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Facebook has changed. There can be no denying it, since it’s had to answer to share holders the added focus on advertising has finally taken it’s toll.  The last month has seen a massive change in the edgerank algorithm, this is the formula that decides which of your posts are shown to the people who like your page, posts are reaching fewer people than ever before.  It’s not just a slight change, page views are plummeting across the board and it really is going to change the way we as small businesses use Facebook in the future.

Analysing Edgerank isn’t simple.  Facebook aren’t going to tell us the exact details of how it’s calculated but we can make some guesstimates.  And that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to guess how it works and offer some suggestions on how to use it to it’s best advanatge.  This is totally unscientific and relates to my own experiences so I’d love to hear what you have found has worked for you since the change.  It is still possible to shine on Facebook but it’s going to take work.

Vary the type of content

For at least a year Images have been the strongest type of content you could post on Facebook.  Anecdotaly lots of my non-business friends say that seeing photographs of their family is one of the biggest reasons they joined Facebook in the first place.  By prioritising images in the newsfeed Facebook were giving people what they wanted.  However as marketers got a hang of this trend we’ve seen Facebook dominated by images. Some are great, some are funny, some are inspirational but not all are to everyone’s taste and some are just awful!  Instead of seeing snapshots of the lives of our friends we were seeing memes shared over and over again.  Of course some of these we enjoy but maybe there were too many?

I can’t be sure but from my own statistics I can see that images and photos are no longer the most viewed type of content on my Facebook page.  By ‘viewed’ I mean that statistic at the bottom of each post that tells you how many people have seen my posts not the amount of likes and comments it’s got.  Instead of photos, status updates now seem to get the most organic views.  I’m not suggesting for one minute that you abandon images altogether but it’s worth adding a couple of plain status updates into your Facebook schedule every week.

Tips for using status updates

  1. Ask a question – Status updates are a great way to ask a question, find out what is important to your audience.  Try and keep it on topic and keep it relevant to your business or the interests of your target market.  Also try and keep it unique.  Asking ‘What are you doing for Halloween’ today for example would probably be lost in a sea of people asking the same question.  Instead a business aimed at parents could ask ‘What’s your favourite Halloween party game?  1. Pin the tail on the witch? 2. Apple Bobbing? 3. Something else’ or  something that would provide great information for parents e.g. ‘How do you know which houses to go to when Trick or Treating?’
  2. Be conversational – If you are not asking a question try and be conversational, maybe talk about what you are doing today or share an insight about your industry.  For example if you are in a food based business you could share a story about what inspired the treats you are making for Halloween.
  3. Important information – As status updates seem to be reaching a larger portion of our Likers than other sorts of content it’s the best way to deliver important messages.  So if your website is down, if you are closing early, if your office is closed for the day a status update is the best way to deliver this news.

Be time specific

The time of day you post on Facebook has always been important to edgerank.  However this seems to have become more important than ever.  It seems to be the case both on personal and page updates.  Here’s what I think happens.

  • You post to Facebook
  • Facebook shows your post to a small portion of your friends / Likes
  • If people react to the post within a short space of time it shows it to some more people and so on.

Every page will have it’s own premium time to post depending on your timezone, how people are accessing Facebook and the occupations of the people who Like your page.  My best times to post are either early morning (7.30am) evenings (after 8pm) and at weekends although I rarely post at weekends.  I’ve also noticed that if I post at 9am Facebook shows very few people my post, I would suggest that this is because 9am is a busy time of day and my posts have a lot of others to compete against.  It’s worth experimenting with this your self to determine the best time for you.

Tips for finding the best time to post

  1. Keep an eye on your statistics for a two week period to determine what time of the day results in the most views and the most interaction.  You want an instant reaction, you need someone to hit the Like button or comment as soon as you have posted so it’s important to get the timing right. You can download your Facebook insights to get an idea of the postings that did best time-wise. You might find this post from Jon Loomer handy.
  2. Schedule posts – Don’t forget you can now schedule posts on Facebook.  I don’t recommend doing this too far in advance but it’s handy if you have determined that your best posting time is at a time when it’s hard to access a computer.  Be aware that even though you have scheduled a post you need to be available to respond and join in nay conversation it provokes.

