“Meaningful Content” Facebook algorithm changes.
For many years, Facebook “Author” Pages have been a mainstay for authors wanting to promote their books. It was a source of nearly free advertising. Five or six years ago, something posted on your page could be seen by 30-50% of those subscribed to your page regardless of the content or quality.
As newsfeeds became more crowded, Facebook tightened up the algorithm which determines who receives which posts from a page. It looked at content, how individuals responded to similar content in the past, whether it is “pure” advertising or “meaningful” content, and then it would serve that to the people most likely to be interested in that content.
The “organic” or unpaid reach of posts fell to 15% a few years ago to 5-12% today. This week, Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the algorithm was being changed again to be sure everyone was receiving “meaningful” content in their newsfeeds which meant fewer posts from business pages. This change will be rolled out over the next several months, but already some are declaring the “End of Days” for the essentially free ride many marketers have had over the past ten years.
How the Algorithm Works
While the details of the algorithm are a closely held secret, the basics have been deduced. It works something like this:
- You post on your Facebook Page
- Facebook scans your post to determine what type it is (video, picture, link, text-only), whether it is original content or linked content, whether it had language that suggests it has little or no content other than to sell a product, and whether it duplicates something you previously paid to have published.
- Facebook sends out the post to a small test group of people who like your page.
- Facebook evaluates the responses to that post
- The algorithm is looking for posts that engage people in conversation. So, those posts with more meaningful comments (Other than just LOL or Yep) will be more likely to receive a larger distribution than those with short, mechanical responses.
What to Do
So, changes are coming, and what should we do?
Stay informed. There are several sources of information. The most important one is Facebook. It is important if you are using Facebook as part of your marketing – AND YOU SHOULD – to read this regularly.A second excellent source of information is Social Media Examiner I suggest signing up for the newsletter. You can scan it for those topics most interesting before clicking through to the site.
Don’t Panic! Small numbers are not always bad numbers. Back in the 1970s Life Magazine closed up shop. The reason: Too many subscribers. They were in 20 million American households, but the spread was so wide, that advertisers couldn’t target specific groups very well. I would rather speak directly to 100 bonafide fans than 1000 people who just “liked” my page because I posted it on a writer’s page exchange.Secondly, much of this is not new. Facebook has been trending toward increasing the quality of its content for the last several years. The proliferation of fake news, propaganda, and lies that reached the level of libel during the last election cycle increased the pressure for them to do something about third-party interests – businesses, public figures, political parties, even foreign agents and terrorist groups – using the platform inappropriately pushed the issue even further.Third, you have enough time to adapt your content. This will take months to implement.
Inform your Fans. I do this periodically anyway. I post something like this:“DON’T MISS OUT!!! Because of changes being made by Facebook to improve the quality of your newsfeed, you may see fewer posts from us. However, it’s easy to stay informed about changes to this page. Just click on the button marked following. Then click to receive our posts first in your newsfeeds. Next click to receive notifications. You can even choose what type of notifications you want to receive.”I also periodically post something like this:
“HELP US OUT! If you read one of these posts and you like it, please indicate that by clicking like. Facebook gives more reach to posts that people indicate they like. Even better, leave a comment and/or share the post with others. Help us spread the word. We appreciate it.
Get rid of “engagement bait.” If you have posts on your page that are created just to get people to “like” the page or type in one word if they agree or to be included in a drawing, get rid of them. Those posts (and pages if they have many of them) will be demoted. So, if you have something that reads. “Like this post, if you believe in God” or “Type yes if you are a Leo,” get rid of it. Some people have used such posts to mess with the algorithm in the past. In fact, such techniques were being taught in social media classes. Those will no longer help.
Use live video. Facebook right now wants to encourage the use of live video. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a simple hello to your fans. Instead of posting you will be at the mall signing books, put up a live video. Then when you are at the mall, do a video showing the scene. This gets sizable numbers.
Diversify your Facebook presence. I just came back from a group I manage. We are getting 50-60 percent on most posts in terms of viewership. That’s much higher than the 25-30 percent the same organization gets on their Facebook pages. And that’s about twice the national average. The engagement is fantastic. We are building up some serious “fans” for this nonprofit group. I see my profile page, professional page, and my group pages as all part of my platform on Facebook. They help in different ways, but they all are part of my personal and professional life.If there are posts that you want only certain people like close friends and family to read, you can create a list on Facebook and only post those things to that list. Then you can encourage fans to friend you on Facebook. You can choose not to follow them, but they can still follow your posts. Private posts from your profile page will score higher than public posts. So posting to both your Facebook Page and your Profile will increase the reach of our posts.
Join relevant groups. Engage with them without trying to sell anything or even saying much about your writing until you are well known in that group. That way the occasional mention of a book release, Facebook launch party, or something similar won’t be a problem. This increases the size of a group of cyber-friends who know you “personally” and are more likely to be interested in your writing.If you have something on your page that is non-commercial, you can also share those posts (assuming they are relevant to the group) from your page. That can increase reach and engagement.
Be Original. There’s an old saying that goes “Facebook Likes Facebook.” What this means is that Facebook’s algorithms favor content that is posted directly on your page and not linked from another page.
Here are some examples and the solutions:
Videos. Many people just post a link to their YouTube videos. A better approach is to upload the video directly to both services. That way you have the YouTube link you can use to embed a video on your website, email, or blog. At the same time, the video will be “original” with Facebook
Scheduled posts. If you use a scheduler like Hootsuite to place posts multiple places on Facebook, you might reconsider using such a service. Such posts coming from a “third-party” might be treated worse than those posted manually. Some people have already ended up being sanctioned by Facebook for spam when using such bulk posting bots.
Blogs. I know if you write a blog you find it easy just to click the link on your blog that says “Post to Facebook.” The same is true for a Newsletter. However, the response and viewership of such blog posts are much lower than they will be if you just copy and paste the blog post into a Facebook status update. Add a picture, and you will be surprised at the increased reach of your blog, the increased views on your Facebook page, and the increased number of contents.Links. I like to share links to valuable information on my page. However, when I do so, I write a short paragraph or two mentioning the “takeaway” from that article or site. First, this helps the reader decide if s/he wants to read the whole article. Second, I can curate the article and possibly save the person the trouble of reading it. Finally, it will score higher in the algorithm if I add some original content.
WRITE GREAT CONTENT. Quality will out over time. If you write great content, those to whom Facebook sends the initial test post will respond. They will click, like, and comment. That will increase your reach. Some will share it with others.
In the short run, pages which have emphasized ads, fake news, low-quality content, engagement bait, and blatant commercialism will lose reach. For those who emphasize quality content, some loss will still occur, but those remaining will be your prime customers.
Terri Main is a retired college instructor. She has a Masters in psychology and has provided counseling for scores of transgendered individuals. For eight years she directed an online ministry to Christian Transsexuals. She has written more than 20 transgender-themed short stories. She currently lives in Reedley CA with her four cats. She continues to write, publish, and teach online courses.