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The 2015 Facebook Algorithm Change

Back in April, when Facebook updated its algorithm back in April (2015), rather than simply post what changed, I decided to break down what each change in the latest Facebook algorithm meant for brand pages. I stated at the time that “(f)or some brands, this latest Facebook algorithm change will be a major benefit” for brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.”

Did your brand benefit from the latest Facebook algorithm change, Tactical Social Media; #BeTactical

My question two months later?  Did your brand actually benefit?  There is more than enough anecdotal evidence in my personal feed alone (backed up by page insights) to make some general conclusions regarding the impact of the latest change.  Brand pages who posted good content drove interaction and engagement with their fan base and were truly social saw big gains from April’s Facebook algorithm change.

I spent a good deal of time recently scrolling through my personal feed tallying posts and looking at the content and ‘publisher’.  Combined with the activity I’ve noticed on close to two dozen pages I manage/admin over the past couple of months, what I am seeing is a clear win for brand pages.

Recap: The three significant Facebook algorithm changes

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Posts about friends liking or commenting on a page’s content will be pushed down the news feed.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  Just looking at my personal feed, posts about what my friends like and comment on is all but gone.  I ran through 25 posts (my feed is defaulted to ‘recent stories’) just yesterday afternoon and found only 1.  It was the first time in several weeks I can recall seeing stories about friends liking or even commenting on content from others.  I have seen more shares, however.  I posted previously that the removal of ‘like and comment’ stories could hurt brands (liking your own content, leveraging a few friends or ‘core fans’ to like posts for visibility was a short-term tactic many employed to get visibility) and this has proven to be the case.  The flip side – shared content is now more likely to be seen, even if it’s shared by someone who is constantly posting!

I do want to add for several pages I manage, comments on posts DO have a positive impact on reach.  I tracked a few posts over a 24 hour period, then commented as myself and tagged another individual to comment as well. Within a few hours, post reach tripled.  To avoid the possibility that the posts were already viral, relevant or otherwise ‘Top Stories’ I purposely posted at off times based on page insights and in some cases, content was truly irrelevant to the brand’s audience.  Most of the posts saw an initial reach of single digits or low double digits.

Since post reach is only a measure of how many see a specific piece of content in their feed either Facebook is choosing to show comments and likes at random, is counting views in the ticker as feed views, or quite possibly, Facebook is toying with ‘influencers’ and comments and likes by certain individuals affect what you see in your feed (similar to how your connections and influencers in Google+ affect SERPs).

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Facebook will allow multiple content from individual publishers to show in your feed.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  In that same string of 25 posts I found one instance of multiple posts from the same author. This morning, with the next 25 posts I looked at, there were 3 by one author.  Over the past two weeks, I have consistently seen multiple content from individual publishers.

What makes what I’m seeing more impressive?  In many cases, it hasn’t just been multiple content from individual publishers.  It’s been multiple content from brand pages!

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Trying to balance the content you see in the right mix.

The Anecdotal Evidence:  This one can be a little harder to quantify as I’m not sure if ‘content mix’ referred to brand vs individual, content type (video, link, image) or a combination.  I can tell you my feed is still more heavily video posts, but I am seeing more links and text only posts than previously.

Interesting note –  I’ve seen overall video views decrease for pages with smaller fan bases since the latest Facebook algorithm change.

With respect to individuals vs brands, I think Facebook has done a better job of showing a mix.  While I can run through my feed at any given time and only see a handful of brand page posts (2 in 25 as I am writing this) I have seen brand posts dominate my feed.  Remember that 25 post reference above? Fifteen of those 25 posts were from brand pages!

I’ve run a few tests purposely posting when I know certain fans are online and without prompting they’ve been liking that content.  Without question brand page posts are much more likely to show in feeds since the April Facebook algorithm update.  What I found most telling – I now see content from my own pages in my feed!

The Insights

Of course, anecdotal evidence only tells part of the story.  I pulled insights for posts on the Tactical Social Media brand page activity for January through April and then again for May through mid-July.

Tactical Social Media's Insights BEFORE the latest Facebook algorithm change in April of 2015; #BeTactical

There is a very noticeable spike in activity at the end of April, and while that level wasn’t sustained in later months, there was a noticeable increase in post engagement after the latest algorithm update.

Tactical Social Media's Insights AFTER the latest Facebook algorithm change in April of 2015; #BeTactical

To be fair, there are still plenty of low points (I do experiment with my own posting tactics) but there was clearly an increase in overall post engagement since algorithm update.  What stood out was the jump in posts seeing more than 10 points of engagement.

