If you want to succeed on Facebook, you have to learn to play by its rules. That means learning about the Facebook algorithm and creating content that makes the social network work for you, rather than against you.
But can the algorithm be gamed, so that your posts show up on everyone’s feeds? Can you use your knowledge of the algorithm to help you create your content?
What is The Facebook Algorithm?
But what is the Facebook algorithm anyway?It’s just a fancy way of saying, “How Facebook sorts content.”
When people go on about the algorithm changing, they’re just saying that Facebook is changing how it shows content to users.
Why Sort Content?
The year 2004.That’s when Facebook first popped into existence. Although it wasn’t until a few years later than it took off.
Back then, it was only you and your friends. Not many of your friends either. So what Facebook showed you didn’t matter. It just showed you anything your friends posted.
Then Facebook got popular. Really popular. Not only were your friends on there, but your favorite bands, local businesses, and every celebrity alive.
Which meant that the average user was connected to dozens of friends and dozens more pages and groups. All of which were posting content.
At this point Facebook had two options:
It could continue to show you everything posted by your connections.
It could curate all those posts, choose the best ones and send those to you instead.
The second option was the only feasible one. Thus the Facebook algorithm was born.
How The Facebook Algorithm Sorts Content
In simple terms, the Facebook algorithm shows a user exactly what they want to see (or what Facebook believes they want to see.) How the algorithm figures this out is by studying a users behavior over time and collecting data.
In more complex terms, Facebook takes every post from every one of your connections (friends, pages, groups), gives each post a score, then sorts the posts from the highest to lowest. That list becomes your news feed – which is created every time you visit Facebook.
Facebook uses thousands of variables from each user to score posts and choose what to show. But at the same time, Facebook weighs posts based on its company strategy.
From experience we know that the following are important factors in what Facebook shows a user:
- Friends over pages. Your friends and what they post are scored higher than what pages post. Facebook is primarily a social network, so your friends get a bump over everything else.
- Type of content. Facebook believes certain types of content are more interesting to users than others. A text only update is at the bottom of the ladder, followed by an image, with video above and live video at the top.
- Timeliness. Straight after a status update is posted its at its strongest, then over time that strength degrades. Facebook knows users won’t be interested in something a friend posted last week, so the older a post is, the less likely you are to see it. Other, newer posts will easily trump an old post.
- Post Engagement. The more engagement a post gets, the more it will show up in other feeds. Especially if the engagement happens quickly. If you’ve got engaged or are posting about a big accomplishment, a lot more of your friends will engage with it meaning a lot more will be shown it. Similarly, for a business, the more engagement a post gets, the more it’ll show up on the feeds of your other followers.
- Personal Engagement. If you engage a lot with a certain person or page, you’re more likely to see their posts. In my case, I click on a lot of posts from the BBC News, so Facebook seems to always show BBC News articles in my feed. Which is fine as I keep clicking on them!
- What you’ve already seen. Have you ever been on Facebook, seen a post at the top of your feed, then gone back to find it a minute later only for it to suddenly have vanished? Since Facebook knows you’ve already seen the post it decides that you’d rather see other content instead of it now.
- Trendiness. If the topic of a post is a topic that has been trending, Facebook will give it a bump. If you’re posting about the Superbowl while it’s happening, your post is more likely to be seen.
- Your preferences. If you’ve decided to hide the posts of a friend or page, they’ll never get shown no matter how amazing they are. But Facebook also looks at your user behavior to figure out your unsaid preferences.
Working With The Facebook Algorithm To Increase Engagement
The bad news first:
There is no way to game Facebook’s algorithm.
Every user on Facebook is different, so what they see is different too. It would be impossible to create content that ticked the boxes for every user connected to you. No page could reach every one of its followers with a single social media post.
The good news is:
There are a few techniques you can use to increase the engagement and visibility of your posts.
- Focus on content that is more immediately engaging. Something that makes users stop their scroll. A photo or video will stop a user for a moment and make them more likely to interact with the rest of your post.
- Posting at the correct time. Since a post degrades over time, make sure to post when more people are likely to see it. However bear in mind that that’s when everybody else will be putting up their content too, so you’ll be facing off against other people.
- Use trends to your advantage. Can you create a post that is relevant to a current trend? Is a current news story connected to your business in some way? If so it’d make the great basis for a post.
- Use Facebook Live. Facebook is getting behind its Live video, so gives it a major bump in other people’s feed. Even sending everybody a notification to say you’ve gone live.
- Investigate your audience. Create content they want to see. Use your audience insights to find out what age your followers are and what type of people. You can then tailor your content toward them.
- Vary your content. If you continuously post the same type of content to your page, you’ll bore your dedicated followers. But you’ll also miss out on followers that aren’t interested in that type of content. User A might love your photos but hate your videos. User B might love your videos and hate your photos. To please them both, you need to make content for them both.
- Stay up-to-date with Facebook. Facebook isn’t shy about expressing its goals. It wants to make Facebook more immersive for everybody. With that in mind, a lot of its future focus is on 360 videos, alternate and virtual reality, and chatbots. With that in mind, it only stands to reason that those things will find favor in the algorithm. Staying up-to-date with Facebook is an important way to see what it thinks is relevant.
Remember above all, Facebook will show users what they want to see. If you make terrible content that nobody would want to look at, then nobody will see it. It’s just as simple as that.
So the golden rule is:
Create meaningful content that your connections want to engage with.
That’s the best way to work the system.