Brands and marketers continue to rely on the Facebook platform to reach their audiences, despite the fact that organic reach on Facebook isn’t what it once was. As Facebook aims to provide a top-notch experience for its users, the Facebook algorithm has undergone many changes, some of them drastic. One thing is clear: It takes more than a snazzy cover photo to attract likes and generate engagement (although a well-designed Facebook cover photo is still important!).
As video emerged as one of the top social media marketing trends, it was no surprise when the Facebook algorithm started to prioritize videos – particularly live videos – in the newsfeed. Brands adapted, and video quickly became one of the smartest ways to use Facebook for business.
But the Facebook algorithm is an evolving enigma, much like the Google search algorithm, leading to many misconceptions and, sometimes, downright confusion for brands and marketers. Whether you’ve just conducted a social media audit and found some disappointing metrics or you’re just getting started with Facebook marketing, we wanted to help you get a feel for how the mysterious Facebook algorithm ticks.
To do that, we reached out to a panel of Facebook experts and social media pros and asked them to answer this question:
“What’s the single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm?”
Meet Our Panel of Facebook Experts & Social Media Pros:
TiAnna Anderson is a strategic marketing consultant and copywriter at Anderson Innovative Marketing. She helps beautepreneurs and small business owners identify their unique client match and devise a plan to build the know, love, and trust factor to make them customers for life.
“The single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is that you can post business related messages on your personal profile and reach more people. As an attempt to beat the algorithm, many small business owners simply post business inquiries, pitches, and promos directly on their personal profile. It may seem as if more people have seen your post; however, more often than not, it’s just an illusion. On your personal profile are your family, high school friends, and college partners who are generally just happy to see what you’re doing, and not necessarily a customer of your business. Additionally, posting promotional content on your personal profile is against Facebook’s terms of service, and if your post doesn’t get much engagement, the algorithm can even begin to rate your personal profile at a lower position. Even worse, if Facebook determines that you have been using your personal profile to promote your business, then they could delete or lock your profile, and you lose all of your pictures and contacts.
Nate Masterson is the CEO of Maple Holistics, a company dedicated to cruelty-free, natural, and sustainable personal care products.
“By the numbers, engagements and shares are the most important factors in the Facebook algorithm. This is largely in part because it leads to all other kinds of algorithm-friendly activity, such as comments and shares which tend to have a ripple effect. While Facebook gives these posts priority, they also gain traction organically by generating comments, reactions, and more views. The ideal unicorn post would be a thought-provoking and entertaining short video. This sweet spot combination posted at around 12 pm on Wednesday or between 1-2 pm on Thursday gives you the best shot at top engagement slots across news feeds.”
Tony Ellison works with Shoplet, an online market leader for business and office supplies; celebrating over 20 years in the industry. They carry over 1 million office products and are continually expanding their assortment of nearly 100,000 green and eco-friendly items. Shoplet has everything you need for your business.
“One thing that seems to stump many fan page owners is understanding why their pages seem to be reaching less of their followers. In 2018 Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize more of what users want to see and less of what they don’t. This often means more video and content pieces. It also means showing less links and text only posts.
“How the platform measures reach is calculated differently, as well. In the past, each time a user logged on, Facebook would load roughly 250 posts. Each of these was counted as part of your page’s reach regardless if the user actually scrolled down far enough to see your post. Today, your post is only counted if the user actually scrolls through and sees it in their timeline. The problem with this is if you are trying to compare your analytics to performance of previous years, your data is now skewed.”
Elesha Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication and is passionate about helping businesses grow. With 20 years of experience in marketing, this Operations Director at the Social Reach Agency oversees Brand Managers and staff as they assist clients on their journey of building an online community.
“Facebook’s algorithm shows your content more to those you engage with and those who engage with you. So if you want to gain more reach and exposure, you have to engage with more people.Otherwise, only the same people will see the same content over and over again.
“While this is a simple concept, I believe it’s the single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm. Many companies think posting the most creative content is the most important aspect. But you can have the most eye-appealing post, but if not one person engages with it, you’ve wasted your time and money. However, if you post a conversation-starting question that 50 people respond to or share, you’ve hit the jackpot. It might even have only taken you 20 seconds to create that post, but that doesn’t matter because your Facebook audience engaged with it.