With only 149 fans on the page at this point and only a few increases per week, page likes didn’t contribute to the numbers and as I have generally only posted once daily over the past 6 months, the increases aren’t attributable to frequency.

The April 2015 Facebook algorithm change is a ‘win’ for brand page owners.

My Take

While this is not a real study by any means, the April 2015 Facebook algorithm change is a ‘win’ for brand page owners.  It isn’t, however, a return the ‘post it and they’ll see it days’ of the past.  I mentioned purposely posting content at odd times and of irrelevant content to limit reach – well, reach WAS limited.  While the change helps, “Brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.”

Benefiting from the update still requires:

  • Posting timely, relevant and shareable content (#BeTactical)
  • Driving interaction and engagement, and being engaged (#BeSocial)
  • Posting timely – it’s critical you regularly monitor your insights to find the best times for you to post)
  • Posting consistently

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The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change, April 2015: Facebook Organic Reach = (Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency + Engaged Fans; Tactical Social Media: a Tacoma, WA / South Sound Social Media Consulting Agency

Facebook Organic Reach = {(Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency} + Engaged Fans
Where Quality Content = Content x (Relevant + Timely + Sharable)
Where Engaged Fans = Active Fans / Total Fans

What’s Your Take?

Are you seeing more page stories in your personal feed?  Have you seen any increase in post reach?  Do you think the April 2015 Facebook algorithm change has helped?  If not, could it just be your content or posting strategy/tactics?

Will (Did) Your Brand Benefit?

Facebook gets some heavy criticism from brand and pages admins on algorithm changes.  What was a great tool to get visibility for just showing up and posting morphed into a “you need to work hard at it and maybe add a few of your hard-earned dollars” tool?  Most saw this as a negative, for those brands that did social media right, it hurt but certainly wasn’t a death-blow.  The latest Facebook algorithm change (there are three significant changes) looks to be no different.  How brand pages will be affected depends on several factors.  For some brands, this latest Facebook algorithm change will be a major benefit.

 

The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change, April 2015: Facebook Organic Reach = (Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency + Engaged Fans; Tactical Social Media: a Tacoma, WA / South Sound Social Media Consulting Agency

 

Facebook Organic Reach

The primary measure Facebook has given us to measure post effectiveness is “reach” – how many saw your content in their feed (not that this in and of itself was a good measure).  Initially, liking a page meant seeing content.  That meant good reach.  Shifts over the years have limited content from ‘liked’ pages being seen in favor of content and activity from your friends.  Facebook assumed this was what people wanted.  It went so far as telling us what our friends were up to with Open Graph and details in our feeds.

Organic Reach took a deep hit unless brands provided timely, relevant content or paid to have their content show.  It seems Facebook got this ‘half’ right.  People complained about sponsored posts they didn’t want to see and being shown content friends liked or commented on they could care less about.  People, it turns out, don’t want a play-by-play of what their friends do.  They want content FROM their friends and pages.  Afterall, that’s why they connected with people and liked pages.

 

Enter the latest Facebook algorithm change.

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Posts about friends liking or commenting on a page’s content will be pushed down the news feed.

What does it mean for pages? Brand pages who relied on a couple of engaged fans to leverage reach through likes and comments will mean a further drop in those already dismal reach numbers. Unless you have other methods in place to drive fans to your Facebook content (if you want to know more, contact us now), this will have a significant impact on Facebook’s value for your brand.   

 

A larger fan base that isn't actively engaged has no value. You still need numbers, but you need active numbers.  How you get those fans and who they are matters.Click To Tweet

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Trying to balance the content you see in the right mix.

Facebook seems to have taken the stance that if you engage, you want to see it.  While the change is designed to show more of “content posted by the friends you care about”, we cannot help but think ‘friends’ includes ‘pages’ – “If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed.”

What does it mean for pages? Brand pages with good fan bases that are active, who post quality content will have that content seen by their fans.  While reach will increase, but only within your core fan base.  Expanding your ‘Reach’ will now require more sharing by your fans.   Now, more than ever, your better content needs to be timely, relevant and shareable.  If your content is already there, this change is a major win for you.

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Facebook will allow multiple content from individual publishers to show in your feed.

What does it mean for pages? Previously Facebook had rules in place to essentially prevent individual publishers (friends and pages) from monopolizing your feed.  While that meant seeing more content from your entire network it also meant missing out on content from those you interact with the most.  While we don’t suggest leveraging this as a tactic to purposely drive more reach, when you do have additional content, it will get seen.  Again, if your content is up to par, this is a win for you as well.

 

My Take

The latest Facebook algorithm change might be the first I’m happy to see.  Brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.  Like Google’s algorithm changes designed to weed out ‘Black Hat’ SEO practices, this change should have the same effect, reward those who are doing it right.

