I was recently talking to a couple of friends who were surprised by the way Facebook ads almost always seem to have something to do with their recent Google searches or browsing history. I explained that it’s because Facebook tracks our every move because they’re in the government’s pocket and someday the government will use that information against its citizens to eliminate undesirables so they can create a utopian society that takes our children and forces them to compete in rigged death matches for the glory of their district.
I’m not freaking out here. The Hunger Games is seriously prophetic stuff, man!
But I digress.
Okay, it might not all be so cloak and dagger, but there’s no question that Facebook is the “big brother” of our time. And it all has to do with some very cleverly written and ever-changing algorithms.
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is a computer program designed to run a sequence of calculations to acquire and tabulate specific data. An algorithm can be programmed to figure out how many users named Jake stalk your Facebook page, or how many users aged 25 read your blog.
In some cases an algorithm can even be programmed to make decisions.
Facebook’s algorithm is designed to red flag posts containing words like “free” and “giveaway.” This is because the algorithm assumes those key words have something to do with a business. If it assumes you’re trying to make money, Mark Zuckerberg wants in. The job of the algorithm is to find those posts and restrict them unless the user decides to pay Facebook to boost the post’s reach.
Most of us already know that Facebook only shows what we post to about 10% of our friends and followers. This algorithm was implemented a couple years ago, and it’s a change that frustrated—and continues to frustrate—almost every single Facebook user. I mean, what’s the point of having every member of my family “friend” me on Facebook if the algorithm is going to show only 10% of them what I post?
When you look at it from Facebook’s point of view, however, it makes a lot of sense.
Let’s say Facebook is the boss of a large department store and we are the employees. Every day the employees come in and sell their own homemade products. The boss isn’t going to like having his store used so other people can make money unless he gets a cut. That’s exactly what the CEOs at Facebook decided. There came a point where so many people were using Facebook for their business—and making good money at it!—that Facebook came up with an algorithm to restrict interaction with user posts unless posters paid money to increase engagement.
But, like any good boss, Facebook’s algorithm can work with you if you try.
Before I go any further…
How the heck do I know this stuff?
Facebook is a large part of my job. Aside from using it for personal reasons and to promote my photography, I also manage several Facebook accounts for businesses and non-profits. Over the years I’ve read a lot of blogs and listened to a lot of seminars by business professionals, authors, photographers, experts in the field of social media, and others about the dos and don’ts of Facebook. This is just a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up along the way.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out, and some of this information might change in a few months too because Facebook is continually updating and changing its algorithms.
In the least I hope this information helps make you aware of how the social media “program” works.
Making Mr. Algorithm your friend.
You want to know what really kills a Facebook post?
One of the worst social media blunders someone can make is to post twice a day for a week and then drop off the map. Once your Facebook page has gone a few days or longer without you logging in and interacting in some way its algorithm decides you’re not very interesting. Suddenly you become like a lover trying to win back your ex and you’ve got to work hard to convince Mr. Algorithm that your posts are worth distributing again.
Another good way to kill your Facebook posts is to be like that one-sided conversationalist at a cocktail party. Don’t get onto social media just to talk about yourself. Nobody likes that guy. You need to click on other people’s posts, or comment, or like, and/or share their stuff. This tells Facebook’s algorithm that you’re an engaged participant. The more you engage the more others will engage with you and the more attention your posts will receive. That’s why it’s called “social” media.
If you have trouble posting consistently there are a number of online programs that can help you schedule posts on a regular basis such as Hootsuite and MeetEdgar. If you have a Facebook business page (also called a “Like Page”) you can even use Facebook’s built-in scheduling feature to plan your posts days, weeks, and even months in advance. (Unfortunately this feature is not available for standard Facebook accounts, but anyone can start a “Like Page” if they wish.)
And before you ask, no, there is no data to support the idea that using third party programs to do your posting limits your chances of engagement. As far as I know Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t care who does the posting, so long as it is on your behalf.
How else can I kill my posts?
If you’re like me you’re a perfectionist. Perfectionists have the hardest time resisting correcting a post if we publish it with an error. But that’s a surefire way to get Facebook’s algorithm to red flag your post as redundant. Once that happens even fewer than the already paltry 10% will see your post, if any.
If you really need to make a correction then post it in the comments. You can always upload a corrected version of the post later, but wait an hour or so. Posting the same thing too soon can also raise a red flag. Remember, Mr. Algorithm doesn’t like redundancy.
If you really want to start getting a better reach on Facebook make a pact with others that whenever someone posts something you will go and like, comment, or share the post, and vice versa. This will immediately convince Facebook’s algorithm that the post is interesting. For every reaction the post gets, the algorithm unveils it to more people.
Does all of this sound like more work than it’s worth? It’s really not. All it takes is five or ten minutes a day of hitting up your friends, family, and favorite Facebook pages and liking and commenting on a few things.
Be engaging by getting engaged.