out or get compensated. Facebook settled the class action lawsuit for $20 million in August 2013, but still they decided to get rid of the entire thing altogether.

April 9, 2014 is the final date of Facebook’s controversial sponsored stories.

But this doesn’t mean that your Facebook interactions will not be used for advertising purposes. In November 2013, Facebook announced that in regard to advertising, nothing has changed. Ads will still be targeted based on actions you take on Facebook. So be aware of where you click and what you like. Facebook is watching you!

With all these constant Facebook changes, it is difficult for brands to keep up.

But one thing is certain, brands SHOULD create share worthy content that is interesting to its target audience and be the source for trustworthy, informative content.

By the time you finish reading this post, who knows Facebook might have already launched a new change to their ever-changing algorithm and everything you just read might be irrelevant.

My advice to marketers – go with the flow and be evolutionary.

  • Test a different variety of posts and see what works best for your brand and audience.
  • Keep an eye out on best practices and incorporate them into your social strategy.
  • Be the first-to-know about Facebook updates and algorithmic changes.
  • Put aside a social budget and boost your most important content.
  • Have fun – if you are enjoying your content, so will we.

Good luck with Keeping Up with the Facebook Algorithm!

  • tharari

    Great job Masha! I think the part about the changing nature of links at posts is super important given how we’ve all been told for the longest time to avoid link posts and use photo posts with a text link.

    • Masha Gaidouk

      Thanks Tom! Yes, absolutely, especially since FB is pushing link posts its important to know how to properly format them.

  • LucidGal

    All the articles about this talk about using “link share” … what is that exactly? In the visual above, relating to that, which one is which? When you say not to “embed a link” in a post, does that mean NOT to type a status, put a relevant link in it, and hit “enter?” When you say “properly format” them, do you mean at their source (like our own blogs) or in the process of posting links to FB?

    • Masha Gaidouk

      Hi LucidGal! Link share is using the auto-populated social metadata that appears when you embed a link in a post. Before Facebook changed the size of the image used in link share, it appeared as a small square (the image on the right in my example). This was not visually appealing to users, so when pages posted links they did not use link share and instead just embedded a link in the post and uploaded an image (please click this link for an example – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152229122789653&set=a.124804629652.101377.114998944652&type=1&theater). Facebook changed the sizing of the image in link share (appears as the left image in my example) so that links can “provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds,” and I guess for users to save the extra step of uploading an image with their post . When I said “properly format” I did mean at the source – blogs, etc. If the image is not properly formatted at the source, Facebook does offer the the user to “Upload Image” in the auto populated social meta data as they are creating their post – so you can just upload a 560 x 292 px image and it will fit perfectly in the link share. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

      • LucidGal

        Thanks for clarifying. I often do what you describe ~ post a link, then replace what comes up with an image (or two) ~ because the meta info and image that come with the link often look bad (depending on the site being linked to). Hard to find definitive answers on this business of what FB and other social media sites scrape out of sites from which links are posted, but experience tells me that it’s about more than just the size of the image at the site being posted from. Some sites have multiple images and FB and LinkedIn won’t pull any of them. Very frustrating. Have yet to find a complete answer for all situations. PS Facebook’s debug link doesn’t always solve it, and that doesn’t help the other social media sites where the link info doesn’t show up well. PPS… I do find that I get twice as much, sometimes three times as much, reach when I post two images to override a link’s data, over what I get when I leave it like it is. Not sure how long that will be the case.

        • LucidGal

          Another quirk found over time: sometimes if the link you’re posting doesn’t show up well, if you shorten the link with bit.ly etc., it will. Weird. Would love to hear the exact technical reason that is the case. It implies that it’s more about the site doing the pulling than the site doing the giving.

          • Masha Gaidouk

            Hi LucidGal, without access to the particular pages you’re talking about and analytics information it would be hard to give you any definite advice but keep testing and you will start to find what works best for you! Regarding the bit.ly links, I personally have not experienced that but will keep my eye out when posting links in the future – thanks for the heads up!

          • LucidGal

            The question was more generally about how info for links is scraped out of sites (not just FB) but if you run into a situation where the right info simply won’t come out, do try link-shortening… works about 75% of the time.

        • LucidGal

          Any ideas on this?

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