Image source: http://www.antoniocalero.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/facebook-reach.jpg
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but Facebook beat me to it after sharing some tips about their news feed algorithm change last month. Over the last year and a bit, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of highly engaged Facebook pages. At lot has changed since then, and we’ve been successful at adapting to these changes to keep our numbers high. The key is adapting – things can change quickly on Facebook and you adjust when the numbers tell you you should.
Back in February, I wrote a post on what really happened to Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm change, but I thought I’d dig into the data a bit more and prove what really is working. I analyzed a set of 500 posts, and more recently duplicated that study with another set of 500 posts for the same page. The results were fairly consistent and we’ve been able to learn a lot from it.
But first, let’s breakdown what Facebook’s told us, because there’s a lot of cues in there that we’ve used, and predicted ahead of time that Facebook uses. I’eve highlighted the important points here in yellow. Be sure to read them over and over again before you leave here today.
One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.
Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.
With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.
The best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format. In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video.
What is this telling us?
- Promote more content where users won’t bounce right away
- Make sure the content you share on Facebook is also “shareable” because if it isn’t, we’re not going to extend your organic reach as far
- Facebook’s Open Graph (OG) tags are mandatory on every article page of your website
I’m glad Facebook’s shared that with all of us, but let’s dive into the data and see it for ourselves (this is the funnest part for me!).
Looking at the data
I’ll point a few things out about this Page before we dive right in:
- Demographic: mostly female aged 18-55
- Fans: 4.5M
- Average posts per day: 18
- Post types: a mix of images and link posts
- # posts analyzed: 1,000
- Time period: within the last 2-3 months
After looking at 1,000 posts of data, this is what it’s told me:
- Link format posts are more preferred
- Link format posts that send visitors to a page where they spend more time on does drive up higher reach
- Getting more comments on a post has a stronger tie to high reach, followed by shares then likes
Link format posts are more preferred
Since Facebook announced Open Graph (og), many publishers have gone and set up the og tags on their site. Facebook uses this information to display a snippet of the content from your website. Unlike Google, where they may or may not use your title tag and description, Facebook will use whatever you give them so there’s definitely a lot of control here.
With so much control, that creates a bit more work. The core og attributes you need to include for each of your pages are:
Visit Facebook’s best practices on implementing OG for more detailed instructions. I hope I didn’t miss anything. A lot of these, can be pulled and from different settings of your articles. For instance, the og:title could be the Heading of you article, while the description can be your page’s meta description. Of course, the most important attribute is probably the og:image. The og:image shows up in the news feed, occupying around 50% of the entire box. Yup. So you’re going to want to make sure have the right size image and it’s visually appealing to attract click throughs.
I ran some numbers, and Link posts generated 4.6X (study #1) and 4.4X (study #2) more than the old way of marketing content on Facebook, which was to upload an appealing image and adding a link to the update. Amazing!
The formula I used: Lifetime post organic reach / Total engagement (sum of comments, likes and shares)
*because I’m taking a total count of engagement (comments, shares and likes), this calculation is not weighted. For instance, we know that it takes more effort to comment than to Like.
Study #1 – looking at the top 50 engaged posts, some of the ones on here shows very few engagements, yet received a really high reach
Study #2 – (same thing) looking at the top 50 engaged posts, some of the ones on here shows very few engagements, yet received a really high reach
Link format posts that send visitors to a page where they spend more time on does drive up higher reach
Many of the link posts that showed up in the top 50 spot were ones that we expected visitors would spend the most time on. For instance, on a few of our posts we shared an engaging video that they’re expected to spend at least 1-3 minutes on the site. We also have share buttons on our website, that enables them to share the video back on Facebook after they’ve watched it.
If you really need to bump up your organic reach, the best thing to do is to start brainstorming ideas that you can keep your visitors on your page long. A few ideas:
- Embed videos into your posts; your blog post might be educational, but if you make a couple of quick videos like screen walk-through, then there’s a good chance they will watch it all the way down to the end of your post
- Write longer posts; there’s no magic number, but if your posts are longer, it will prob take them longer to read it
- Fill out a form or survey; if you can incorporate a form that they need to fill out that ties into the topic of your content, then do it
Getting more comments on a post has a stronger tie to high reach, followed by shares then likes
Why are comments strong than shares and likes? Because it requires more effect to put down thoughts than to click a button and turn to something else. That’s not to say that there is no value in Shares and Likes. This just means there is a stronger tie with higher comments and organic reach.
This table is from the first study I conducted a month ago. Notice that the x axis are rounding values. Each of these 500 posts were categorized and rounded to show average engagement against reach:
This table is the second study I conducted just a few days ago:
How can you get more comments? You ask for it. For instance, you may share status updates or images that would require a user to comment. These are usually in a form of a question. Here’s an example of a post we did that garnered over 100K comments, 6.9K shares and 27K likes 🙂
By no means is this study conclusive, nor would it reflect every type of page on Facebook. This was a study done on one Page, using 2 different sets of post data. However, I do believe that many of the key findings from his study can be applied to maximize a Page’s organic reach, if done right. If you’ve invested the time to do a study like that one I’ve done here, I’d want to hear from you in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or comments, please also leave a note below..