No matter what your business sells, the chances are that you have a presence on Facebook. After all, despite competition from other platforms, Facebook is still a major place to see and be seen. Especially when you consider that people spend a lot of time on social media, this marketing modality is more important than ever.
However, Facebook is a big place. With billions of users, there is a lot of content produced each day. Plus, many people have company pages, community pages, and content creator pages. It’s a lot of material, even when you consider only one language at a time.
But how does Facebook help people find the content they’ll be interested in? Besides material from friends and followed pages, the Facebook algorithm is what serves up content and defines the Facebook experience.
What is the Facebook Algorithm?
The Facebook algorithm is the center of Facebook’s user experience. Specifically, the algorithm determines what content users will see on their news feeds. This can be any kind of non-sponsored content, such as status updates, group postings, and new pictures.
In addition, the Facebook algorithm helps determine which ads people see. Not only is there Facebook Pixel and other tools to help with targeting, but the internal content viewed on the platform also helps. In other words, the algorithm is the driving force behind almost everything that members see while scrolling through Facebook.
Why is it important to know how the algorithm works?
Of course, most casual Facebook users don’t care much about the algorithm – if at all. However, as marketers, it’s critical to understand the finer points so that we can maximize our ROI for organic content.
Facebook’s algorithm changes almost every year. Every time it changes, at least some content that performed well will quit being as successful. There are many reasons for this, including shifts in consumer behavior.
Additionally, organic reach on Facebook is on the decline. The average reach for a page is 5.2%, which is very low. Part of this is because Meta wants you to pay for advertising rather than getting a lot of free exposure. Of course, this is nothing new, as Facebook has put commercial pages at a disadvantage in the Facebook algorithm for years. But if you understand the algorithm, it’ll be easier to boost your reach for free.
Similarly, keeping up with the algorithm will help you one step ahead of your competitors. If they don’t know how to maximize performance with the algorithm, then you’ll get more free exposure than they do. In addition, your competitors might spend too much on advertising.
Finally, you’ll get to save money on advertising while also reaching potential customers on Facebook. This can be a major help for your bottom line in terms of ROI, too.
Here’s how the Facebook Algorithm works in 2024
Now that you understand the value of the Facebook algorithm let’s look at how it works right now. At the same time, I’ll give you actionable tips on how to leverage the algorithm to boost your reach with organic Facebook posts.
The Basic Components of the Facebook Algorithm
Facebook’s algorithm is designed to deliver relevant posts to users based on what they like and engage with. In this case, the major decisionmaker is their Facebook activity rather than general web analytics. However, information from Facebook Pixel and other tools will have a strong effect on what advertising each user sees. They’re ultimately two sides of the same coin when it comes to the overall experience.
Here are the main components of the algorithm:
1. Listing or inventory of posts
In other words, who posted the material? This can be a community group or Page, an individual profile, or different types of commercial accounts. Facebook generally prioritizes posts from individuals and non-commercial pages. Content from commercial accounts is put at a disadvantage.
2. Signals that tell Facebook what the post is about.
This can involve hashtags, keywords, and other indicators. With this information, Facebook can determine the topic well enough to move on to step 3.
3. AI Predictions on the posts that users are most likely to engage with
A lot of this is historical data on user behavior, such as a user’s likes and dislikes. It can also include information such as their group memberships, topics of their own posts, and so forth. In other words, it’s like typical tracking cookies that determine where a customer has been – but also make predictions.
Further Reading: 15 Ways How to Get More Likes on Your Facebook Business Page
4. A relevancy score after considering the above-mentioned factors
Simply put, this shows how relevant a Facebook user would find a given piece of content. Facebook wants people to engage with more content, so they show primarily those items that they think the user will like. In turn, that boosts engagement for content creators of all types.
How does Facebook decide what posts to show to whom?
Of course, even with the algorithm components, Meta still needs to narrow down the options before recommending content to users. Otherwise, there’d be too much content! For this reason, Facebook’s algorithm considers the following signals before pushing posts to the user’s news feed, as summarized in this classic image from an old Techcrunch article which I have always used to visually summarize the algorithm’s workings:
- Type of content – video, image, link, dwell time on the post compared to other content of its type. In other words, what’s attracting people’s attention?
- Recency – time it was posted. There’s usually no point in adding something to people’s Feed that was published weeks ago. There are some exceptions, but not many.
- Relationships – the interaction of the user with other users and pages, including the poster of the content. In other words, if you interact with content from your college roommate, then their content will likely appear on your feed more often. Likewise, if you always comment on a certain page, then expect to see a lot of it in your feed.
- The post’s popularity or amount of engagement, such as comments, likes, and shares. So if a post goes viral, a lot of people will see it, even if the post is a bit different from what they typically consume.
- The Creator’s lifetime post performance.
As you can see, there are a lot of components to the Facebook algorithm. However, while the code itself remains Meta’s purview, there are some general principles we can leverage to maximize our results. In other words, we look at the Facebook point of view and then determine how to make our content attractive.
Tips for leveraging the Facebook algorithm to your advantage
Generally speaking, Facebook’s algorithm maintains a fine balance between showing relevant engagement-worthy content and filtering out fluff from the user’s feed. Therefore, content best described as “junk” typically doesn’t make it into people’s feed and waste their time.
By creating the balance between quality and relevance, Facebook aims to create a place where users experience meaningful interactions and engagements. In turn, users spend more time scrolling through their feeds and interacting with the best content. This is beneficial for users and advertisers alike, including commercial “free” accounts.
