If you’ve looked at your Facebook Insights lately – or even just looked at your page posts – you’ve probably noticed that those posts aren’t getting nearly the engagement they used to.
Facebook has spoiled us for a long time, giving us this pretty amazing marketing tool… for free. But it’s a business. It has to make money just like all the rest of us (although on an arguably larger scale). So Facebook is moving toward more of a “pay to play” model.
You can read all about this all over the web, but the long and short of it is this: Your Facebook page posts are now reaching only 1% – 2% of your fans. That means if your page has 1,000 fans, only about 10 or 20 of those fans are even seeing any given post.
This applies to all pages across Facebook, whether you have a million fans or one hundred, whether you’re Justin Bieber or a local cat rescue. Everyone is feeling the pinch!
You have the option to “boost” a post, which means you pay an amount of your choice (between $5 and $100, usually) for Facebook to show that post to a larger percentage of your fans.
You can also place ads or “sponsored posts,” which appear in peoples’ newsfeeds (and honestly look pretty good – see picture on the right). The traditional Facebook ads are still along the right side of the page, and get less traction than the “sponsored posts.”
So you might be saying, “I am NOT going to pay for what I once got for free!” But the times, they are a changin’. You don’t expect a TV station to give you advertising air space for free. You aren’t surprised that a magazine charges you for ad space. And in truth, when you compare it to traditional advertising like television, radio or print, Facebook is much more affordable and more targeted.
But, you could argue that sometimes you DO get TV ads or magazine space for free, because you’re a nonprofit. Shouldn’t Facebook follow in Google’s footsteps and offer ad grants for nonprofits? Lots of people think so. And perhaps someday they will—but it’s not on the table right now.
So what can you do to get more fans, AND continue to engage the fans you already have, so that your posts get seen?
In case you’re not familiar with the Facebook Edgerank algorithm, it is what determines who sees your posts on Facebook, and it applies to your page’s posts as well as any posts you make on your personal profile.
Have you noticed that you see some of your friends’ posts ALL the time, yet some people’s posts you never see, unless it’s a big deal, like they had a baby or something? That’s Edgerank.
If Jane Doe and I are friends on Facebook, and I comment, like, share, etc. on a lot of her posts, then Facebook Edgerank says, “Emily and Jane must be good friends. Or at least, Emily really likes Jane. I will show Emily more of Jane’s content because she shows a high level of engagement with it.”
Same goes for your page. If I see your organization’s page’s posts, and I like, comment and share a lot of those posts, Facebook will determine that I am a really big fan of your organization, and it will show me more of your content, more often.
And if a lot of people do the same thing, then it will also (and this is the KEY) determine that your page produces awesome content, and it will start showing it to a higher and higher percentage of your fans.
So: Engagement begets more engagement!
The question is, then, with these new drops in visibility, how can we GET that initial engagement we need to boost our page in Edgerank?
That’s what we’re going to talk about next.
Techniques and Tactics for Increased Page Engagement
The overall takeaway is that you’ve got to produce content that people will like, comment on and share. You can look at your page over time (in your Facebook insights) and see what kinds of posts you’ve made that have gotten lots of engagement. That will help you know the kind of content your fans like.
Facebook Edgerank also favors content with photos, videos and links over plain text posts. So posting “It’s a beautiful day!” is not going to cut it anymore.
What kinds of content gets more engagement?
Photos are still the content king on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean use meaningless stock photos of sunsets and beaches. Use real photos of yourself, your animals, your volunteers and events. We have a HUGE advantage here, because people love to see and share photos of animals! (In fact, research shows https://blog.kissmetrics.com/science-of-virality/ that photos of cats are shared more than any other content on the web!) You can also use tools like PicMonkey.com to brand your photos with your logo and URL so that wherever they are shared, people can find their way back to you.
Quotes (but not memes)
People like to share relevant and interesting quotes. And we’ve all seen photos of a cute puppy with a sweet quote on it… But Facebook doesn’t like memes. (Learn what a meme is click here http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/11/share-me/) In fact, recent changes show that Edgerank actually punishes pages who routinely post memes (link to http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/23/facebook-feed-changes/). So do it sometimes, but don’t do it ALL the time.
Video is one of the best things you can share on Facebook. You can embed a link from Youtube or Vimeo, or upload your video right to Facebook. None of these options charges you for hosting, and you’ll get added SEO benefits (especially from Youtube).
Video is PERFECT for nonprofits. Most of us have smartphones that can even post directly to Youtube! Instead of writing about how great this cat is, shoot a short video of the cat doing its thing while you’re talking in the background. SHOW people, rather than TELL them. Keep videos short and sweet (less than 60 seconds is ideal).
Questions and Polls
People love to take quizzes and they love to talk about themselves. Asking for your fans’ opinions or answers to a question is a sure way to get lots of comments on a post. You’ve seen gratuitous posts on pages like, “Click “like” if you hate cancer!” or “What do you like best, cats or dogs?”
