05.Apr.2018

Michiko Gupta
Senior Digital Strategist

How to Game the Facebook Algorithm

By sticking to just one golden rule

Facebook started the year of 2018 by announcing a major algorithm change in their history: reducing news and brand posts and highlighting more posts from friends and family. This news took many of us who rely on Facebook pages by surprise and left us scrambling to figure out the best strategy to mitigate the impact.

Of course, before we delve into the matter of Facebook’s recent algorithm change, let’s address the elephant in the room. Many marketers may be feeling a little squeamish about using Facebook given the recent firestorm of security and privacy controversies. However, the reality is that for many organizations, the platform remains a critical tool in efficiently getting content and messages out to a wide audience.

Now, regarding Facebook’s announcement of the major algorithm change–Do we all need to panic and toss out our current content plan, or ask for a budget increase to boost every Facebook post?

Many of the articles that talk about this algorithm change seem to emphasize having “authentic” and “shareable” content. But those of us who work in the higher education or non-profit space already feel that we are doing that—we always have a great story to tell. So while we all wish we had a secret ingredient to create such content, there is one simple rule that we should all keep in mind while we maneuver through the ever-changing Facebook algorithm:

Play nicely in the Facebook sandbox—stay on top of Facebook’s feature updates and experiment to keep a healthy organic reach.

It’s a pretty simple formula, but not something that a lot of us follow as we tend to revert to our favorite content type, which is sharing a new link. But it’s important to keep an eye out for Facebook’s product rollout and make sure it fits into your content plan.

So what does this exactly mean? Do you remember when Facebook released their native video feature to compete with YouTube in 2015? How about their Facebook Live release? 360 Camera?

Any time Facebook launches a product, they give out a tremendous amount of organic reach. At the end of the day, Facebook also has a business to run. They are competing with YouTube and Snapchat and need their products to be successful.

So what’s currently on top of their mind (after making the platform a more secure space, of course)? Here are some features that we are tracking:

1. Facebook Live

Facebook Live seemingly does not command as much love from Facebook as it did last year, but they still think that it brings strong engagement––6x more than regular videos to be precise­­––and more engagement means more reach.

a facebook live video featuring Hillary Clinton

2. Stories

Facebook Stories is a feature that works almost identical to Instagram’s Stories feature (and now you can cross-post from Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories), allowing you to tell short, real-time updates. Generation Z is used to consuming information this way thanks to Snapchat. Since Stories are prominently highlighted above the news feed, the feature lets your content immediately cut through the clutter. It’s also a feature that is not widely used (yet) among Pages. We feel that it’s a be-where-no-one-else-is opportunity.

facebook stories bar

3. Events

Events is not a new feature but it’s an ever-evolving one, and it is one of the very few features that will show up in people’s notification section. You want to make sure that the event you are creating has a physical address, as it will only show up in the notification section based on the user’s proximity to the event. The Notifications feed is prime real estate to have your page content show up, so we suggest taking advantage of this feature for relevant events.

an event notification for a nearby facebook user

Although these tools won’t compete with paid content in reaching new audiences, they are excellent solutions to stay visible to your current followers.

Has your institution’s Facebook page experienced a decline in organic reach? What are some of the things you have been trying to adapt to their change? Let me know at mgupta@lipmanhearne.com.