How The Facebook Algorithm Works and How To Make It Work For You (UPDATED 2021)
The bad news: Organic reach is still in decline.
The good news: The Facebook algorithm isn’t static; engineers are constantly tinkering with it.
So by constantly keeping an eye on updates, we can continue tinkering our own social media strategies and tactics.
Facebook Algorithm Overview
Facebook is a massive data collector. They collect data on users to learn their behaviors, interests, and desires and learn how they can keep their users on their platform for longer periods of time.
They’re an advertising company that sells advertising space (the time you spend on Facebook) to media buyers. It’s the same model of buying TV commercials, however for Facebook it’s much cheaper and cost-effective to reach your desired audience.
Facebook uses your data to make better predictions of what content will make you stay longer on their platform. To make its predictions, the algorithm uses thousands of data points, a.k.a. ranking signals. Over the years, ranking signals have been added, removed, and had their importance adjusted, depending on what Facebook thinks users want to see.
With that being said, I am going to save you the time and give you the most relevant signals you should be watching.
4 Facebook Algorithm Ranking Signals to Consider
Is the post from a person, business, news source or public figure that the user often engages with? (i.e., messages, tags, engages with, follows, etc.)
2. Content type:
What type of media is in the post, and which type of media does the user interact with most? (i.e., video, photo, link, etc.)
How are people who have already seen the post reacting to it? (Especially your friends). Are they sharing it, commenting on it, ignoring it, smashing that angry face?
4. Recency: How new is the post? Newer posts are placed higher
We’ve known about these ranking signals for some time now. There isn’t much new here.
What’s new are the tactics you should be using to have high ranking signals when the algorithm ranks your content to ultimately determine how many people it wants to serve your content to.
6 Tactics for Working with the Facebook algorithm
1. Reply to your audience
Always reply to comments. But try to be more personal than simply replying with an emoji. Ask them a question. Whether your question is about their life or the post you made, you want to generate a back and forth conversation. Every comment on a post is tallied up when being ranked by the signal.
Note: Try to be genuine when asking questions in the comment section. Users are smart. They can sometimes feel when a page is baiting them for engagement.
Baiting for engagement is an insincere way to increase your engagement. Users can sometimes feel ‘used’ when they’re being baited for engagement. This probably isn’t what you want if you have the intention to create a relationship with your audience.
Spend as much time in the comment section as you can. The more time you spend in the comment section, the more you will increase your posts performance. Get obsessed with making the comment section active in your posts.
2. Get your audience replying to each other
In your post captions, ask people to share their opinion. People love doing that on social media. Just give them a good reason.
Controversial posts are good. Whether it’s about life, your industry, sports, or politics, polarizing content that creates conversation between people in your comment section is a great way to increase comments.
Remember: Every single comment on a post is tallied up. The more comments, the better.
3. Aim for love more than likes
Reactions are weighed more than likes.
You can leverage this fact by a type of “poll post”.
Facebook users will make a post and ask their audience to respond to the post by choosing a “love” or a “like” indicating an answer to the post.
So if you can assume 60% (or more) of your audience might answer a question in your post a certain way, then use that answer for their option to “love” the post.
4. Use Facebook Stories
The thing about Facebook Stories is that they aren’t part of the newsfeed. According to Facebook, they’re also effective at driving traffic: 58% of people say they’ve visited a brand’s website for more information after watching a Story.
Stories are a great way to show a more intimate view into your work and life. They’re more candid. They’re more authentic. They’re usually made within minutes and posted immediately.
When watching stories, users have less of an expectation of being sold something they don’t care about and are expecting more to be entertained or educated in stories.
5. Go Live on Facebook and make long-form video
One of the signals I haven’t mentioned that Facebook uses to rank your content is the time spent by users consuming your content. Time spent watching videos is one of the highest prioritized signals because it directly affects Facebook’s business model to sell advertising.
Go Live on Facebook but think about going Live before doing it.
Make sure you have a good WiFi connection. No one wants to watch your blurry livestream.
When recording video on Facebook Live, you can have your phone vertical or horizontal. However, you must not switch in the middle of the stream. If you do, you'll appear sideways to viewers. Decide which way your phone will be BEFORE you hit the Go Live button.
Keep your Facebook Live interesting. People are watching your live content because they suspect that there’s something interesting happening in this very moment that they need to tune into.
If you are scripting your Live to keep it engaging, don’t be too scripted. People want authenticity and they want something that feels real.
You can also post long-form videos. Videos where you are going deep into subjects or stories. If you appear on a podcast or have a podcast of your own, post longer five minute clips onto Facebook instead of short promo clips.
The longer you keep people interested in your content, the higher your video post will be scored by the algorithm, and the higher up in the Facebook newsfeed it will appear.
As of 2019, Facebook also scores and prioritizes the following signals for video:
Loyalty and intent: videos that people search for and return to;
Video length and view duration: videos that people watch past the 1-minute mark, and that are longer than 3 minutes;
Originality: videos that aren’t repurposed from other sources and that have plenty of added value.
6. Boost your best performing posts
I am surprised how few people do this. We’ve known for many years that boosting posts is a great way to burn money. But if you want your content to reach more people, boosting your TOP posts can be a great way to do this.
If you post twelve times in a month, spend 30 minutes at the end of each month analyzing your best performing posts.
Note: I recommend doing this anyway so that you can learn how to improve your content.
Look these metrics:
Simply tally up each post and it’s corresponding metrics on a piece of paper. Boost your #1 best performing post.
If you’ve got a small budget, start with $1/day for 30 days.
If you’ve got a bigger budget, boost your top performing post for $2/day for 30 days.
Focus your advertising dollars on what’s already working. Don’t fight the algorithm. Work with it.
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