Facebook’s Algorithm and Brand Awareness (Stats and Strategy)

Social Strategy, Facebook

In January of 2018, Mark Zuckerberg posted a long message announcing his intent to change Facebook's algorithm. Specifically, he wrote, "public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other." If you market your brand on social media, you probably found his comments about weakening the reach of brands even more concerning than his wild hyphen use throughout the post.

To be fair, this happened not long after the company admitted its platform had been used as a weapon during the 2016 elections in the United States. Facebook also released statements saying their data had been collected inappropriately by Cambridge Analytica. Unfortunately, brands everywhere started paying the price for those misdeeds.

Even as Yahoo! Finance reports an uprising among Facebook's shareholders, it seems safe to assume Zuckerberg will retain his concentrated power and use it to shape the social network as he pleases. Facebook is his world, and we're just living in it. With that in mind, here's how brands can play by the rules to build brand awareness on Facebook.

It's been over a year since Zuckerberg announced a massive overhaul to the Facebook algorithm. Read his full post here.

Why Brands Are Less Successful on Facebook

The attempt to prevent controversy is certainly a top reason for Facebook's public acknowledgment of their algorithm update. As stated in Zuckerberg's post, the company has made efforts to put more emphasis on personal connections. The social network is trying to get more social, focusing on connections between family and friends instead of an abundance of media.

It's still possible for brands to show up in the news feed, but there's a lot going into the sharp decline in Facebook Business Page engagement.

1 – Facebook Ads Get Top Priority

First and foremost, Facebook is a business, and business is booming. Here's a look at how Facebook ad revenue has grown over time:

Historical Look at Facebook Ad Revenue by Quarter – Source: Statista

As a free platform, Facebook makes the overwhelming majority of its money from ad revenue. By reducing the organic appearance of businesses in the News Feed, the company has encouraged marketers to spend money on sponsored posts. Ad content has become more prevalent on Facebook in recent years, and revenue has responded as a result.

Just look at how ad revenue grew in a two year period coming into 2019, and you'll see why paid Facebook ads are so important for brands:

Facebook ad revenue roughly doubled from the first quarter of 2017 to 2019.

2 – Competition is Fierce Because Brands Create Better Content

To combat the algorithm changes, some of the most popular pages on Facebook started to put more effort into their content. At the same time, social media has become even more important for businesses. That means there are close to 100 million business pages on Facebook, some of which

How to Raise Brand Awareness as Facebook Engagement Rebounds

Facebook experienced some bad press both before and after Zuckerberg's big announcement in January of 2018. As a result, the social network saw a dip in user engagement during the early part of that year. The early part of 2019 has told a different story. Posts with web content got more engagement January 1 through March 10 in 2019 than they did in the same period of 2017 and 2018.

Total Facebook Engagements With Web Content January 1 - March 10 by Year – Source: NewsWhip

During the first part of 2019, Facebook saw both its total engagement and average engagement bounce back for web content. Not only did it recover from the lows of 2018, but activity surpassed even 2017 levels to reach new heights. The number of Facebook users continues to rise steadily, too.

Facebook Users Over Time – Source: Statista

The social network isn't going anywhere, so brands would do well to follow the new rules.

1 – Put Facebook First (Use Native Content)

Facebook benefits when users have long sessions on their site, so they're not especially inclined to link users elsewhere. The algorithm seems to give an edge to native content (i.e., content contained on Facebook instead of external links).

Links get fewer average engagements than native video, live video, and native photos even individually. Combined, native content gets a large majority of engagement. – Source: NewsWhip

The trend is generally the same for average comments and average shares, with links slightly overtaking photos and live video, respectively, in those categories. While you're putting Facebook first, you can't forget the end user, because we actually have a tie for gold.

2 – Put the Audience First

Facebook can only hold on to their audience as long as they're providing good user experience. If you consistently provide content that adds value for your followers, your posts will get better engagement. The algorithm will take that into account as Facebook sets out to create more of what they call "meaningful interactions." One of the biggest social media trends is that users drive the conversation now.

There are a few ways to create better relationships with your audience:

  • Start a Conversation – Try to facilitate positive, productive dialogue by asking questions and provoking responses. Your followers should want to share their opinions (and your posts) or interact with each other in the comments section of your posts.
  • Avoid the Hard Sell – Your content should inspire people and make them want to interact. Posts that ask for people to react, share, comment, or tag a friend may get flagged as bait.
  • Break News Early – The rise of live video and Facebook Stories renewed the importance of a real-time social media presence. People like to be a part of something that's happening right now, especially if it involves a whole group.
  • Provide Customer Service – Social media is a perfect place to resolve customer issues and manage your online reputation.
  • Consider Viewing Habits – Most people are using social media on the phone, so your content needs to perform well within that format.

3 – Use Social Media Messaging

Zuckerberg has said, "the future is private." It may seem like a funny thing to hear from Facebook, but they've certainly committed themselves to acquiring messaging apps. Lots of message activity through your page will show the algorithm you're establishing meaningful dialogue with people. This is also one of the most productive ways to handle customer service and develop stronger relationships with your followers.

4 – Use The Data

Facebook offers great analytical tools. There's an Insights tab on your brand page that will tell you how you're doing with all kinds of metrics and trends. Facebook Insights will give you measurable feedback about how your content is performing, including information about all of the following and more:

  • Followers
  • Responsiveness
  • Engagements
  • Orders
  • Views
  • Reach
  • Likes

Look for social media trends over time, then optimize your content based on what works for your brand. The same can be said for your ad content– the Ads Manager interface provides additional data about how your paid campaigns have performed.

Facebook Ads Manager gives insights by age, gender, and more.

One strategy is to start every post either as organic content or with a small budget. Take some time to see how much engagement a particular post starts to get relative to your other content, then boost the successful ones with additional ad spending. Your high-quality content that performs well on its own will require less cost per click once you turn it into a sponsored post, and the combination of organic appeal and ad spending can create an exponential effect.

Fast Way to Use Facebook for Business

The algorithm isn't finished evolving, and social media marketers are working tirelessly to stay ahead of the constant changes. Many of the Facebook strategies listed above should continue to work for the long haul, but they also take time and patience to execute properly. If you're a business owner who doesn't have time to keep up with your Facebook Business Page, contact us today. We'll get to work finding ways to connect with your target audience so you can focus on the big picture.

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