“Along with asking questions, there are other ways to improve engagement. Using images that tell a story, whether it’s sad or funny, will draw viewers in and encourage them to share with others. Showing your company’s personality is a really great way to get people to respond to your posts. If you haven’t established a business personality yet, start now. One of the best strategies is to pay close attention to what kind of posts your fans are liking, sharing, and commenting about.
“There are numerous other methods when it comes to social media engagement. But the number one priority should simply be just to engage. No matter how you go about it, your posts won’t be seen by new people if you don’t engage. Facebook’s algorithm just won’t allow it.”
Kris Hughes is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at ProjectManager.com.
“The most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm changes is that Facebook no longer really cares how long a reader spends with content shared on a brand’s page, but rather how they interact with that content. Likes on posts really don’t matter much anymore, either. Likes are now seen as a more superficial metric, with the algorithm instead focusing on and rewarding brands who are able to convince their readers and followers to perform quality interactions with posts through commenting and sharing.
“Comments and shares are also at a greater premium in 2019 due to the friends and family update which occurred in the fall of 2018, created to ensure the average Facebook user is seeing content from their friends and family more often than they are from brands and/or publishers they may follow on the platform. The more your followers are sharing and commenting on your content, the more favorable your content will be seen in Facebook’s eyes.
Leland Reed is a Digital Advertising executive for Pittsburgh-based Direct Online Marketing. Reed manages a team of agency ad buyers on behalf of DOM’s large client list. Reed is a digital marketing industry veteran who frequently contributes articles involving Facebook Ads and Google Ads to DOM’s blog.
“Over the course of the past decade, Facebook’s algorithm, at least organically, has given more and more priority to current and trending news items. News, of course, is both the blessing and the curse for Facebook.
“It is likely that Facebook came to a realization that its users were digesting trending news at a massive rate. Recent elections have shown Facebook to be the number one source of news online. Facebook realizes that if it doesn’t serve as the portal for trending news, someone else will. In fact, Twitter’s growth was likely stunted by Facebook decidedly changing its algorithm to be more supportive of trending topics.
“Prior to this broad change, Facebook didn’t distinguish between ‘static content’ and ‘trending content.’
“In 2010, it wasn’t unusual to see articles such as ’50 Ways To Use Coconut Oil’ dominating on your Facebook news feed. It is likely the algorithmic change by the Facebook powers that be which have severely culled off such static content and replaced it with a dominating ‘news’ news feed.
James Robinson is a Marketing Adviser with Iconic Genius who teaches small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs how to generate high-quality leads for a living.
“I love this question and I have a two-part answer for it. First, Facebook is all about social engagement, and no matter how much the algorithm changes, that is the one aspect that will never change.
“As long as your content is engaging then you will be successful on Facebook. The problem is, most companies think selling their products is engaging, but the truth of the matter is, it isn’t.
“This leads me to my second point, which is less about the algorithm – but most companies blame the algorithm for their lackluster Facebook ad performance.
“What could be causing your ads to suck?? Landing pages!!! Most people don’t know that Facebook is going to charge you more money to take its customers off of Facebook to send them to your website or landing page. YES, when you run ads on Facebook you are going after its customers. And Facebook’s job is to keep these customers (users) on their platform for as long as possible. Why?? Because that is how they make money. So if you want to run ads to get people to go to your website, Facebook is going to make you pay. It’s not an algorithm problem; it’s a strategy problem. Just something to think about.”
Alycia Yerves is an award-winning marketer and designer. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Alycia Yerves Creative: a Jersey Shore-based marketing and design agency. She has spent more than 15 years in the arts marketing industry, creating content for hundreds of artists and productions. She is a recipient of Box Office Magazine’s Front Line Award.
“What I try to get clients to remember is that while Facebook’s algorithm is constantly changing, one thing never changes: it’s never about your brand, business, or product; it’s only ever about your community. Facebook wants to keep users as engaged as possible within the Facebook platform itself, and wants them to spend as much time within it as possible. They want content that inspires meaningful conversation and engagement. And not only that, but they want those conversations to happen organically. They don’t want to reward content that asks for the likes, shares, or comments. They will appropriately reward content that naturally garners those responses because they deem it more authentic. Content creators should always work with their audiences behaviors and likes/dislikes in mind; not the product, service, or event they’re trying to promote. Work backwards, and solve for X.”
