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How to solve a problem like Facebook’s algorithm

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Having worked with some of the world’s largest digital publishers, and in agencies on behalf of global brands, there’s one thing that never goes away – Facebook’s algorithm.

Manipulating this complex and constantly changing formula that decides which content appears in people’s newsfeeds is the bane of many social media managers. But it can be done.

There aren’t any fancy tricks or short cuts, which you won’t be surprised to hear. It all comes down to the content you create and how you choose to distribute it within the Facebook ecosystem.

The Theory of (Social Media) Evolution

From my experience, brands need to keep tabs on publishers like TheLADbible and Viral Thread as they are often the first to trial new features and discover the latest trends; partly because they have huge followings that Facebook values as ideal test subjects; and more importantly, these publishers rely on referral traffic from Facebook to survive. If they don’t evolve, they die. It’s survival of the fittest.

Of course, publishers aren’t trying to sell products or services on social media, but in my opinion brands shouldn’t be either. Some brands fall into the trap of treating social media as a platform to shout about themselves but it’s important to remember that this is the public’s space, not yours. The brands that succeed on social media are the ones that join the conversation rather than intruding.

Creating shareable content

One thing that brands and publishers do have in common though is that their success on Facebook fundamentally depends on how shareable their content is. Without shares, the content stands no chance of spreading organically into people’s newsfeeds, which in turn hinders reach. Social media is an extremely crowded place, Facebook more so than most, and customers or readers will only share your content if it meets the following criteria.

Relevant – Is it relevant and tailored for the audience based on what you know about them? Is it timely and on trend?

Relatable – Is it presented in a relatable way that will make them say “that’s so true” and tag their friends? Is it authentic?

Emotional – Does it trigger an emotional reaction such as humour, happiness, sadness, amazement or even anger?

Ask yourself these questions every time you create a piece of content. If it doesn’t meet the criteria then it won’t get shares and therefore it’s probably not worth posting.

Playing by Facebook’s rules

It’s almost a given now that Facebook prefers video content, especially live video. This is because the social network has set its sights on becoming a video platform to rival the mighty YouTube, so much so that it’s even been paying some publishers to produce live video in order to promote the feature. On the flip side, non-video content – such as pictures and links – is seeing engagement tumble at an alarming rate.

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Facebook is also experimenting with a new video revenue model, which sees publishers paid a nominal amount depending on the number of views they accumulate. This will boost the amount of original video content in newsfeeds, but at the same time, it will become increasingly difficult to get non-video content in front of people’s eyeballs.

With this in mind, here’s some tools marketers should be experimenting with on Facebook in 2017:

Facebook Live – If you’re not already on the Live bandwagon, now is the time. Live videos have a higher EdgeRank than standard videos and therefore reach significantly more people. Post quality live content and you’re likely to see almost instant rewards in terms of engagement and page growth.

Facebook Live 360 – Although it’s not currently available to all pages, there’s no doubt that 360 video is going to be a sure fire hit for brands and publishers on Facebook. 360 video allows the user to immerse themselves in the experience rather than being a passive observer, and the results speak for themselves.

Messenger bots – Artificial intelligence is a hot topic throughout the technology sector at the moment, but there’s more to it than Siri and Alexa. Facebook is driving people to interact with brands through Messenger, and chat bots are a proving a great way for brands to offer a personalised customer service on a large scale.

As Facebook continues to evolve, brands and publishers must evolve with it. Using the tools above won’t guarantee you’ll beat the algorithm but it will certainly increase your chances of standing out from the crowd.

Interested in finding out more about our social media offering? 

By Ryan Owen Gibson

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