Spring 2019 Insider


Effective Facebook Marketing 
in the Age of Algorithm Anxiety

Jun 10, 2019 4 min read

Effective Facebook Marketing 
in the Age of Algorithm Anxiety
Patra Kongsirimongkolchai / EyeEm/gettyimages

According to Nielsen, American adults spend nearly half their day consuming content. 

Our job as thought leaders and marketers is to find out how to reach that audience—to create that content—in the most cost-effective way possible.

What we’re after is simple: attention. So how do we get it?

On average, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media. And despite the rumors, television is still king, owning nearly five of those hours.

During their most recent earnings report, Netflix revealed that they own 10 percent of TV time, or roughly 100 million hours per day in the United States. Why is that important? Attention. Attention is the most coveted commodity in today’s world, which is why Netflix is now worth more than Disney and Comcast.

Some players in the nonprofit and advocacy world are slowly dipping their toes into Netflix. But for most groups, that’s not feasible. They look to social media for attention and community building. 

When it comes to digital, Facebook continues to own the largest share of attention. According to Pew Research Center, roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults are active Facebook users. In January 2018, Facebook released an earnings report that revealed the average user spends more than 40 minutes per day on the platform. (If you’d like to know how much time you spend on Facebook, go to “settings and privacy” and select “your time on Facebook.”)

Facebook’s continued dominance has forced marketers to contend with its ever-changing algorithm. According to Pew, Facebook’s algorithm remains a mystery for more than half of its users.

Facebook has attempted to demystify its algorithm, which it refers to as “ranking.” They’ve revealed three main points:

  • Ranking looks at likes, comments and shares to identify posts that matter to users. 
  • Ranking considers whether a potential interaction is between two people or between a person and a page. Person-to-person is ranked higher than person-to-page. Posts from connections within your network will get the biggest newsfeed boost. 
  • Ranking prioritizes “meaningful” exchanges that require more time and care. For example, typing out a long and thoughtful reply to a post.

Did you catch all the clues in Facebook’s explanation of ranking?

First, engagement—likes, comments, and shares—is important. Second, posts from connections within your network will get the biggest boost. Having a connection with a person or page means you interact frequently. 

But the last and possibly the most important clue is in Facebook’s description of “meaningful” exchanges. According to Facebook, meaningful exchanges require more time, which is a signal that comments are weighted more than likes and shares.

The growing consensus among marketing professionals suggests Facebook is becoming a paid platform and organizations are forced to pay to reach their audience.  While pages with larger audiences have a lower organic reach than pages with smaller audiences, there’s no evidence that organic reach is dead. The reality is organizations have failed to pivot, and pivot they must if they are to remain relevant according to Facebook’s ever-evolving algorithm.

Instead of bemoaning that algorithm, organizations can employ several strategies to capture a share of attention in Facebook newsfeeds. Here’s three to live by:

The “see first” strategy overrides Facebook’s algorithm. Facebook allows users to control the content appearing in their newsfeed. Asking your community to mark your page as “see first” will ensure your posts appear in newsfeeds. Users can also choose to receive alerts from their favorite pages. A short video with step-by-step instructions is the easiest way to employ the see-first strategy and market it to your community. Users simply navigate to your page, select “following,” turn on notifications, and mark your page “see first” in their newsfeed. Users can select up to five pages to see first in their newsfeed.

There’s no evidence that organic reach is dead. The reality is organizations have failed to pivot, and pivot they must if they are to remain relevant according to Facebook’s ever-evolving algorithm.

The “group” strategy focuses on giving users greater control of the conversation and forming deeper connections by creating a Facebook group. Groups are not susceptible to the same algorithm as pages. Groups also open up a wide range of features that can increase engagement among users. There are three options for groups: 1) public, which allows everyone to see members and content; 2) closed, which allows everyone to see member names but not the content; and 3) secret, which require invitations and only members can see members’ names and content. 

Different group types open up different features. For example, a social learning group allows brands to create course-like content structured in learning units. Additional features available to all groups include video watch parties, document sharing, an event calendar and polling.

Finally, the “don’t suck” strategy focuses on providing the right content to the right audience at the right time. This seems simple, but most brands are terrible at creating engaging content. Automation, awkward stock photography, poor headlines, scheduling posts at a bad time of day and failing to engage your community in the comment section after posting are a few of the mistakes that kill organic reach. After that happens, the only way to revive your organic reach is to reboot your content strategy and pay to promote posts to your existing audience. This can be expensive. 

Before launching a paid campaign, analyze your audience to understand the days and times users are active and develop a day-parting plan, which can be a simple grid with days of the week across the top and hours of the day down the side. Test different post types—links, images, videos, polls—at different times to begin filling out your day-parting plan.

The trick to beating Facebook’s algorithm is to love your audience. Do that, and they’ll love you back. 

Games, gimmicks, short cuts and tricks will eventually catch up with you and kill your organic reach. If you build deep, meaningful connections with your community, and make them feel like they are part of a community, they will seek you out and engage with you despite Facebook’s attempts to force you to pay for attention in the newsfeed.

Building organic reach on Facebook and any other platform is hard work. But engaging content and disciplined, simple strategies make it possible. 

One sure-fire way to lose? Complaining about the algorithm.   

Mr. Green is co-founder and chief marketing officer at Iron Light, a change-making marketing agency.