Brands and marketers alike are crying wolf over Facebooks latest algorithms, in which many insist the average brand pages reach could be reduced to numbers so low that marketers have no choice but to pay up or lose their visibility. While it’s true that the average Facebook page’s reach has declined significantly in recent times, what many don’t realize is that the world’s largest social network isn’t forcing brands to pay for visibility, in fact far from it. As you will soon see, the steep declines many are seeing are the result of low quality content, posts that consist purely of advertisements with very little value to users, and marketers that have fallen behind on the times.
The fact is, Facebook users were growing tired of seeing useless ads and low quality content roll through their streams. Their latest algorithms are the networks attempt at filtering out those annoying 40% off ads, non informative posts, and pointless cat memes once and for all. If marketers and brands want to stay afloat on the network today, they’re going to have to quit with the broadcasting of ads all day, and start presenting shareable content that user’s will actually like and want to engage with.
If there’s one thing I learned about marketing during my career in IT, it was that you cannot buy reach! Even if you had a multi-million dollar marketing budget, and you happen to be able to afford to spread your ads all over Facebook and the rest of social media, this doesn’t mean anyone cares for what you have to offer, and they won’t just ignore it. Money isn’t the answer, content is! People don’t share ads, they share content!
The ability for brands to beat the algorithmic odds on Facebook right now is going to rely on their ability to gather real engagement from their followers in the form of likes, comments, and shares. The quality of content and the authority of the source posting that content will also play a role in ranking on Facebook today. Yes, authority matters on the network now, and I found some startling results with a few tests I ran on a page I created a year ago, and recently put to use for the first time: PCTECHAUTHORITY on Facebook .
I made a total of 9 posts during the first 3 days of launching the page for the first time, with a total reach of 1,727 people. I made 7 posts to content on this site, and 2 posts with links pointing to alternate domains. The idea here was to pay attention to the overall reach not just from each post, but from each domain. The 2 alternate posts I made linked to content on business insider and Time.com. The first thing I noticed was the posts with the links to the alternate domains both had a much stronger reach than the majority of posts with links to this site. Both of those domains are high authority domains on the web, and this was my reason for choosing them.
Only 2 of the posts with links to my domain had over 100 views during that first 3 days, with one post being viewed 178 times, and the other 198 times. At the same time, the post to Time.com had a reach of 368 views, and the post to Businessinsider.com had a staggering 978 views total! All posts were made from the same page, and all activity took place, again, in just 3 days of the page being launched.
Right now many new pages would be happy to have those numbers in a months time, much less 3 days with a handful of posts. I wasn’t posting ads or making pointless “Click Here!” statements, this was real content with a real purpose, and a few shares on each post was enough to tame Facebooks algorithmic dragons. The tough part here is, you have to convince people it’s worth sharing, and with a limited audience, regardless of how many followers you have. Getting the shares gets you visibility.
I also took into account who shared which post, how many followers they had, etc. The post to Businessinsider.com while being the most viewed of all the posts, was shared by one individual who had over 6,000 followers, so this helps to explain its visibility wasn’t all ranking, but rather the fact the person in question who shared it had a good number of followers, although domain authority still played a partial role here.
Newly formed brands and pages on Facebook are often the ones finding no visibility at all. Remember, the trick to getting visibility lies in engagement, but how do you get people to a new page? Invite them! You have to let people know you exist. If invites don’t work, then start asking your friends to share your posts. There’s no rule in the social media handbook that says you cannot ask somebody to engage with you. A couple of shares from heavily active social media users can be enough to propel a new page to a much larger audience, and gather lots of new followers in the process.
I simply asked others if they could check out the page I mentioned above and engage with it, so they did. Their engagement brought visibility quickly, in the thousands in fact. So don’t wait for people to come to you, sometimes you have to get help from the outside to move things along on the web. What also needs to be taken into account here is the content I posted, in which people happened to like it, so they continued sharing it even more. In fact, I got over 50 new shares for the content that was posted from this site over the prior 5 days to publishing this article. People clicked thru to the site and reshared the content right back to Facebook again, giving me visibility in the tens of thousands a day, all for a handful of posts.
