Facebook's algorithm and how to use it to your advantage

Or Is there a magic love potion to make Facebook show your posts?

A magic potion for Facebook

Did you know that Facebook picks and chooses what it shows to your ‘friends’ in their newsfeed?

Facebook use math to determine how close you are to a person, whether you really ‘liked’ a post and whether you want to hear from Aunt Betty every single day. It’s like living at home again and your parent’s screening out the undesirables, well almost, but not quite. 

Let me explain. But before you go anything further - spoiler alert - there’s no magic cure here on how to ‘trick’ the system. 

What’s the Facebook algorithm?

An algorithm is a fancy way of saying a process or calculation based on a number of factors and input to work out an answer or output of some kind. For Facebook, it’s using a whole lot of factors to work out what to show on each person’s newsfeed. 

While we have a general idea of what they take into account, the exact ‘formula’ and weightings on each of the factors is a closely guarded secret to stop people playing the system.

Industry pundits say that Facebook are only really showing posts that are highly liked, shared and engaged with, while reserving some of the stream for the pay to promote stuff. It’s not as straightforward as this, and it sounds unfair. In fact because Facebook are now actively pursuing revenue streams, you could say that Facebook is no longer really about fostering real social interaction between ‘friends’ at all anymore. This makes knowing the system you're working within more important than ever. 

What are the factors? 

Facebook take the following things into account. 

The individual Facebook user’s behavior: 

  • Post-type preference eg. if a person clicks a lot of links in posts then more posts with links are shown versus a person who watches videos will get shown more videos etc.
  • If there’s a slow connection then Facebook will show that person less video
  • If a person likes a post after they’ve opened it then this will also be a stronger recommendation to show it then if it’s just liked without being opened. 

Your interaction with the user:

  • commenting ‘congratulations’ on a post may also result in favourable listings because it indicates a life event. 
  • how close you are to the user based on how many times you interact (like, open, share, comment, write on their timeline, FB message them) with a person. For example if you like every post of your husband and you message daily, you will be closer to him than the person that follows you but you have rarely had an interaction with them on Facebook. 

The post popularity: 

  • The more people that interact with a post, the more likely it is to show in feeds eg. likes, opens, shares, comments. 

A few other things: 

They are penalising the following types of behavior. 

  • spammy links
  • open soliciting of engagement such as 

Click LIKE if you agree!

Please Tag & Comment someone who does this!

If you LIKE it, please SHARE it!

  • Frequently circulated content, they want to reward original content and the technology is there to compare not only text-based posts but images as well. So this is an indicator to start being careful with use of stock shots particularly the inspiration type quotes etc that use the same stock images. 

How do you use this to your advantage?

Well it immediately suggests a set of good operating principles. But there is no magic formula or secret tool to play the Facebook algorithm. What there is, however, is a really clear mandate from Facebook which says if people are genuinely interested in your posts because they interact and engage with them, then your posts will be shown. 

Well that sounds like a bit of let down. Let’s think about this in another way. Do you all know the Harry Potter movie where Ron eats the chocolates meant for Harry with love potion in them? It’s exactly like this. Trying to trick people into liking and loving you as a brand or business is not going to result in more sales for your business. It might result in more followers for a time but as there is no genuine ‘love’ involved you’re inviting people that are not really interested in your product to follow you. The result - followers that don’t engage with you.The more of these people you have, the more you will be penalised by Facebook and how it ‘grade’s your posts as being ‘newsworthy’ for people’s feeds. The moral of the love potion is followers for followers sake will make you ‘un-newsfeed-worthy’. 

But you can do a lot to work with the Facebook algorithm factors. Here’s my list of suggested actions. 

  • Find ways to interact genuinely with your following. If they like, comment or share, then respond with a thanks or some kind of follow up. If you get a message or follow up of some kind post it to Facebook and show your appreciation. 
  • Consider following some /all of your followers in return. Genuinely interact, look, like and share what they’re interested in.This will only work for small businesses and not all products or services but if it suits, then give it a try.  
  • Have a variety of ‘types’ of posts like links, video and images to cover your bases based on the personal preferences of your individual followers - after all do you really expect your followers to be so homogeneous down to their internet connection speed? While your target audience will have commonalities, it’s a mistake to think that individual ‘behavior’ or ‘preferences’ don’t exist within your followers. 
  • Make your posts non-promotional. Facebook will penalise otherwise. 
  • Seek engagement with them by asking for input, opinions and preferences. Your questions need to be about what they are interested in - not you or your product/service. Experiment, talk to them and work out the hot spots of interest for them. 
  • If it works for your type of product/service use user-generated content, finding ways to rewards those that post images/feedback etc on your product.
  • Post quality posts /content based on the principles of making it relevant, useful and interesting. If you can’t say your content is every one of these, then rethink it. 
  • Analyse your Facebook Insights to understand more about your followers. Look at which posts have gotten the most engagement, which fell on deaf ears. Then craft your content around the posts with the most engagement. 
  • If you need more information to help you really understand the content that’s getting them to interact with you then look at your more successful competitors and analyse their posts to understand which ones get lots of engagement. What can you learn about your audience from this? 

In summary

There is no magic love potion to getting all your posts in front of your followers. What there is however, are clear principles around genuinely building relationships and understanding of your audience. While this might take longer, the benefits of a truly engaged audience, when talking about Facebook’s algorithm will result in not only a better showing of your content in Facebook but also a more solid customer base.