Collect emails

I’ve always been an advocate of collecting email addresses from my social media channels,  it’s important to get more from your page Likes than a simple Like.  If Facebook went down tomorrow where would that leave our thousands of page likers?  Not everyone who Likes your page will want to join your email mailing list but a certain portion will be interested in receiving more in-depth information via email and it’s important to make the transition from Facebook to a mailing list easy. This means that if Facebook does disappear or if it becomes unworkable you can stay in touch or more importantly you can email them with important information about where to find you now.

Tips for getting email subscriptions from Facebook

  1. Always get permission – it is never OK to subscribe someone to your mailing list who hasn’t agreed to it.
  2. When running Facebook competitions ask for an email and ask if they would like to subscribe to your mailing list as part of the entry process.
  3. Many email marketing providers offer a Facebook app allowing people to subscribe from a tab on your Facebook page. (See Newsletter.ie & Mailchimp)
  4. Add a subscription form to your website and make sure it’s clearly visible to those who land on your site.
  5. Tell people what they will get for their subscription. Is it offers? Tips? News?

Share your Facebook updates elsewhere

One of the best ways to get views of your Facebook updates is to share them elsewhere. Here’s how.  I find this particularly effective with Twitter but you can also try doing it on your personal Facebook profile.

Tips on posting Facebook updates to Twitter

  1. Ask a good question and ask people to respond on your Facebook page.  It’s an easier place to get a proper discussion going than Twitter.  Be sure to keep an eye on Twitter too as some people will prefer to respond there.
  2. You may think you are already posting your updates to Twitter automatically so what is the benefit of doing it the long way?  I would discourage the automated solution.  It’s obvious to those on Twitter that there isn’t a person behind the tweet, some people might even think it’s lazy.  Posting directly to Twitter gives you a better chance of hooking people in conversation.  The language we use on Twitter is subtly different to that we use on Facebook, often due to the 140 character limit.  So post directly and you will see your page views grow.

Is Facebook still worth the effort?  What else should you consider?

The changes have meant that businesses and celebrities alike have declared they are going to leave Facebook,  I’m not sure this is wise.  I have been working with the new edgerank and have had some success, I’ve seen my talking about stats grow back to something resembling the pre-change level and although the average number of page views are down some of my posts are still reaching a large portion of my page Likers.  I do think it is more challenging now but it does give those who put in more effort and who create great content the opportunity to shine.

Of course Facebook are trying to make money.  Facebook will never be the same again now that they have share holders to answer to but some of those paid options do give us far more benefit than we ever got before.  Offers for example gives us the first ever opportunity to measure direct cash ROI.  My offers experience allowed me to reach far further afield than anything else I have done on Facebook.

Finally – Don’t forget why people are on Facebook

Lets not forget why people are on Facebook, they are not there to buy our product, we are lucky that people have chosen to subscribe to our pages.  People join Facebook initially to connect with friends and family.  If Facebook is to continue as a strong social network we have to remember that we are essentially an advertisement interrupting their relationships, this is why it’s important that when we do interrupt it’s with relevant information that they want to see.

Today it seems that Facebook are to introduce a new feature giving our Likers the opportunity to get notified every time we post.  Page owners might be excited by this but in reality I think it’s unlikely that regular users will use this feature.  If we choose to stick with Facebook as a marketing tool we are going to have to assume that edgerank will affect our posting and accept that sometimes we will need to pay to be seen.

What changes have you noticed to Facebook feed?  Have you found any tips and tricks that have worked for you that you would like to share?

