Maximizing Facebook for Public Relations: Farewell EdgeRank! Hello Relevant, Timely and Delightful Content!

serena-ehrlich.featuredBy Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social & Evolving Media, Business Wire

One of the biggest challenges, and opportunities, facing today’s marketers and communications professionals is the issue of content visibility.   As the sales process evolves and it takes more and more work to win business and/or build brand fans, marketers are producing content at an unprecedented rate.  As more content becomes available, the issue of visibility moves to the forefront of any good marketing discussion.

Early in Q4, Google announced a big change to its content visibility algorithm. Now, instead of emphasizing individual keywords, Google search is putting a much bigger emphasis on searchable phrases. It’s becoming more conversational, more human, forcing content creators to revise their text to include more conversational terminology vs. traditional business-speak.

But Google is not the only social network to use an algorithm to adjust the visibility of news and posts shared.  Years ago Facebook introduced EdgeRank, an algorithm that utilized 100,000 different weights to determine what each user would see.  While EdgeRank worked for a while, users continued to complain about the lack of diversity of stories presented and many marketers learned how to “game the system,” giving them a leg up on the competition.

No longer!  Earlier this fall, Facebook announced it was no longer using EdgeRank to determine the visibility of organic (aka non-paid) posts, but rather created a new algorithm designed, just like Google’s changes, to provide Facebook users a better News Feed experience.  This change is big and it will absolutely impact the engagement levels on your Facebook company page.

What is the change and how can organizations ensure their updates are seen?

In many ways, this change mirrors what Google did. Like Google, Facebook is putting a major weight behind the timing, relevance and value of each status update to the reader.

Why?  The average Facebook user has approximately 1,500 stories that can be shown in their newsfeed daily.  Since this is obviously way too many stories for one person to read each day, Facebook utilizes a wide number of weights that help determine what users see each day.  So what do you need to know?

What are the best practices to increase or ensure visibility in Facebook’s News Feed?

1.  Focus on being timely and relevant.  Facebook watches your content carefully.  If no one interacts with it, if no one responds, Facebook could decrease visibility of your future status updates.   Consider leveraging real-time events or news to help jumpstart relevant brand conversations.

2.  It is all about quality. Your Facebook fans chose to like your page because of what you do.  Continue to focus on providing content that drives discussion relevant to you and your brand.  Off-topic conversations, or low quality meme shares, will not help you in the long run.

3.  Be delightful to increase content sharing.  There are many factors that determine why a person shares a post. Most often, content is shared because it made an impact to the reader.  Marketo notes that highly shared posts do one of the following: share, advise, warn, amuse, inspire, amaze or unite

4.  Create off-topic or bad content and watch your posts suffer.  Facebook has made it easier than ever for users to mark your post as something they do not want to see in their feeds.  Be very careful with bad content.  Every time this happens, FB is notified that your updates are not useful and your future posts are affected. 

5.  Mix it up – test text, video and photos! Facebook loves variety and so do most of its users.  A/B test your content to see which resonates best with your core audience.  What type of content triggers them to engage? To like? To share? 

Want more reasons to mix up your content?  Facebook provides custom newsfeed views that vary by customer.  Facebook users, who like photos, see more photos in their feed.  Those who prefer video see more video clips and so on.  Mixing up your posts to include images, multimedia, links and more will provide you a broader audience viewership, perfect for A/B testing!

Mobile visibility is another key reason to mix up your content.  Each type of asset you post will have a different level of fan engagement depending on the way it is viewed, via mobile or desktop. 

6.  Be timely!  One of the best ways to take advantage of Facebook’s newest changes is to learn what day and time of day your fans are most likely to engage with your content.  Per WiseMetric’s recent survey, which looks at engagement, impressions and reach of each post, it is true that most engagement occurs by 75% of the audience in the first 5 hours of post. However by looking at impressions and reach, they discovered that 75% of status update reach occurred within the first 1.5 hours of the post’s shelf life, and total impressions could be calculated within only 2.3 hours.  But the key takeaway from that survey is that peak visibility of any Facebook status update is within 30 minutes of being posted.

7.  Get familiar with Story Bump and/or Last Actor.  Both features can resurface an older post to the top of user feeds.  Stories that receive this treatment are chosen by Facebook as those relevant to both the company and the reader based on recent interactions or engagements.  This is Facebook’s way of ensuring users see something Facebook believes you would like and may have missed. 

8.  Stop using Facebook to drive traffic back to a blog post.  Facebook is on to marketers who are using its platform as a way to drive fans off Facebook to their own websites.  Engage and grow your community on Facebook by including questions within your status updates to increase likelihood of comments and sharing.

9.  Don’t ask for likes or comments below.  While this strategy worked well during the first years of social, FB has implied it will ding posts that continue this practice.

10.What else affects what end users see? Of course, there are a few components to news feeds that you simply cannot control such as the other pages your fans interact with, the ads they click on or even how frequently they view other people’s timelines and the engagement they have with them. 

As you can see from the above, Facebook, like Google, is utilizing algorithms to create better customer experiences to drive a deeper relationship between its brand and its customer.  The best way to ensure your content continues to receive high engagement and visibility across these key networks is to build engaging content that reflects what your customers expect from your brand.

Want to learn more about these changes?  We highly recommend this terrific piece by MarketingLand.

 About the Author: Over the last 20 years, Serena Ehrlich has worked closely with public and private companies providing guidance on investor and public relation trends. Serena has implemented local, national and international social media and marketing campaigns for a wide range of company and brands including Mogreet, LuxuryLink, Viking River Cruises, the unincorporated city of Marina del Rey, Kraft, Kohl’s, Avon, Mattel and more. Serena started her career in advertising where she developed an understanding of branding from a large-scale perspective, but it was her 14 years in the newswire industry that placed her squarely at the forefront of a technical, sociological and influential revolution changing the face of customer communications. In 1994, Serena was part of a small team who introduced the communications industry to the Internet via a series of first-ever conferences, Her love of technology based communications hasn’t stopped since. As the director of social and evolving media at Business Wire, Serena has a unique insight in the content lifestyle – from creation to consumption. In addition, Serena serves as the Corporate Secretary of the international Social Media Club board of directors, President of Social Media Club Los Angeles, as well as social chair for the National Investor Relations Institutes’ Los Angeles chapter and is a frequent speaker at analyst and business conferences alike on the topics of mobile, payments and social.. She can be found on Twitter (@serena) as well as a wide range of emerging platforms.