Authority of Brand and Domain Matters:
Brands, people, and domains all have quality scores somewhere on Facebook that determines their rank and subsequently reach on the network. Brand pages that are tied to domains that are well known on the web will rank much higher than newly formed pages from not as well known publishers. In the case of my brand page, I automatically ranked the second I made a post, but not without cause. Before I ever launched my brand page, the content from this site had already been shared on Facebook thousands of times, with thousands of people engaging on those posts. Even though I had very little presence there myself, and my domain and brand had no previous presence at all, Facebook decided to rank the page because of all that prior positive engagement.
Facebook naturally shows page managers the level of engagement for each post. In the case of my brand page, some of the posts I made to alternate domains had visibility of over a thousand viewers for a single post, while the posts with links to my own domain had much less visibility. Nonetheless, I still had great visibility for my domain branded posts, and several had a reach in the hundreds for each post. All being said, the overall reach you can expect from a brand page on Facebook depends on not just the authority of the page, but the domain you are linking too. High authority brands and domains will rank above everyone else.
For new brands, visibility will be non-existent on Facebook, but for those who are following my guidance, that visibility will come over night. Remember, you’re new, you don’t rank, so what do you do? Again, invite your previous followers to the new page and ask them to engage with the posts. Also, pay close attention to the social sharing metrics from your site. You need to know these numbers! If people aren’t resharing after they click thru, then your content strategy isn’t working out, and it’s time to investigate to find out why and make necessary changes. If you can convince social media users, then you can convince the networks themselves.
So, even if you don’t have the rank, you can still get visibility as long as you can produce content that people like. You also need to be producing content on your own domain in order to rank well, and your brand page should be officially linked to your site.
Pictured below is one of the updated posts with a link to my site, the other is to an article on businessinsider.com. Notice that their post had over 1,000 views, yet it was shared only once, while the post from my own site had only 183 views and it was shared 4 times! This is a clear example of how domain, brand, and page authority are all factors that play into Facebooks current ranking algorithms.
Rather than complaining about a loss of reach, marketers should be focusing on the engagement and performance data that Facebook offers them. The answers are there if you’re really paying attention. The data I gathered helped me to understand where my domain and page stand as far as rank on the network, it also helped me to realize which content strategies are working best, and which aren’t. I know from the data I gathered that my strategies are working well for a newly launched page. I can curate content from other places along with my own and it will only help me to keep my visibility on the network.
Marketers Not Keeping Up:
In all honesty, after being on Google+ for the entire last year, it’s easy to see that brands and marketers on Facebook just aren’t keeping up with the times. They’re still involved in too much traditional advertising, which would be better off reserved for paid organic search in Google or on blogs than social media, where they just get ignored anyway. All being said there’s too much focus on ROI and not people, and this is where some brands are losing. Rather than throwing a for sale sign at people, why not tell a story that’s related to a product or service that will entice social users to want to click thru to your site and find out more? Part of the reason this tactic is ignored lies in the fact most don’t have the writing skills needed in order to be successful with this approach.
I know all too well that the power of social media lies within engagement, and content that people like they will share over and over again in never ending cycle. Creating useful and informative content for the social space is by no means a simple task, but it’s a necessary part of doing business on the web today. Don’t believe the power of marketing with content? Well, believe it or not, there is plenty of content on the web that was produced a year ago and is still getting shared back to social media today!
This is the benefit of focusing on content as a marketing resource. If you have a product or service to sell, and you have content that is related to that product or service pulling tons of traffic to your site, you’re now that much closer to closing another sale and every marketer’s goal is to produce an ROI for their clients.
One awesome blog post can also bring years of consistent traffic, vs. a post on social media which will in a sense “time out” after so many hours or days. If marketers were really concerned about their reach on social networks, they probably should be looking to create interesting blog posts that will draw traffic back to social networks for months and years, rather than a few days.
Some key notes here, ranking on facebook now depends heavily on the authority of the source who’s posting, the quality of content, and consistent engagement (likes, comments, shares). Long term social visibility comes from content, short term visibility comes from ads, which will you choose? As far as Facebook is concerned, ads should be paid for, and content should be promoted, so marketers need to switch gears from advertising into content marketing.