8 Ways to Outsmart the Facebook Algorithm in 2018

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The Facebook algorithm often feels like a mystery, doesn’t it?

Perhaps that’s why Facebook’s recent announcement to push back against branded content in 2018 has so many businesses sweating.

In a moment of transparency from Mark Zuckerberg himself, Facebook seemingly laid down the gauntlet against marketers and brands at large.

And as a result, brands are rightfully concerned about their organic reach on the platform.

However, the recent Facebook algorithm changes don’t necessarily signal a death sentence for brands.

Not by a long shot.

Based on what we know from recent Facebook stats, the platform produces one of the best ROIs for marketers based on its massive user-base. Given that your customers are already on Facebook, there’s every reason for you to be there too.

The reality? Surviving the new Facebook algorithm means making some changes to your content strategy in order to bolster your organic reach.

Based on Facebook’s best practices and top-performing brands, we’ve broken down eight tactics to do help you do exactly that:

1. Incorporate Video Content ASAP

You’ve heard it a million times before and we’ll say it again: it’s now or never for marketers to hop on the video bandwagon.

Don’t take it from us, though.

Facebook themselves note that video content drives higher engagement and interactions from users compared to any other type of content on the platform.

Perfect for starting conversations and keeping your fans’ eyes glued to the page, marketers of all shapes and sizes can incorporate video on Facebook. You don’t necessarily need to create big-budget commercial content, either.

For example, check out how Sharpie double-dips user-generated video content for Instagram on their Facebook page. These short-but-sweet pieces prove that there’s power in video beyond in-depth productions.

The platform also urges creators to embrace Facebook Live to create compelling, real-time content for their audiences. The fact that Live videos produce notifications that ping your fans and followers is an added bonus for helping your videos stand out too.

Whether it’s an off-the-cuff vlog or a how-to tutorial like this one from SEPHORA, live video represents a powerful medium for brands today.

Also consider simple videos created from Facebook’s very own Boomerang app. Brands such as Inspiralized frequently make use of these loop-style videos that can be created in mere seconds:

In this case, it’s not about outsmarting the Facebook algorithm, but giving the platform exactly what it wants. Facebook rewards organic reach to posts that drive discussion and hold users’ attention, after all.

With so many options available and Facebook explicitly looking for more visual content, creating more video is a no-brainer.

2. When in Doubt, Start a Discussion

As part of the most recent Facebook algorithm update, the platform is now punishing marketers perceived as trying to game the system, so to speak.

For example, Facebook has explicitly dropped the hammer on posts deemed as engagement bait. While posts asking outright for comments, tags or likes was once the norm, Facebook recognizes how these posts often serve as spam.

Although there might still be a time and place for these types of posts, brands should strive to start conversations with customers without being shameless about it. Facebook wants us to create content that drives discussion, granted we find creative ways to make it happen.

For example, you can poll your audience while letting them lead the way in terms of discussion. This playful question-based post from Loot Crate scored plenty of love in the form of comments and shares:

In fact, tacking on questions to any given post is a smart way to encourage comments without having to beg for them. Check out how Birchbox uses a question in one of their video posts as a sort of call-to-action:

Brands should also try to post content that’s worthy of debate when appropriate. Controversial content can do just that, although brands should tread lightly as not to run the risk of offending or alienating their audience (think: overtly politically-charged or “shock” content).

A recent study from Sprout Social found that if your audience disagrees with your stance on social and political issues, they’ll be less likely to buy from your or recommend your brand to others.

consumer reaction to brands taking a stand on social political issues

Consider brands such as Delish that regularly post buzzworthy articles that drive a ton of discussion and shares without ruffling any feathers. Whether it’s a visit to a pickle popsicle factory or an article about a couple hosting a wedding at White Castle, these types of pieces are perfect for getting a response out of followers.

Delish facebook post

The more you’re able to get people talking, the more likely the Facebook algorithm is to feature your content organically.

3. Fewer Links, More Photos & Tags

Conventional wisdom tells us that Facebook prefers brands to keep content on their platform versus solely linking off-site.

In fact, Facebook’s practice of deemphasizing links and preferring their own native content is well-documented, especially in the case of video.

Sure, you’re not going to totally disappear from your followers’ feeds by posting links. That said, keep your feed fresh with different types of content. Blasting external link after external link is not only poor form from a marketing perspective, but also won’t do you any favors with the latest Facebook algorithm.