Gabe Hernandez is currently the Digital Marketing Director for ROI Swiftand a hat enthusiast. His experience has taken him from designing and executing advertising research for Disney to working on Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions team.
“Both users and brands often mistakenly believe that everyone who is connected to them will be delivered their posts in their news feed. The reality is that Facebook indexes which Friends and Pages a user is closest to based on engagement and relation and uses that as a signal to deliver more content from those sources. Now that Facebook has publicly said that the news feed prioritizes content from friends and family over brands and publishers, the algorithm challenges brands to create better content or better target their posts more than before. We hear from brands that they don’t want to run any Page Post Engagement ads because it feels like paying for reach is just paying for something they used to get for free, but they overlook that paying for engagement provides an opportunity to reengage users who might’ve lapsed and weren’t previously seeing posts in their news feed and reach was never guaranteed to begin with.”
“The most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm: it’s not against you.
“Probably one of the things that grinds my gears the most in the online entrepreneurial space is hearing entrepreneurs say that the Facebook algorithm is against them. That’s simply not true. What the Facebook algorithm favors is good, quality content, that others view as valuable. If you’re posting content that actually matters to your audience, then you have nothing to worry about, you should actually expect to see a jump in your engagement, comments, and/or shares.
Trina Sanders has a passion for all things digital and is constantly seeking to the question: “How can I make social media work for me?” She is also the Digital Marketing Manager for Labor Finders International – leaders in blue collar staffing.
“The single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is that it will do all the heavy lifting for you. Facebook is far from a set it and forget it type of marketing platform. It’s actually quite the opposite. Mark Zuckerberg even admitted that with some of their changes in 2018, businesses would have to work even harder to gain customers’ attention.
“Yes, it’s true that Facebook’s algorithm can be helpful in meeting your social marketing goals, but that reward comes with a cost – in time or money. We explain to our over 200 offices, who are now beginning to incorporate Facebook into their workflow, that like most success stories, the more time you put in, the more value you’ll get back. Doing things like creating content that resonates with your audience, or that is share-worthy, can send signals to Facebook’s algorithm to spread your post to similar audiences…. but that’s after you’ve put your best foot forward in boosting or sharing to your network.”
Shannon Doyle is a social media specialist at Page 1 Solutions, LLC. She creates and executes individualized social marketing strategies and paid ad campaigns for clients in the legal, medical, and dental fields. She is a graduate of Radford University, attaining at BBA degree in marketing.
“A commonly misunderstood aspect of creating and posting content for Facebook is that it can be posted on any day of the week at any time in order for the profile to be perceived as active. The truth is that an active Facebook profile should have a solid social media strategy that encompasses a content ratio, to ensure that posting is both frequent and consistent.
“Posting frequency and consistency are both key to a successful social media strategy. When you post consistently, Facebook’s algorithm will deliver your content consistently, especially to those users who engage with your content. If you do not post consistently, Facebook will not deliver your content consistently, as it will be pushed to the bottom of a user’s feed. As we all know, the first step to marketing is awareness. If your message is never seen or delivered, there is no way for your audience to be aware.
“Come up with a content ratio at the beginning of every month, such as posting once every day, once every other day, or once every three days. This will help to keep the algorithm happy and deliver your content to users so they can engage with it.
“By maintaining a consistent posting strategy, users will maintain consistency in their engagement. If there is an overflow of activity in a short duration of time, users may lose interest. Keep users engaged by spacing out content properly, or by posting more consistently. If users know that you post every day that’s what they will expect to see, but if they do not know what to expect and get flooded with content they may lose interest.”
With an ever-growing love of content marketing, SEO, and social media, Marie proudly wears her title of Content Marketing Specialist at DashThis. She is gladly sharing her expertise with her fellow marketers whenever she can.
