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In the history of algorithms, few have been obsessed over as much as the one that currently governs Facebook's News Feed. Ever since its launch in 2006, the platform's users and the brands that seek to reach those users have had an uneasy relationship with its existence.

For example, within hours of its debut, a group called "Students Against Facebook News Feed" collected hundreds of thousands of members. Moreover, though most of us eventually began to accept its utility, we've also expressed no shortage of skepticism toward how it decides to place content in front of us.

Unlike social networks like Twitter and Instagram, where all updates are displayed in our timeline in reverse chronological order, Facebook has always sought to determine the likelihood that you'd be interested in a particular piece of content and prioritized your news feed accordingly.

Facebook first did this through a rudimentary algorithm called EdgeRank before employing a more sophisticated set of weights and signals based on machine learning. As the social network continues to tinker with its algorithm, companies that invested heavily in growing their Facebook following have seen wild fluctuations in their Page reach, which has understandably resulted in widespread paranoia that Facebook is turning the faucet on and off to force those businesses into purchasing ads.

For example, the company that created a food delivery app called Eat24 famously penned a breakup letter with Facebook and shut down its page: "Even if we could figure out your mysterious, all-knowing algorithm, it's constantly changing, so what works today might not work tomorrow."

This is a frustration that many brands share. But though it is true that, on average, post reach has been on the decline, obsessing over the day-to-day performance of your Facebook page is, at its best, unproductive and, at its worst, destructive to your state of mind.

Here's why you should stop refreshing your page analytics and just focus on creating great content for your followers.

Facebook wants to reward great content

I know it's tempting to succumb to cynicism and assume Facebook has designed its algorithm to force brands into paying for promoted posts, but Mark Zuckerberg and his engineers have long recognized that any short-term gains in revenue should be rejected if they come at the long-term expense of user satisfaction.

Zuckerberg long resisted standard display advertising, which he considered intrusive and destructive to the user experience. "A lot of people were telling us, OK go put banner ads in," he once said. "And that felt wrong. I didn't think that that was going to be the right way to build the product or build the business."

This fealty to users is exactly why the news feed algorithm will always reward the most high-quality, relevant content (the company even listed the criteria for what it considers high quality). So as long as you continue to deliver quality content, as opposed to employing cheap tricks to juice engagement, then you'll be rewarded with higher reach and social sharing.

Focus on the average, not individual posts

Not all content is created equal, and not every post to Facebook will take off with users. Stop obsessing over the posts that receive on 2% or 3% page reach and recognize that you'll see wide fluctuations over time.

Instead, you should focus on your month-to-month engagement trends and adjust your strategy based on those metrics. Facebook's analytics dashboard allows you to sort your posts based on the amount of engagement they've received, so at the end of each month you can analyze what kinds of posts received the most likes, shares, and comments and then produce more of that kind of content in the future.

Maybe Facebook isn't your target audience

If you put all your effort into creating high-quality content and still don't see much engagement on Facebook, then maybe you should stop and consider whether you're devoting too much energy to the wrong platform.

Facebook's users might not be interested in reading news about B2B offerings, for instance, so perhaps your efforts would be better spent on, say, LinkedIn.

For example, the marketing blog Copyblogger famously closed down its Facebook page despite having a following of over 38,000 users. Why? Because after careful analysis, it determined it wasn't getting much quality engagement on the platform and it'd rather abandon Facebook than continue delivering a subpar experience. Though doing that might be too drastic a move for most businesses, it provides a good lesson that you should always prioritize your marketing efforts toward delivering the maximal ROI.

Open up your wallet

Sometimes, the best things in life aren't for free. Sometimes when you want to reach users, you're going to have to pay for the privilege.

Most marketers have found that the combination of high-quality content and precise targeting will allow you to spend a small amount of money on Facebook promoted posts and see strong organic social sharing as a result.

The Facebook friends and pages you follow produce, on average, up to 1,500 status updates a day, and so the news feed is incredibly busy. Sometimes, the only way to break through that noise is to open up your wallet and guarantee yourself premium placement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper is CEO of Visual.ly, a content creation platform that enables businesses to engage audiences through premium visual content created by vetted freelance creative professionals.

LinkedIn: Matt Cooper