Despite controversies, a massive branding change, and years of negative press, Facebook remains one of the strongest and most stalwart social platforms on the Internet and an invaluable source of potential leads and customers for businesses throughout the world. However, making the most out of Facebook means understanding the way it promotes content to its users. And as with most platforms on the Internet, it all comes down to an algorithm.
What Is the Facebook Algorithm?
The Facebook algorithm is a set of factors and characteristics by which Facebook sorts posts to recommend to other users, both from said users and non-individual sources, such as Facebook pages and groups. Things used to be very simple when Facebook was first launched. You would see posts from people you were friends with, and they were typically sorted by likes or chronologically.
As time went on, the algorithm for Facebook’s News Feed became more complicated. With the introduction of more features came a greater need to personalize and improve the quality of the News Feed. Posts were weighted by factors such as:
- Whether you were friends with a person.
- The interactions on said post.
- The time other users would spend with the post.
- Whether the post’s attached clip would be played to completion often.
- How much time people would spend watching a clip.
- Who made the post? The more relevant the poster is to you, the more likely you are to see their posts, whether it’s a person or a business page.
- What kind of post is it? Depending on what type of post you typically react to, like, comment on, or interact with more often, you will see more of those posts. Like reading more than scrolling through images or watching videos? You’ll probably see more status updates, and so on.
- How are others reacting to the post? Engagement on a post – which can depend on how much time people spend with the post before moving on, the number of reactions on it, comments, and so on – will heavily weigh in a post’s favor. The more relevant the people who engaged in a post (i.e., your friends), the more likely you are to see it.
Do Users Control the Algorithm?
Starting in 2020, Facebook began giving users options to curate their own News Feed and manage the way their data is used to build the algorithm and create a feed that suits them. Facebook doubled down on this in 2021, giving users even more access to the way their information is presented and used on the platform. In practice, this boils down to a number of customization and privacy options on the user’s part:
- First, users can select pages and other users to highlight as their favorites, up to a total of 30 users and pages. This increases the priority on posts produced by said users and pages.
- Users can also choose what they don’t want to see, by clicking on the options of any given post and choosing “I don’t want to see this”. You are then given a series of options to explain why you don’t want to see the post, be it a status update, a picture, or a video.
- On ads, this feature is called “Hide Ad,” and leads to a menu allowing you to indicate why. This helps narrow down your choice of advertising and makes targeted ads more effective (a major selling point for advertisers looking for a higher ROI).
What Does Facebook Optimization Look Like?
The tricky thing about optimizing the content on Facebook is that every user’s algorithm is tailored to their preferences and friend circles. It isn’t quite like Google where generalists or local authorities are weighted more heavily than anything else. Facebook sees itself as a digital community, and it will prioritize content from within a user’s friend circles and relevant activities. The algorithm also grows in response to a user’s actions and behavior. It isn’t so much about what you’re doing – it’s about what each of your customers is doing.
As for ads, Facebook will pool user data to create a tailored feed of ads to minimize recommending products and services that users might not have any interest in, to begin with. This makes the job of an advertiser much easier, as long as you’re continuing to create your Facebook ads with your primary audience in mind. However, there are still a few guidelines for making the most out of the Facebook algorithm.
It’s Still About Quality and Relevance
Quality, not quantity. Your posts will gain more traction if they’re something worth talking about and if they engender discussion and interest. Whether you’re investing primarily in video and photo content or are producing sparse reels and highlight clips in favor of more frequent and informative status updates, focusing on community building is just as important as making sure you’re posting often. Reply to comments, ask questions to encourage discussion, and be distinguished with your content so users don’t feel the urge to just scroll on by.
A lot of this will depend on strong audience research. Facebook wants popular posts to become popular through relevance and informativeness. If you want to nail those qualities, you must first figure out what’s most relevant and informative to your customer base and cater to it. Engagement is key. Content that gets more people to interact with it will generate more traffic and interest over time and will be pushed more.
Leverage Employees and Affiliate Posters
Last but not least, consider the value of your greatest in-company assets – real human beings, with a history on Facebook that includes years of virtual and real-life friendship, and more genuine outreach (usually) than your Facebook Page. Asking employees to share pre-approved content on behalf of their company is not something everyone is comfortable with, of course. If you’re a tight-knit smaller company with a team that feels equally incentivized to see your business grow, then it’s definitely an easier sell.
But if you’re running a bigger business, where employees might feel more “distant” to the emotional core of the company, asking your employees to use their personal, private accounts to post-marketing for your business might be met with lukewarm, if not angry responses. Gauge the interest and potential of your employees before suggesting any organic Facebook marketing on their part.
You don’t have to be overt with it, of course. Sometimes, it just helps to treat your employees right, throw a few extra office parties and company outings, and let the unprompted and unscripted status updates, pictures, videos, and event recollections from employees speak towards the quality of your business and the welcoming working conditions you foster. Take it from CEO Dan Price – it’s always worth investing in people.
Making the most of social media platforms like Facebook takes consistency and patience. But it’s important to gauge your return on investment as well. If most of your target audience isn’t on Facebook at the moment, then it doesn’t make as much sense to go above and beyond protecting your basic web presence to try and realize leads through the FB algorithm.
Working with a professional team can help you better direct your efforts towards channels that are more rewarding, or make the most of a platform like Facebook and its algorithm to promote and grow your business.