“The single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is the fact that quantity now plays a much thinner role in your social success. It used to be simple: more is better, right? To have a good Facebook strategy you needed to post up to 3 posts every single day because the more you published, the better the chances of success. But now, the game changed. Facebook takes into account the predictability of a consumer’s reaction and scores your posts according to its capacity to get positive reactions and shares. Not only do you have to post frequently, but you need to make sure your message, tone, targeting, and engagement, are good too. Like Google’s (which isn’t about the number of keywords anymore) Facebook’s algorithm is getting smarter by the day, and you need to adapt your own behavior and strategies accordingly.”
Pavel Gertsberg is the Head of Growth at Disciple.
“It’s getting harder to reach your audience on Facebook. News feeds are so filled with clickbait, fake news, and distractions that Facebook has to use its EdgeRank algorithm to work out which posts to show to whom.
“And this algorithm is always changing. Just recently, Facebook changed the way its algorithm prioritizes and delivers content to groups. As a result, you’ll now reach only 1-2% of your Facebook audience when you post, making it really difficult for you to deliver engaging content and messages to your community.”
Janice Wald is a Blogger, Blogging Coach, Author, and Freelance Writer.
“The Facebook algorithm is misunderstood. People believe using the Facebook page is no longer a way to boost one’s online presence. However, Facebook wants to let entrepreneurs boost their presence with the Facebook business page. All they are asking is engagement. How? Videos, question and answer, contests and giveaways – anything that will help people engage with the page. Invite people to like your page as well. All these will boost engagement and please the Facebook algorithm into giving your page more visibility and boosting your brand.”
Megan Zaleski is a social media coordinator for NYC-based boutique PR firm HeraldPR. Day-to-day she works to optimize social content for clients across all platforms, while implementing new branding strategies.
“The single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is the weight behind meaningful engagement. Yes, we all know that more engaging posts (i.e., posts with comments, shares, and likes) rank higher in the news feed, but what most don’t know is how Facebook calculates how meaningful an interaction may be. The implementation of ranking meaningful interaction works to eliminate bait posts on Facebook that ask users to tag a friend in the comment section to ultimately rank the post higher. Many of these tactics no longer work as Facebook’s algorithm now demotes bait posts altogether. So, how does Facebook weight meaningful interaction? By pushing relevant content to the user and evaluating interaction against user interest. If Facebook sees a post as scoring high on your interest list, then the interaction is weighted higher.”
Nick Shulda is a Copywriter, Online Media Strategist, and Spotify playlist curator at J Miller Marketing in Huntley, Illinois.
“Not all engagements are good engagements. While it is true that likes and reactions show engagement, which in turn ranks your posts higher in the news feed, they are very low commitment and therefore not valued by Facebook’s algorithm. Commenting is the highest ranked form of engagement in the eyes of Facebook, but it has to be organic. You can prompt your followers to comment in order to add to the conversation, but if you’re asking them to comment for no reason other than an obvious ploy to manufacture engagement (i.e., ‘Like for A, Comment for B’), the algorithm is smart enough to recognize this kind of spammy behavior that adds little to no value to the user.”
Matt Erickson is the Marketing Director for National Positions, a digital marketing agency in Westlake Village, CA. He has his undergraduate in International Business and Marketing as well as his MBA from CSUS Sacramento. His main areas of interest include social media, branding, and marketing psychology.
“The algorithm is not a blanket. For example, Facebook pushes video content – hard. However, if a particular audience segment seems to react and engage more with image content or articles that people are sharing, Facebook can adapt to the tastes of these feeds – it will serve up more of that content. Facebook wants to show you more of what YOU want, so it is constantly learning. So testing different types of content is just as important as creating content in the first place. The content that works for a sports brand may not work for a healthcare brand. Test and try to understand what content the algorithms are preferring for your brand.”
Luke Wester is the Digital Marketing Analyst at Miva, Inc., an eCommerce solutions provider with over 21 years of experience.
“The most misunderstood thing about the Facebook algorithm is its ranking of outbound links. I have seen, more often than not, people viewing Facebook as a platform from which to siphon traffic. The idea is that you can create a Facebook post with a blog link and Facebook users will pour onto your blog page. It simply does not work like that. Facebook demotes social posts with outbound links. That means your reach is significantly lower than a post without an outbound link. Some people base their entire approach around this idea, only to find dismal traffic from Facebook. Basically, stop thinking you can post a link to your blog on Facebook and get traffic. The Facebook algorithm doesn’t work that way.”