For example, visual content goes hand in hand with Facebook’s best practices by garnering 87% more engagement. That’s why each and every post should be accompanied by some sort of visual, be it an infographic, .gif or an otherwise eye-popping image.

You also have the option of beefing up your descriptions via hashtags or shouting out another page, both of which can expand your reach even further.

Again, your end-game is to encourage engagement. Links by themselves don’t exactly scream “look at me,” do they?

4. Make Each Post Unique

As brands are expected to consistently post Facebook day after day, it’s common for businesses to run out of their own content to promote.

This ultimately results in either brands repeating themselves by posting the same pieces over and over or not getting enough mileage out of their content by only posting once.

The solution?

For starters, consider crafting unique descriptions for your posts in order to reintroduce them to your followers without becoming repetitive. Where you might have used a quote the first time, you could switch things up with a tag or question the second or third time.

use different facebook copy on posts

Another strategy for reintroducing older pieces to your feed without repeating yourself is repurposing content.

There are tons of Facebook tools out there that can help you transform your pieces into something totally new in no time flat.

For example, you can turn a quote from an article into a custom graphic using Canva or Adobe Spark. You could likewise repurpose a blog post into a video using Lumen5 or Animoto.

Oh, and with social scheduling through Sprout, you can create a custom content calendar that helps you keep track of which types of content you’re posting to Facebook too.

sprout social publishing

5. Make the Shift Toward Facebook Groups

The reported drop in Facebook page reach, with some sources citing organic reach as low as 2%, is the latest Facebook algorithm’s elephant in the room.

While this doesn’t mean you should totally give up on your brand’s Facebook page, it does explain why many marketers are migrating toward Facebook Groups instead. As fans and followers essentially “opt-in” to a group and commit to discussions within it, customers who join your group are arguably the most likely to engage with your brand’s content.

For marketers focused on problem-solving and educating communities, Groups might be better suited to your strengths rather than starting a Page from scratch.

6. Narrow Your Audience

The beauty of Facebook is the ability to zero in on your audience.

If you have a widespread audience, consider narrowing your audience down by interests or geography. Facebook (and Sprout) gives you the option to set these preferences and restrictions per post. While this may initially narrow your reach, it may increase your engagement as a result. Think of it as fine tuning the relevance to specific fans.

facebook post targeting sprout social

A good use case of this is if you’re a national company that hosts events across multiple cities. Those in Cincinnati might not care that you’re hosting an event in Miami.

Restricting the audience to only the Cincinnati fans means that you get to serve the post to those who would care about it the most. This increases the likelihood of higher engagement on those posts.

7. Time Your Content to Perfection

The Facebook algorithm prioritizes posts that receive engagement, which is why timing your posts is so important.

To maximize that ever-so-important engagement, brands should strive to stick to a content calendar that taps into the best times to post on social media.

best time to post on facebook for the most engagement

While such data isn’t the be-all, end-all of when to post, it does shed light on when audiences are typically the most active. Anything you can do to boost your chances of being seen by more followers is a plus, after all.

8. Embrace the “Pay to Play” Game

While brands should certainly focus on improving their organic reach, there’s no denying the power of Facebook ads.

The good news?

Data shows us that Facebook ads produce an overwhelmingly positive ROI with 93% of marketers already on board. Laser-targeting combined with so many creative options, Facebook ads offer marketers freedom unlike any other other ad platform.

Double-dipping some of the tips above, you can create a video ad that grabs the attention of your followers.

facebook video ad example

Of course, there’s also carousel ads which Facebook notes perform extremely well and boast a low CPC.

facebook carousel ads

Coupling your organic efforts with Facebook ads can give you the best of both worlds. The writing has been on the wall for brands to embrace Facebook as a “pay to play” platform, so experimenting with ads now is a sound idea for the long-term.

How Do You Feel About the Current Facebook Algorithm?

Like or not, the ever-changing Facebook algorithm requires brands to rethink their content strategies.

This rings true now and will likely ring true months down the line. Adapting to these sorts of changes is the nature of social marketing as a whole.

And marketers who stay in line with Facebook’s best practices are more likely to be rewarded with reach.

Be honest, though: how do you feel about Facebook’s latest algorithm update? Confused? Hopeful? Let us know in the comments below!



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