By Patrick Cuttica, Account Manager at SocialKaty, Inc.
Facebook has long claimed that posts from Brand Pages typically reach about 16% of their fans organically. This 16% number has (begrudgingly) become a widely acknowledged metric by most Facebook Page Admins. However, recent updates to the News Feed algorithm (né EdgeRank) and a recently shared Facebook for Business sales document have many digital marketers and Page Admins alike up in arms over the fact that Facebook is admittedly throttling Organic Reach. “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
Following the Facebook updates (the true start date of which is impossible to pinpoint; as with most features/changes it was likely a gradual roll out process), our internal tests have shown that the average Organic Fan Reach for many of our Brand Pages has been more on the order of 5-10%, a far cry from the aforementioned 16% of existing fans! So what is really going on here?
Facebook Marketing expert Jon Loomer - often a contrarian amongst social media marketers in the sense that he is quick to defend the Facebook Marketing platform and does so with real, hard data - makes a great argument that obsessing over the decrease in Reach on an individual Page Post level is not only inefficient, but also shortsighted: “In the case of micromanaging the Reach of individual posts, we are being completely and insanely unreasonable.”
Certainly it makes sense that taking a broader view of the trend in Organic Reach over a week or month long time frame should provide more compelling insight into who your content is, in fact, reaching. That said, the week or month long Reach metric is by definition a sum of its (daily) parts.
So, how can we, as Page Admins, ensure that we are still optimizing our Reach for each Post without micromanaging or obsessing over the changes in the algorithm? Below are two content marketing strategies, specific to the Facebook ecosystem, which we have found to be effective in achieving this goal.
Photo Post With Multiple Images (Not in an Album)
A recent Facebook feature update gave Page Admins the ability to upload multiple images in a single Photo Post without creating an album. The reason why this is important is that in order to view all the images, fans are incentivized to actually click on the Post and scroll through them. In our experience, these clicks play an even more integral role in increasing the Organic Reach metric than the traditional Likes, Comments and Shares.
In one example, a Photo Post containing multiple product images (not in an album) for a home decor Brand Page with an audience in the 5,000-10,000 fan range saw a 262% increase in Organic Reach over the average of the previous 5 single image Photo Posts. The multiple image Photo Post also saw a 989% increase in number of Post Clicks while actually, on average, having created 2 fewer Stories (ie, Likes, Comments and Shares).
In other words, Post Clicks - which our data suggests are greatly increased in Photo Posts containing multiple images - had a significant and more valuable effect on Organic Reach than the number of Stories Created.
Need more proof?
In another example, a Photo Post containing multiple product images for an e-commerce apparel Brand Page with an audience in the 20,000-40,000 fan range saw a 280% increase in Organic Reach over the average of the previous 5 single image Photo Posts. The multiple image Photo Post also saw an 870% increase in number of Post Clicks while actually, on average, having created 9 fewer Stories (ie, Likes, Comments and Shares).
Keep in mind none of these posts had any Paid Reach - ie, no ads, Promoted Posts or “Boost” were used. Rather, these results came from using multiple images in a Photo Post with clear calls to action along the lines of “Click to enlarge & scroll right” in the copy.
Take Advantage of “Story Bumping” & “Last Actor”
You have likely seen “Story Bumping” at work and not even realized it. In essence, if a fan misses a Post in their News Feed originally — perhaps because they didn’t scroll far enough down to see it — “Story Bumping” allows for this previously missed “below the fold” Post to be inserted nearer to the top of a user’s News Feed later. Here’s the kicker, “Story Bumping” occurs for a Post if others are still interacting with the story/content.
Therefore, re-engaging with older posts is a great way to get them resurfaced in your fans’ News Feeds, thus increasing and prolonging Organic Reach. How can this be accomplished? There are lots of ways! Here are two examples:
1. Use the “Reply” feature to engage in continuous conversation with your fans in the Comments section. Not just on the day it is posted, but revisit old posts and re-engage fans.
2. Link back to this Post in another Facebook Post or, better yet, embed the Post on your blog or website to encourage engagement outside of the Facebook ecosystem.
The second update, “Last Actor”, refers to the fact that a user is more likely to see content from a Brand Page (or friend connection) which he/she has recently interacted with. With “Last Actor”, Facebook tracks the last 50 interactions you do on Facebook on a rolling basis and uses those as signals to rank your feed.
To that end, the Facebook News Feed algo is inherently designed for the age old psychological (and marketing) strategy of priming: “an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus.” As a Brand, you should be taking advantage of this!
As Page Admins, we are constantly trying to balance two aspects of the creative and strategic messaging with our Brand’s Facebook Posts. On one hand, we are told to be very blunt and direct in trying to get a user to perform a certain action; ie, lead with a strong call-to-action: “LIKE if…” or “COMMENT below!”
On the other hand, we know that sounding “too salesy” inherently diminishes the social sharability of a post and can actually discourage engagement. It can be very difficult to marry the two tactics in a genuine way. So, why not break them up into two posts?
For example, let’s say I’m operating an e-commerce site and I want to drive traffic to a landing page (off Facebook) for a “limited time sale” that I’m running. I create a great graphic and engaging copy for an organic post to inform my fans of the, let’s say, 20% off sale.
This Post containing the link back to my website has a better chance of reaching more fans (and thus potentially getting more link clicks) if an hour before posting it, I post another Photo Post whose sole purpose is to drive social engagement and create Stories. For example, why not use a “Fill in the Blank” or “Caption this Photo” Post. Thanks to “Last Actor”, the folks who Like, Comment, Share or click on the first Post have an elevated probability of seeing the “20% off sale” Post that’s coming next.
At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts around the need to create good content. The above strategies are only meant as a means to ensure that the rich, engaging and relevant content which you create is getting that extra push of Organic Fan Reach. The engine that filters the Facebook News Feed will forever be changing, and while Loomer’s battle cry “Bottom Line: Don’t Chase an Algorithm” is sage advice, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with strategies to optimize the sharability and reach of your excellent content once you’ve created it.