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The Way It Works - Understanding The Facebook Algorithm

Do you utilise Facebook for marketing purposes? Paul Rigby provides a valuable inside track on what makes the social media service tick The Way It Works - Understanding The Facebook Algorithm

If you want to make the most of your marketing time and money on social media then Facebook - with its enormous audience and user base - is an important tool. Understanding how it works, though, is just as important. The more you know, the better you can use Facebook to provide an advantage for your business.

For example, the Facebook algorithm loves posts with lots of likes, comments and shares. This sounds pretty obvious but if you can generate interest in any particular news story and attract a certain amount of attention to it then Facebook, from that point, will give it a boost. The key here is time. If this attention can be generated in a short period of time then Facebook will pay you lots of attention. Nothing breeds success like success, it seems.

Click-baits and like-baits

On the flip side? If you’re desperate for some attention towards a product and service or require a boost in website views and are looking for a short-cut, do not be tempted to produce click-bait or like-baits.

What do I mean by click- and like-baits? One example might be a provocative or attractive image with a false video play button at the centre of the image. You click on the false play button and are, instead, taken to a website.

Another example? Post an image of a well known figure - let’s say a photograph of successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson - and then lay a headline adjacent to it saying something like, “When he heard this news it changed Branson’s entire life - click to read more!” The user clicks on the post and is not transferred to the scandalous story but your website. That is clickbait. And Facebook abhors it.

Similarly, you should avoid overly promotional content from your Pages, pushing people to buy an app or service, pressurising users to enter a contest or sweepstakes or even posts that reuse the same text from ads. Facebook would rather that you pay for their Ads in these circumstances.

Company pages

If you have a company Page on Facebook (and if you haven’t…then you should), you can grow your Facebook Page’s reach by posting less and boosting your top posts. Facebook will often alert you towards those top posts but you can see how many people any one post is reaching by the stat displayed right underneath it. Boosting a post is a variation of an Ad so, again, you will need to dip into your pocket for this one.

Remember the recent headlines about Facebook and ‘Fake News’ and how Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg, had to explain himself in a public forum? That has prompted changes which may help you and your business. According to Facebook, “News will always be a critical way for people to start conversations on important topics.” So the team at Facebook has made a major update to make sure that news on the News Feed is of high quality. Specifically, they will be prioritising the following types of news: news from publications that the community rates as trustworthy, news that people find informative and news that is relevant to people’s local community.

If you issue a publication that is deemed to be trustworthy or your content is rated to be informative by Facebook users, you may see an increase in distribution of your content. This might involve time and perseverance and plenty of hard work but if you can produce a newsletter that sparks attention and a level of respect then such a publication will provide a major boon for your company.

Facebook is a social media site but it’s amazing how many companies featured within it are in no way ‘social’.

This is disturbing when you consider that Facebook prioritises posts that create meaningful conversations. Hence, the algorithm prioritises posts that prompt conversations and posts that people might want to share and react to, such as “…a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion,” said Facebook.

I run a website devoted to hi-fi and music which includes news, reviews, features and interviews. I currently have a personal Page on Facebook plus a company Page. These areas act as a sort of cork-board or hub for users, readers and potential readers. On there, I post notifications and links of new editorial that Facebook users can click on. The links take then direct to the relevant page on my website. Many other businesses do the same sort of thing.


Recently, I went one stage further. I started my own Group. A Group is an active Forum that users join. In the Group, they can discuss issues, ask questions of you and each other, they can post items in your group and more. Managed correctly and set up properly, a Facebook Group is a great place to build a community of loyal users. More than that, it seems that Facebook is moving towards the Group as a centre of attention.

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that people will be seeing more posts from “…friends, family and groups…“ This might be a great time to start investing in a Facebook Group for your brand.

How may this affect your Page? Pages will likely see a fall in their reach, video watch time and referral traffic as fewer of your content will be shown to your Facebook fans. If your posts usually spark conversations between friends, you might see a smaller impact. Again, therefore, think seriously about forming a Facebook Group.

So is it worth bothering with company Page at all then? Yes - ideally, operate both. Not everyone will want to join your group.

To show people stories at the right time, Facebook has also been studying how people interact with posts in real time. For example, if there’s an important football match going on and many people are talking about it on Facebook, Facebook will show relevant posts higher in the News Feed.

How may this affect your Page? Some Pages might see an increase in their referral traffic. Consider posting timely, relevant posts to get more reach on Facebook.

The future?

Another one for the future. Facebook is going to show long videos that people spend time watching. When ranking videos in the News Feed, a factor that Facebook considers is “percent completion” — the percentage of the video you watched. Facebook now recognises that it takes more commitment to complete a long video than a short one. So it will now put more weight on the “percent completion” factor for longer videos. As an example, if people are, on average, watching 50% of a 30-second video and 50% of a 10-minute video, the 10-minute video will rank better in the News Feed than the 30-second video.

That’s because the 10-minute video has to be more engaging than the 30-second video to keep people watching for five minutes (versus 15 seconds).

How may this affect your Page? If you create long, engaging videos, you might see an increase in your videos’ reach. Short videos, as a result, might see a fall in reach.


Finally? Facebook loves stories. Facebook will try to identify stories that are informative — usually, if they are related to people’s interests, if they engage people in broader discussions and if they contain news relevant to them.

How may this affect your Page? Informative content might get more reach on Facebook. From our recent experience, educational and entertaining content performs well on Facebook.

Noting how Facebook works, how it views raw data and how it processes your company activities can help to give your business a significant edge on this dominant social media platform.

About the author

Paul Rigby runs his own hi-fi and music related website, The Audiophile Man at www. Read more like this

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