Facebook is an excellent, cost efficient marketing tool for publishers and bloggers, but it's also a hotbed of rumor, hearsay and controversy over what you allegedly can or cannot do. There are solutions if you keep the mindset of engaging your community rather than only looking at it as a tool for monetization or traffic generation.
For those answers, you go to the source. In April, Adam Mosseri, VP of Product Management for News Feed for Facebook, presented a video on how Facebook News Feed works and provided tips for publishers. I'll share with you his advice, along with my own experience.
How News Feed Works
Because we are all so pressed for time, Facebook sees their mission as helping users connect with the information that is most relevant to them. How do they determine what’s important to users? The process starts when a user opens up Facebook rather than when you post an update, making Facebook truly driven by users.
The most important guiding tool in Facebook's research is determining who users friend and who they follow to determine priorities per user. To do this, they create a “relevancy score” for each story based on:
- Who posted it
- What the user likes
- What kind of content is being posted (video, long form, etc.)
- Overall interaction: clicks, comments, likes, etc.
- Number of interactions per post
- When originally created in terms of both how recent and how important it is. That is, important news such as your friend's birth announcement will trump that photo they share of today's breakfast, especially if you've been offline since then.
Obviously they may be correct – or may miss the target and prioritize the wrong things. Facebook uses even more research to determine if they’ve done gotten a user's priorities right. This includes:
- Flagging increased user interactions for those prioritized feeds.
- Controls for people that allow users to follow, friend, unfollow, hide or select “see first.” This step allows Facebook to further refine the process and fix their mistakes.
- Facebook’s Feed Quality Program, which compares predicted data to:
- Input from their Feed Quality Panel, a group of users who rank stories in order of what they find more or less interesting.
- Online surveys that ask users how interested they are in this story. This data is collected from tens of thousands of users per day.
How to Implement Facebook's Advice for Publishers
Now that you understand how Facebook news feed makes data more relevant for users, how can we use that information? Facebook has four important recommendations that publishers should use to improve their community's experience.
1. Create Compelling Headlines
Avoid writing poor headlines, especially “click bait.” Instead, create ones that entice and engage users while accurately describing the information in the post just like you do for your blog. One thing I like to do on my page is to give my opinion on an article, particularly if it makes me angry or is not trustworthy, and then ask readers for their opinion. Learn how A-list bloggers write their headlines.
2. Avoid Too Much Promotion
You can share promotional content from your own blog and others, but I have discovered that the less you share, the better. That means that you must look at others’ content before you share it to ensure you are not just sharing sponsored posts. Take care that shares from your own blog fall directly in line with your page’s niche and provides useful information. Finally, make sure that any of your own sponsored or affiliate marketing content follows FTC guidelines (I always use “ #ad”). Here are 5 expert strategies on getting real blog traffic from Facebook.
3. Experiment Using Publisher Tools
Mosseri stresses the importance of trying different things and I agree with him completely! Long form, short form, video, Facebook live, graphics – all of these will have a different effect on your audience. Then, go back to your Publisher Tools to see what really resonated with your readers. That can also give you ideas for blog content.
For example, the post that got some of my biggest reach in early 2015 came from an article I shared from the New York Times. It looked into whether or not pediatricians were overprescribing Miralax for children. I made a plan to periodically reshare that post, about every 3 weeks, and actively sought articles about Miralax in my feed to share too, as well as related articles and images about related gut problems. Then I set up alerts about when laxatives made the news and shared any new articles or information on this topic. I eventually wrote a post about it too. All those Facebook shares got strong user feedback.
4. New Publisher Tool: Audience Optimization
When you are posting an article (not sharing), Facebook gives you the opportunity to narrow down the audience who sees it. After posting, look for the icon to the right of the clock to set audience options.
You have two optimization options:
This allows Facebook to search for an audience based on interest, such as business industry, fitness, parenting, etc.
You can limit who sees this post by age, gender, location, or language. For example, right now I’m promoting a conference in New Orleans. For those posts, I can target up to a 50-mile radius of that city.
What Else I’ve Learned About Facebook Engagement
In addition to the advice from Facebook, I’ve learned a few other tips that have worked for me over the last two years.
If I want to instantly pump my reach, I simply post very frequently. Be careful not to post two shares or articles in a row. It's been my experience that the first of those articles will not get good reach. If you schedule posts every 2-3 hours all day long, you’ll find your reach will be higher for those weeks.
Target Your Posts
Not only do you want to remain squarely focused in the middle of your Facebook page’s niche, you also want to share what’s relevant in the news and what’s timely. A little bit of controversy, if appropriate for your target, works well too. The idea is to get people talking about what’s going on. For example, if you run a Star Wars fan page, remember that new movies are coming out this December and next year. As these dates approach, shares should be rising to a fever pitch!
Tag Friends, Brands and Bloggers
Everyone likes a call out! Some brands are thrilled for the exposure and may even share your article with their audience so never forget to tag a brand you enjoy, even if it’s not a sponsored post. I also like to thank the people who post, and put a relevant shout out to friends when appropriate. For example, when sharing a conference, I tag the person who runs it or the conference speakers especially if we’re friends.
Paste, Customize and Write
Shares inside Facebook are fine, but posting articles on Facebook gives you more customization controls like using Audience Optimization. Remember to tag the original poster, as it’s common courtesy. However you share, I’ve found that you will get more engagement if you write something at the top of every status, particularly since you’ll be benefiting from keywords.
Top Facebook Resources
It's easy enough to avoid rumors and competently use Facebook to build community. Not only should you continue doing what works and adhere to the advice above, you should also go straight to the source for the latest information and tips on Facebook.
- Media Blog
- News Feed FYI Blog
These tips should help improve your Facebook engagement. I recommend you start using these immediately, especially using Insights and Publishing Tools to see where your performance is doing best. As for me, I’ll soon be getting into Facebook Live, as I’m looking at more video options and I’ve heard good things about its effect on your reach!