5 Tips for Navigating Facebook’s Friend Zone Algorithm
Nobody likes to be put in the friend zone – until now, that is. Back in April Facebook unveiled the first of a few recent updates to their newsfeed algorithm. First and foremost, the update shifted the power dynamic away from businesses and publishers and back toward friends and family. Posts from the “friend zone” (i.e. personal accounts) were elevated, whereas posts from publishers (i.e. business pages) were buried, or axed completely from the newsfeed.
In July Facebook released yet another algorithm update, strengthening their previous positioning and further reducing organic reach for business pages. They also introduced algorithm tweaks aimed at cracking down on click bait and elevating informative content. If you run a business page, you may have seen your referral traffic dip, dive and then crash over the past few months as a result.
So what gives? How can businesses continue to make use of the Facebook networks they’ve built without sending posts to the wind? Here are 5 important aspects of the algorithm shift, and what they mean for your social strategy.
- Sharing is Caring
Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm may be suppressing your business page posts – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t showing up anywhere. When someone with a personal page (i.e.,your fans) shares one of your posts, it counts as a personal post and goes straight into the friend zone – exactly where you want it to be. Unfortunately, likes and comments won’t have the same effect (at least not to the same extent), but as long as your content is interesting/informative/funny enough for people to share, it will continue to show up in the newsfeed via viral sharing.
- Friends Forever
Even if you’re not actually friends with your customers, it’s time to start acting like it. You wouldn’t go on and on promoting yourself to your offline friends, would you? Social media is so much more fun when it’s just that – social. Instead of posting over and over again about your products, sales and service, start featuring your fans and the unique and interesting ways they are engaging with your brand or product. Sharing IRL (in real life) user generated photos, fun videos and behind the scenes action is much more engaging and therefore more likely to be shared by your fans and visible on Facebook.
- Copy Matters
Even if you’re not trying to click or like-bait your fans on purpose, you’re going to have to be careful with the text of your posts. In order to crack down on sites spamming users with click-bait headlines like “You’ll never believe why she cut her hair” or “Like and share this post to get a $100 gift card,” Facebook created automated spam detectors that eliminate posts from the newsfeed with certain word combinations in them – things such as “like this post” or “click to find out.” If you’re soliciting likes or comments from your fans for honest reasons (for example “comment below with your best parenting tips”), try to rephrase the copy to avoid the spam filters. In the example above, the copy “Tell us your best parenting tips” would likely perform better.
- Timing is Everything
Another aspect of Facebook’s most recent algorithm change is the prioritization of “timely” posts (i.e., trending topics). Facebook wants to make its newsfeed more relevant to users, and in order to do this they are prioritizing posts that talk about the same topics that other people are talking about, at a particular time. For example, if a user is posting about a presidential debate, while the debate is happening or trending, they are theoretically more likely to see other posts from their friends (and businesses they follow) on a similar topic. The lesson here isn’t to post about current events if they have no relevance to your brand, but rather, be strategic about incorporating timely and trending topics into your content strategy when it makes sense based on your product or service.
- Money Talks
Even if you follow Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm advice to a tee, you’re still likely to see a dip in impressions if you’re relying solely on organic reach. As more and more businesses share more and more content on Facebook, there simply isn’t enough room in the average user’s newsfeed to see everything. This is where promoted posts come in. Promoted, or sponsored posts allow you to insert your content in a targeted audience’s newsfeed, at a small cost. The exact cost depends on the type of ad you create, and the audience you target. While there are still a couple of hard and fast rules for getting a post approved for promotion, it’s generally a pretty cheap and easy way to get some good impressions on content that isn’t “newsfeed optimized” – for example, sales announcements, coupons, or other promotional posts. Post promotion is also a great way to maximize the reach of your best and most engaging content. By promoting an engaging video, photo or blog post, you can start the ball rolling with like, comments and shares, thus creating what is called “viral lift” above and beyond the impressions that you’re actually paying for. In today’s social media environment, some amount of paid promotion is almost always required for successful brand content.
Facebook’s ever changing newsfeed algorithms and ad structures can be frustrating and difficult to manage, but it’s important to remember that Facebook’s ultimate goal is to make the platform attractive to regular users. The more successful Facebook is at attracting users, the more people you have the opportunity to reach with your content and your ads. Change is always hard, but strategic, creative, and innovative brands will always come out on top!
Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside Maine.
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