The only downside we can see initially while being social and relevant are still key, as they always have been, smaller pages will be hurt more than larger ones.  Expanding your reach will require a bigger and more active (bigger alone is not enough) fan base.  For some brands, who were seeing good numbers in the past without having to ante up, they may now.

Again, do it right, and you may just see some big rewards.  Of course, while more organic reach is good, we still caution of focusing too much on it.

UPDATE:  It does appear that those brands ‘doing it right’ should have seen a big uptick in visibility a result of this particular Facebook algorithm change.  Did YOUR brand?

 

Getting More Organic Reach From Your Facebook Posts

Organic reach for Facebook brand pages is down.  Gone are the days of post and they will come.  It’s is one of the biggest social media frustrations I run into when talking with small business owners.

I’ve been seeing a number of posts in our personal feed lately requesting people to like, comment and share as a way to make sure “our posts show in your feed”.  It may help, but it’s a bandage.  It’s not a long-term strategy.

The Pay to Play Mentality

There is no need to pay for reach.  This “pay for play mentality” is actually a hindrance to your efforts.  Ads and boosting posts are a great way to drive reach, increasing page likes and drive traffic to your website.  Used correctly it’s an excellent tool, but it’s not required.

The following images from a client’s Facebook Insights clearly shows plenty of organic reach.

Facebook page insights showing significant organic reach for a small page.

Clearly great reach for a small page.  If you’re not seeing results like these, it’s not a lack of payment. Your content is at fault.   Crafting and posting good content starts with understanding why what you are posting now isn’t working.

Why has organic reach dropped?

According to Brian Boland, VP Ads Product Marketing at Facebook in his 5 June 2014 article on Declining Organic Reach on Facebook, it comes down to 2 simple points:

  • Too much content. We’re at a point that so much content is being created by individuals and businesses now that space in the news feed is at a premium.  There’s only so much you can see, especially if you have a few friends who post incessantly.  Facebook simply decided to filter what users see.

Before you get on the “I should be able to see every post” bandwagon, consider the fact that Twitter doesn’t filter your stream.  Following just shy of 2000 people, we amassed 186 new Tweets in a 5 minute period.  That’s 1.62 Tweets per second!  On a Friday afternoon!  What would it have been being peak Tweeting time?

The point?  Even if Facebook allowed every post to find its way to your feed, you’d probably still not see every most posts and that means your page posts aren’t being seen by others.

The idea of not showing posts may seem unfair, but as a business, unfair can be good for you.

Update: The latest Facebook algorithm change (April 2015) has made significant changes to what content appears within the news feed.  Much of what appears below is still has an effect on what is seen.

  • How the news feed works. This is where what we see from the overabundance of posts and why we see certain content gets cloudy.  The short answer from Brian: “To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.”

So Facebook narrows down what you see based on 1000s of factors relative to each person.  If you read this like we did, it appears Facebook is behaving like Google.

When you perform a search for a keyword, phrase or full question, what Google returns in its results is based on factors including location, who it sees as your influencers, previous search history, an attempt to understand the meaning in your search query and likely your email content – all in an effort to return results best designed for you.  It’s effectively a personalized search result.  (You can always log out and run the same search to see a completely different set of results.)

Facebook, it appears, is factoring in your interests (those movies, shows you watched, the books you’ve read) what you like and comment on, what you share and who you engage with to determine what you are shown.

Added into this mix is the quality content factor. Facebook is working to show more high quality content.  According to Varun Kacholia high quality content is defined as:

  • Timely and relevant
  • From trusted sources
  • Genuine (think not overly promotional, click bait)

Facebook also takes into account how users might feel about the content.  Is it something shareable, something that could be seen as spammy, something others might complain about or hide?

The 3 bullet points are easy to work with, while the last 3 are subjective, if you hit on the other items, you’ll likely avoid any news feed blacklist issues.

There is little doubt Facebook’s news feed weighs far heavier to personal content than business content.  We can’t fault them either.  Facebook is still predominately a tool for keeping in touch with family and friends.  While users do support business and do searches for businesses within Facebook, it’s a secondary role.  Facebook, in skewing feed stories to friend’s posts shows they are aware of and protecting the user’s main interest.

What this leaves in an already concerned feed is even less space for business posts.  Add in paid posts and we wind up with a game of extreme musical chairs.  Think 25 people playing but instead of a scramble for 24 chairs when the music stops, there’s only one.  Rather than only one being excluded, only one gets included.