Bob Clary is a brand strategist, blogger, and social media guru with specialties that also include search engine optimization, search engine marketing, re-marketing, digital public relations and marketing engagement. Clary has over 15 years of experience in the marketing space and is currently Director of Marketing at DevelopIntelligence.
“The single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is that it prioritizes active interactions over passive ones. Users and brands think that because a post has a lot of likes or click-throughs (passive interactions) that it will appear higher in news feeds. This is not the case. Top ranking factors for the Facebook algorithm are active interactions – comments, reactions, comment replies, sharing links over messenger to a group of people, engagement on shares, and those types of activities.”
Daniel Larsen helps businesses compete with cute babies and cat videos on the Facebook feeds of their ideal customers. A serial entrepreneur and marketing consultant, he’s been running ads on Facebook since 2011.
“What people seem to misunderstand most about the algorithm is that it loves content that keeps people on Facebook. Facebook wants people to spend as much time as possible on their platform, and the algorithm rewards advertisers who act accordingly.
“Whether it’s a text ad, video, or something interactive, you want to maximize the level of interaction with your ad inside the feed or story. Ads that do this effectively will see far more reach across your audience, at a much lower cost.
“Conversely, the algorithm doesn’t like ads that anger or frustrate people. They don’t like ads that get negative reactions or get hidden by users. They don’t like ads that bore people or make them feel self-conscious.
Jimmy Rodriguez is the COO of 3dcart.
“The most misunderstood aspect is that Facebook shows you ‘junk.’ In reality, Facebook shows you what your friends are interested in. Every time someone from your circle engages with a post, it tells Facebook that you may be interested in that kind of information. When it comes to businesses and influencers, this can give you a cue to create engaging content in order to get as much eyeballs on it as possible. Because every time a person engages with a price of content, it will be shown to many more people in their circle. That is the power of social media.”
Jonathan Gorham is the founder of Engine Scout, a digital marketing company based in Melbourne, Australia. He runs a lot of social media campaigns and has even built a free Facebook tool to help people target their customers better.
“Most people think you have to create amazing content to stand out on Facebook. The truth is, the Facebook algorithm doesn’t work like that. If you want Facebook to show your content love then start engaging with more people. It’s a simple strategy, and I believe it’s the most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm. So, stop spending your time creating perfect content because Facebook won’t reward you by showing it to new people. Instead, start engaging with more people and your content will be seen by more people.”
Ollie Smith is the CEO of ExpertSure.
“In my experience, the single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is related content and audience engagement. The algorithm shows content you share to those you engage with the most on Facebook. So to gain more reach and exposure, you need to engage with more people. This is wrong and this is where the misunderstanding comes in. Instead of busting your chops writing the most creative content that potentially a limited number of people will see, why not post a conversation-starting question that 100 people will respond to or share? Even achieve half of this audience and you have hit the jackpot! When it comes to content and audience engagement – don’t work hard, work smart.”
Mike Khorev is a Growth Lead at Nine Peaks Media, a digital marketing company that helps businesses generate more leads and grow revenue online.
“I’ve worked with various businesses on Facebook marketing and I’ve noticed many initially think Facebook’s algorithm works autonomously without audience engagement. In truth, this isn’t the case.
“Creative content is only one part of how Facebook ranks posts. It’s essential to realize Facebook places a lot more importance on how the content engages people. Not that being original isn’t important. You just need to compel people to take some form of action rather than being merely entertained or informed.
“One actionable way to get this started is pose a question in your marketing content. A business doesn’t even have to write a long piece to do something like this. Just one paragraph posing a compelling question could probably get more people engaging with it than if writing something long-form.
“To get people to share the content, Facebook marketers should also include more imagery.
“Bring some personality and personal branding to make a big difference in how many people engage. By posing the above question, you’ll have more people leaving comments as well, which only helps with rank.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you already have Facebook’s algorithm all figured out. Fortunately, the solution to making it work is a little simpler than trying to crack the occasional conundrums of Google’s algorithm.”