With that knowledge in mind, here are some tips and strategies to make the Facebook algorithm work for you.
Post content that your audience would like to see
As mentioned above, Facebook wants to foster meaningful engagement on the platform. This means that your content needs to be both relevant and high-quality. Ideally, it’ll be something that your viewers will find irresistible.
To leverage this tip, know your audience well and create content that is likely to resonate with them. One of the most valuable tools here is your suite of Facebook tools, especially analytics. You can even consider data from your other marketing efforts, such as content marketing. This way, you’ll get a good picture of your audience’s likes and dislikes.
Best of all, you can optimize for your audience continuously.
Further Reading: 17 Engaging Facebook Post Ideas for When You Have Nothing to Say
Schedule your posts to coincide with peak times
Find out the best times to post on Facebook based on when your audience is online and active on the platform. Your analytics data is useful here, but so is observation. You can also draw inferences from other factors, such as time zones and typical consumer patterns.
Remember, one of the Facebook algorithm factors is recency, so your content has an advantage when it’s first posted. Your objective is to get as many views and as much engagement as possible within a short period of time. If you’re able to achieve this, then you have a good chance that more people will see your posts for longer. In turn, the added exposure creates a feedback loop that increases post views.
In other words, timing may not be everything, but it’s very important.
Facebook rewards recent and regular posts. That means your posts will get more engagement if you post regularly rather than with sporadic posting. This is true even if you have fanatical fans because part of maximizing the Facebook algorithm is making sure that new people discover your content. And that your “older” followers don’t forget about you.
Of course, putting out new content consistently can be a challenge, especially if you have a lot of other things you’re doing. However, as with blogs and other forums, I recommend that you create a content calendar. This way, you don’t have to think about what to make next. Rather, you just implement the calendar and make the occasional changes as needed.
Interact with your audience by taking part in conversations
If your audience takes the time and effort to comment on your post, make sure you reply immediately. The algorithm favors pages with which users interact, so responding to users’ comments is key as it sends engagement signals to Facebook.
There’s a bonus when you engage, too: it builds a community. People like to sense they’re a part of something, and hearing back from their favorite brand reinforces this. You might even get more sales.
Post videos, live videos, stories, and reels
People love video content. The effectiveness of moving pictures for marketing has been proven since the early days of Hollywood movies in theaters. And with video now ubiquitous, we can only expect more of the same trend.
Also, videos are known to get more engagement as compared to other types of posts. Not only does advertiser analytics tell us this, but so do Facebook and other social media giants. So much so that in early 2019, Facebook’s algorithm was updated to show more native high-quality videos. That’s one of the reasons why many of us see a ton of videos in our feeds.
This trend extends beyond the Facebook platform. As per Meta in early February 2022, Instagram Reels are the fastest-growing content format. In fact, people spend half their time watching videos. It makes sense then that we should make a lot of video, and why the Facebook algorithm favors it.
There’s another difference between traditional posts and Reels. While the newsfeed shows updates from people and brand pages, Reels is designed to let users discover new content from brands and people that users don’t follow. This could be a perfect opportunity to be found by more potential audiences or customers. You can really grow your following this way.
Want to capitalize on this trend? Learn about the best practices for posting videos on Facebook for maximum engagement.
Post Status Updates
While you are out there posting engaging videos, don’t forget about the regular and simple status updates. They are still an important driver of engagement. They’re also the original Facebook content and one of the reasons people still like the platform.
It’s well known that Facebook users have a hierarchy of likes when it comes to Facebook content. In fact, according to Hootsuite, status posts still get the highest engagement, followed by photos and then videos. So while videos remain a good value, they’re a bit less popular on Facebook than some other platforms.
Create a Facebook Group and invite your audience to join
Groups are places where users engage with one another and bond over common interests. It’s really where meaningful exchanges happen. And Facebook isn’t blind to this popularity, so they promote posts from groups that users engage with.
With that said, there are benefits to Facebook groups beyond the Facebook algorithm. In particular, your brand can sometimes control the conversation around a particular topic, depending on your niche. And second, you’ll build a brand community. Both of these are highly effective by themselves.
Further Reading: 10 Ways a Facebook Group Can Increase Lead Generation
What not to post
Even after following the other best practices, there are some types of posts that you should avoid. These generally don’t perform well, and they violate Facebook’s goal of having all content be “authentic.”
First, avoid clickbait. While you might get some engagement short-term, you’ll also get people annoyed at you. There’s a reason why clickbait is often relegated to the paid ads at the bottom of many web pages, and if your content looks like an ad, it’ll likely get treated that way.
Similarly, the page views you get from clickbait likely will be of poor quality. People like to get value out of their time, and if you fail to deliver, then they often go elsewhere. Forget about getting high-quality sales leads from clickbait.
Similarly, engagement bait is a good way to turn people off. While high-quality engagement magnets like contests are great, they do add value. On the other hand, simply begging for a “like” won’t cut it. Your content quality will go down, and over time it’ll hurt you with the Facebook algorithm.
Further Reading: 15 Facebook Contest Ideas That Still Work in 2024
The Facebook algorithm may seem intimidating at first. After all, there are a lot of content and Meta disadvantages organic content from businesses. However, mastering the principles behind the algorithm and understanding these best practices will help your content perform better over time. Then, you can outperform your competitors and save money on ads.
Hero photo by Roman Martyniuk on Unsplash
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