If you’re not seeing good organic reach, your content likely isn’t relevant, timely, trustworthy or less genuine than Facebook would like (no pun intended).  I’ll add content type and when and how often you post will affect organic reach, but will leave those for a later discussion.  Why?  The organic reach above was derived from 3 or fewer posts per week and primarily relies on links.

Footnote: knowing a better mix of post type drives even more organic reach, especially when using native video, we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg.  Ramping up our client’s content strategy should mean even better organic reach.

Getting More Organic Reach From Your Facebook Posts: Why organic reach has dropped & how to craft your Facebook posts for better organic reach in 2015.

Crafting Your Content for Better Organic Reach

Now that you know what Facebook is doing (as well as anyone can outside of Facebook) and where your current posts are missing the mark, you can design that more effective content strategy.

So where do you start? Facebook made part of your job easy.  They told us content should be timely, relevant, come from trusted sources and not be overly promotional.

Timely and relevant – If you tend to write and schedule posts weeks in advance, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Scheduling out is a great tool for your general content but you need to keep up and be able and willing to post ‘on the fly’.  If a news story breaks and it affects your business, you need address it, post it and reschedule your next few posts.  This not only applies to the news but also trending topics within Facebook and those items your fans deem important to them (the relevant part).

Facebook-page-analytics-showing-it-is-possible-to -still-get-significant-organic-reach.

The last 2 updates our clients posted See  where highly successful.  One was written leveraging a trending topic (#TheDress) tailored to their audience and message.  The other involved sharing a trending viral ad.  A post written about a controversial Super Bowl Ad just before the big game was so successful organic reach was 1357!

At Tactical Social Media we use a number of scheduling tools, but we don’t rely on them.  We are actively engaged daily in each platform and maintain a daily pulse on the news to catch the trending topic or story.  You need to do the same.  If you have or are looking to hire, a social media marketing agency to manage your account, they need to be able to monitor for news and other relevant content, creating new posts as necessary.  If they simply schedule content for you and can’t or aren’t willing to monitor and react in real-time (reasonable time), consider another firm.  

Trusted sources – Facebook now puts far more weight on links over images.  While Facebook’s desire to keep users within the platform was a major reason links were poorly weighted in the past, it also boiled down to where those links took users.  The current algorithm resolves the issue as Facebook can determine via domain authority which sites are trusted, better controlling what is seen.  Make sure the article you share, if found on multiple sources, is linked to the most trusted source.

#BeTactical: We check the domain authority of each source our client uses when sharing links. 

Genuine – make sure your posts aren’t promotional.  The more they’re geared to advice, information and helping others, the more likely they’ll make the cut.  This isn’t to say you can’t promote, just that it should be done sparingly if you want posts seen.  We already know Facebook is cracking down on click baiting and overly promotional content.

Most experts insist all of your content should have a Call-To-Action (CTA).  Since a CTA is actually promotional, though not as blatant as “Buy Now”, CTAs in too many posts could negatively affect organic reach.  Our recommendation – limit the number of posts with a CTA.  Your mix should be only 20 – 30% promotional. Save the CTAs for that content.

#BeTactical: Our client only posts promotional content once every week or two.  CTAs are limited.

While fans will follow for content about your business, there is only so much they want to hear about your widgets.  If they hide your content or unlike your page, No one said you needed to only post business content. As a matter of fact you might just be better off posting less about what you do and even business in general.  Consider being more social.  More shareable.  More personal.  Have fun. Post about what peaks your fans’ interests.  If they love coffee, take advantage of that fact.

Remember, this is social media, not direct marketing.  You need to connect with your fans on a personal level.  Social media, when used correctly, builds relationships and brand awareness (yes, direct sales too).  That awareness and those relationships, that turns prospects to leads when the decision to purchase is made.

This will take some work, but the rewards are worth it.  You need to find out what appeals to your fan base and post that content.  Facebook provides some of the demographics data on your fans.  The rest requires a little strategy to obtain.

Takeaway

If you want organic reach, your posts need to play by the rules.  Focus on crafting content that is timely, relevant and genuine.  Limit the promotions and the CTAs.  It will take some work but figure out what your fans want to read.  What peaks their interests.  What content they’ll most likely share (without asking).  This will require some time and effort but you will be rewarded.

Your Turn

Are you still seeing good organic reach?  What have you tried that worked?  That didn’t?

I’d love your hear your thoughts.  You can comment below or you can find this discussion and comment on Google+Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook or simply Tweet your thoughts!

If you’re at your wit’s end and need help creating Facebook posts that generate good organic reach,  contact us today to schedule a consultation.  If you’re in the Tacoma or South Sound Area, we’d love to buy you a good cup of coffee.

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