These are meaningless questions, obviously—but they generate a lot of likes and comments, because everyone hates cancer, and everyone has an opinion on the dogs vs. cats debate. This kind of thing can “trick” Edgerank into thinking your page has highly engaging content. But I wouldn’t count on it—the algorithm gets smarter all the time, and Facebook may soon penalize these “gray hat” tricks.
DO ask legitimate questions. “Where would you like to see us do more adoption events?” “What do you feel is a reasonable price to pay for vaccinations?” “Do you have an ID tag on your pet? If not, why?” You’ll gain valuable information from asking these questions, AND you’ll get a bump in Facebook exposure.
Off-Page Tactics to Increase Engagement
Keep in mind that in the natural order of things, a person really needs to actually “like” your organization in real life before they will “like” your Facebook page. Think about the pages YOU like on Facebook. Most of them are brands you buy, restaurants you enjoy, bands you like to listen to, businesses and nonprofits you support. You know them. You “like” them in real life. It’s the same for your fans.
Therefore, you want to reach out to people in “real” ways, and turn real-life fans into Facebook fans. Put a link to your Facebook page everywhere you can think of. Put that URL on your business cards, your email signature, your product packaging, your mailing labels, receipts and invoices, on every page/sidebar on your website. Have a poster at every adoption event with a link to your Facebook page.
If you have an opt-in on your website (like for your email newsletter), you take people to a thank-you page once they sign up, right? Instead of just “thanks for signing up,” use that page to say, “before you go, ‘like’ us on Facebook!” and provide a link. They’re going to leave the page anyway—why not ask them to go and give your page a like?
On-Page Tactics to Increase Engagement
In addition to committing to drive more people to your page from outside of Facebook, you’ll need to make some changes in the way you’re posting now to increase your engagement. Here are some tips.
Post more often. It may take more content to pierce the Edgerank veil. This DOES NOT mean you can compromise on quality, though—poor quality content will harm you even more! If you’re posting twice a day, try posting four times a day. See if it makes a difference in your engagement.
Vary the type of content you post. Even though text-only posts are not the greatest, it doesn’t mean you can’t EVER use them. Mix it up—photos, videos, links, text-only posts, events, milestones (past-dated events) and offers.
Tag other pages in your posts. (if you don’t know how to do this, click here for a tutorial) Facebook likes it when pages engage with other pages. If you post a photo and your caption is something like, “We had a great event tonight with XYZ Local Company to work on a new adoption campaign! We met at ABC Restaurant and the pizza was to DIE for!” In this post, you can tag XYZ Local Company and ABC Restaurant. When you do that, your post appears on their page and can be seen by THEIR fans. This will give you a lot of cross-fan exposure, and because you’re engaging other pages, Facebook sees your content as more valuable. (you’re also very likely to get a mention from those pages in return!) See the image to the right for a pretty much “perfect” post from Asheville Humane Society.
Change your cover photo frequently—maybe even daily. When you change your page’s cover photo, it appears in your newsfeed and the picture is large. This usually attracts attention, especially if you have a great photo. Don’t change your profile picture as often (though you might try it if you want to!)—that is usually your headshot or company logo, which should remain consistent because it appears wherever you post.
Post/comment/like other pages’ posts. You can “use Facebook as your page” and visit other pages. You can like other pages, post on their walls, comment on their posts, share their posts, etc. Facebook is not “all about you” and these types of interactions are very favorable to Facebook.
Check your Facebook insights to learn when the majority of your fans are online, and post during those times. Your post will be more likely to show up in more newsfeeds when more fans are online. (to see this, go to facebook.com/insights, click on “view insights,” click on “posts” and view the chart that says “when your fans are online.”)
Post a variety of content – your own as well Other Pages’ Content. Share content from all sources that is relevant to your fans.
And finally… SHOULD you Pay to Play?
In a word, yes. Everyone’s budget and reach will vary widely, but Facebook is still far and away the #1 social network. Your adopters, volunteers and donors are there. Facebook advertising and “boosting” is really quite affordable. Emeric Ernoult of AgoraPulse says, “..if you’re announcing a new product, new features, an ebook or webinar or other content you’ve spent hours on, isn’t it worth it to pay $30 or $50 to make sure your hard work is seen by 9,000 people instead of 1,000? Yes! Your time and specialized content are worth it. Why waste those efforts to save $30 or $50? That’s nonsense.”
Brian Carter points out on The Moz Blog, “If you just spend $1 per day on Facebook ads, you will get in front of 4,000 people that wouldn’t have seen you otherwise. If you are doing that and your competitors aren’t, you win the awareness game in your niche.”
I’d love to know what you are doing to adapt to these Facebook changes. What’s working for you? Have you seen your engagement decrease? Post in the comments—I’d love to know what’s up!
Need more help? Want to talk about Facebook ads or strategy or anything else? Book an appointment with me!