Ashley Mason is a marketing consultant at Dash of Social who works with small businesses to help them create and execute strategies that attract their dream clients, establish an online presence, and grow their communities.
“The most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is you have to PAY to PLAY. Although you are likely to attract ideal customers and convert them when running an effective ad, people assume that running Facebook ads is the ONLY way to get your business’s content seen now. This is NOT true! My Facebook business page, for example, has NEVER run an ad – but my engagement is awesome. This is because I’m consistent with my posts, I always provide quality content, and I KNOW what my audience wants to see. If you use those three tactics when developing your Facebook strategy, you won’t even have to worry about the algorithm.”
Joe Tan is the founder of SoothOil, and the owner of several e-commerce stores, in which one of them made over USD $20 million in sales in 2018, purely with Facebook marketing.
“Facebook paid ads are getting really common nowadays. If you own a Facebook fan page, on every post you put up onto the page, you’ll have the option to promote it. Depending on how much you could afford to pay for ads, you could run the ads with a budget as low as $1 per day, or scale up to $100k per day (or even more!).
“Here’s the most misunderstood aspect of the algorithm: The more you pay, the more you earn!
“I’d spent more than $10 million on Facebook ads over the course of 3 years, and I can assure you that the fact is: The more you pay, the less you earn! Yes, “less”!
“Nobody knows the exact formula for Facebook algorithm, but I can assure that it’s never a linear equation. By setting $1 as the daily budget, you might stand a chance to get a sales or two, generating $40 in revenue, and that would be a whooping ROAS (Return on Ads Spend) of 40!
“Is that even possible – $1 to $40? So what if we scale it 1000 times, wouldn’t it be $1,000, generating $40,000 in sales?! Oh yea, I’m gonna be an overnight millionaire!
“Chances are, you’re going to be broke over the night. Really.
“It is possible to generate $40 with $1 spend, but it depends on multiple factors. Being lucky plays a role as well. However, by scaling the budget up 10 times, the revenue might only be scaled 5 times, or less; scaling budget by 100 times, might only scale revenue by 3 times, or less, etc.
“So at the end of the scale, you’ll start to notice it would be something like this:
- $1 spend, generates $40, ROAS 40.
- $10 spend, generates $200, ROAS 20.
- $100 spend, generates $120, ROAS 1.2.
“And if the number goes on, see how the ROAS drops drastically? You might actually end up losing a ton of hard-earned cash.
“Unfortunately, this is one mistaken concept that all ‘gurus’ teach, so that you’ll buy their e-book or sign up for their course, but it’s completely false! No matter how good your marketing material is, as long you’re using Facebook Marketing, you’re tied up with this algorithm. Scaling a successful business does not seem as easy as it is.
“There are various methods that can be used to scale a business, and maintain its stability at the same time. This involves some basic marketing knowledge and experience.
Andrew Becks is a digital media and marketing expert with experience and proficiency in a variety of disciplines, including Social media marketing, mail and database marketing, CRM and database systems, Paid search/search engine marketing (SEM), Search engine optimization (SEO), and more.
“In my experience, the single most misunderstood aspect of the Facebook algorithm is how it controls what each and every user sees, and that as a result of the Facebook algorithm, a user won’t always see a page’s content just because they’ve followed a particular page. Also, the fact that content type can influence algorithm reach is often overlooked; all things equal, videos reach more followers than link and photo posts.”
Stephanie Sharlow is the Chief Editor at DesignRush.
“There’s a lot to unpack with the new Facebook algorithm. It delivers a harsh blow to brands using the platform exclusively for their social media marketing purposes. But there’s a diamond in the rough when it comes to the new algorithm that most brands don’t know.
“The new algorithm places an emphasis on creating conversations. And as any good marketer knows, engaging in conversations puts you one step closer to solidifying connections and establishing relationships.
“The Facebook algorithm isn’t looking to automatically penalize you because you’re a brand — that’s what marketers don’t understand. Yes, if you’re a brand with little-to-no following, it will be harder. But that just means you have to publish more impactful content that drives discussions.”
[Originally posted: https://www.sharethis.com/thought-leadership/2019/02/misunderstood-aspects-of-the-facebook-algorithm/]