When Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg announced in January 2018 that a coming change to the platform’s algorithm would significantly alter what content users see on their feeds, marketers, media companies, and businesses were left very worried that they were being cut out of the equation on the biggest social media site in the world.
In a lengthy post on his own Facebook page, this line from Zuckerberg stood out to many: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
There had already been complaints for a few years from companies that it was getting harder to reach audiences organically – meaning without paying to boost posts – on Facebook. Now, it seemed, it was about to get even harder.
“This was meant to put a bigger emphasis on person-to-person interaction with a degradation in terms of impact from news sources, public figures, and brands,” begins Jenn Herman, a Canadian social media consultant now based in California set to give a NAMM U presentation on Facebook at Summer NAMM 2018. It’s no coincidence that the changes followed the American election and harsh scrutiny of Facebook’s role in it. Effectively, Zuckerberg and co. wanted to get back to more baby videos and less Trump.
(Pictured: Jenn Herman)
“People were saying, ‘Facebook is never going to work for us again,’ and that was actually not the case. There are actually some businesses that are seeing even better results from this change. It’s just about creating content now that aligns with those meaningful interactions – so having conversations back and forth – and brands who take the initiative to ask questions and be actively involved with their audience and respond to those comments [will do well],” continues Herman. “Things that get shared repeatedly do so because they are high-value content that generate conversations between people, meaning I as an individual user share somebody’s video and then all my friends start commenting on it and we start having dialogue about that video. Then that original video is something that generates meaningful interactions, so therefore that page’s video would continue to get good reach.”
One of the biggest points Herman emphasizes, which was true before 2018 but even more so now, is that Facebook engagement is about quality over quantity. Somewhat counterintuitively, Herman actually recommends to a lot of her clients that they post less often on Facebook. She recommends only three to five posts per week, or even less depending on the amount of quality content there is to share.
“There is so much saturation out there as it is. If your audience is seeing content from you one or two times a day, that is a lot of content. Instead of putting out content for the sake of putting out content, which is what a lot of people
used to do in older Facebook strategies, put an emphasis on only the best content,” Herman advises. “So, putting out something that is generally the best you could give them. Ask, ‘Is this the best article you could give them? Is this the best video you could give them? Is this the funniest thing you’ve seen all week?’ Whatever it is, take only the best of the best content so that when you put it out there, your audience is more likely to react to it because it is high quality content. Doing that, they’re more likely to engage as well.”
Generating engagement is a lot about the verbiage used in the post. Herman’s advice is to create posts that have engaging captions, ask questions, and/or put out calls to action, such as asking to leave a comment or tag a friend in a comment – something that will encourage more active engagement than the passive “like.” But remember, posts should still be in line with your brand.
“It doesn’t mean just posting viral videos and memes just to draw engagement, because that is not necessarily going to work for you either,” Herman says. Facebook’s algorithm knows what type of content a user has engaged with and what they haven’t, meaning if you post a funny comedy video unrelated to your business that a lot of people like and share, it doesn’t mean your next business-relevant post will necessarily end up on those followers’ feeds. “So when you go and post something where you now want to sell them something, they’re not going to see that post because it’s irrelevant to what their interaction with you is. You want to keep your content high quality and relevant to your business and the kinds of things that you would normally share… You want to share content that stays aligned so that your audience is used to getting that content from you and then they expect it and when they see it, they’re more likely to interact with it.”
In terms of assessing posts’ performance, and therefore quality, Herman says the best indicator is not total engagements (i.e., total likes, shares, and comments); rather, focus on engagement ratio. This is done by dividing the reach of the post by the number of engagements.
“So if you’ve got 100 likes, comments, and shares on a post with a 1,000-person reach, that is 10 per cent engagement; that’s good. If you had something that had 200 likes, comments, and shares, but it reached 5,000 people, that is a much smaller engagement ratio,” she explains. “That will give you a much better understanding of how well that post is performing and whether it should be boosted or have some sort of additional content created around it.”
There is no one-size-fits-all number for what constitutes a good engagement ratio, but generally, Herman says anything in the double digits is considered good. That said, if a company’s posts generally have about a 20 per cent engagement ratio, then obviously 10 per cent is below average. Many companies have an average engagement ratio of three to five per cent, in which case a 10 per cent ratio would indicate an excellent quality post.
Herman generally advises against many of the tricks that social media marketers have used to “game the system” or “trick the algorithm,” noting that Facebook is not dumb to these tactics and generally works to diminish their effectiveness. One she recommends (aside from creating high quality, engaging content, obviously) is to try posting at odd hours. This can often help increase a post’s reach. “So posting at 2 a.m. is more beneficial because there is less content going out and so you’re more likely to build up a little bit of traction and engagement from those few people who are there at those weird times. Then when those peak hours hit, you already have some momentum so [the post] is more likely to show higher in people’s feed. Again, it’s not a guarantee, but a lot of people have seen success with that.”
Overall, Herman’s message is to post with purpose. “You’re not posting to just basically check the box that says, ‘I posted to Facebook.’ Every single post should have some sort of intentional, strategic purpose, whether it’s specifically serving content to your audience, whether it’s serving your business strategy, marketing strategy, or Facebook strategy.”
Her last bit of advice? Embrace Facebook Live. “Right now, Facebook is all about live video and it’s not a saturated market. Not a lot of people are doing it, so get away from the sort of monotonous, ‘Here’s another photo,’ ‘Here’s another meme,’ ‘Here’s another random video,’ and instead really embrace live video and set your brand up as an expert in the industry. Do those live Q&As, do behind-thescenes- type things, show products and do tutorials – all those types of things. You could do a great live video when you’re doing an open demo in your music store or something like that. Facebook will give you crazy good reach on those live videos because there is no one else going live at that same time, so it’s a great opportunity for reach as well as that live interaction. Again, you get people commenting on the video as it’s happening and drives engagement,” and that’s what both you and Facebook want.
Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Music Trade.