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  • beatricewhelan

    Great post Amanda. I suppose it had to happen eventually, Facebook were not going to continue to allow businesses to get engagement with large numbers of fans for free. Thankfully the promoted posts offering is not very expensive and so will be accessible to most businesses and agree that those pages will great content will still reach large numbers.

  • davidquaid

    Hi Amanda,

    You mean that ‘Great’ content doesn’t automatically get assessed and pushed in front of people? That there’s an algorithm? That you can ‘game’ this algorithm by promoting it? Google anyone? ;)

    But you’re right – the tantrums are short lived – because people are still into getting more and more likes.

    On thing – the only thing – they aren’t just answering shareholders – they’re answering business! Do you know how much it costs to stream a video? Google answered that Youtube spent $264K streaming Gangnam Style in an event but recouped it with $324k in Ads. Youtube and Facebook and Google build/buy more servers and data centres than companies like Dell! This costs money. A lot of money.

    And Ads aren’t cool.

    Facebook never said this was going to be free. Facebook pages are free. But with your average real account liking around 300 things and your average fake account liking about 4,500 – they can’t fill people’s timelines with arbritary posts. So if you’re not willing to pay for them – why should they bother?

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    Yes it’s very Googley isn’t it! I do think that people forget that Facebook is a network for connecting people first, they need to make money so they sell advertising. If they don’t make the money they will close and we’ll all have to move on to the next social network de jour.

    I like using Facebook to connect to my friends but am finding myself unliking or hiding more and more business pages that no longer have relevence. I’m wondering what the experience of the non-business user is.

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    Yes I agree, I think people are scared because they think they will need to pay for every post but if your selective promoting posts and offers could raise engagement and in the case of offers specifically have a real monetary value.

  • davidquaid

    It is isn’t it! That said the fundamental difference between the two is push and pull. Organic content in Google is much more universally available IMHO.

    Facebook does offer a lot but I think people who’ve been telling businesses that they can create great content and market a lot for free have lost a lot of credibility. “Great Content” is notional, contextual and entirely debateable. The view will differ from perspective, background and purpose.

    There is no such thing as ‘great content’ – every user on Facebook feels their content is great!

  • davidquaid

    I think its going to cost a lot, because much of its so bad and unless its an image, the CTR is awful. Facebook are so clever – they’re pandering to Brand Managers who will pay more to segment people (nobody buys on segmentation) and get impressions by the thousands than letting people self identify. Because the content is so bad (even if you have a funny lolcat, meme or other – then people are liking the image,not you) – that the cost to get a visit to your website will bounce from €10 – €100. Those are awful numbers….

  • beatricewhelan

    Obviously ‘great content’ depends on the target audience and if it is useful and interesting to them or not.

  • davidquaid

    well, how do they find it – do they have to read it all?

  • beatricewhelan

    I can only say how I find content that I consider to be ‘useful’ to me – by following and subscribing to sources that have shared useful content in the past. For example this post by Amanda is very useful to me and therefore ‘great content’ in my opinion. I found it in my Facebook news feed.

  • davidquaid

    So then aren’t you restricted to a small number of people? What if you come across a new problem where Amanda has no experience or content?

    How do you find new sources? Surely you can’t expect answers/information on every industry from the same people?

  • beatricewhelan

    Search! Is that the point you’re trying to make David?

  • davidquaid

    No – I’m trying to uncover how Content markets itself / creates a distribution channel on its own

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    Amanda — Thanks so much! Another great resource.

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    Thanks Jon, loving your blog at the moment, a gem everyday. Keep up the good work :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/edrina.conway Edrina Briscoe Conway

    Just tried out your suggestion and posted a question without an image….immediate feedback, or maybe it’s the timing. Will have to analyse further. I used the facebook promote tab recently to advertise a post and got a great response, unfortunately the respondents were in Kathmandu, Nepal and Indonesia. No good to me and not worth the effort. Until you can target the ‘promote’ posts more selectively it does not seem worth it.