Rob Salmon: How to reach your Facebook community

The director of digital marketing at website design agency Torchbox sets out the best way to optimise your charity's newsfeed

Rob Salmon
Rob Salmon

You've got a Facebook page to help you meet your organisation's objectives. You've built an audience and you've started issuing content regularly. This Facebook business is a walk in the park isn't it? My answer would be "no".

One of the main reasons for this is that the members of your community aren't necessarily seeing the content you are issuing. At the heart of Facebook is an algorithm called EdgeRank, which controls what people see in their newsfeeds. It has three main contributing factors:

Affinity – how often people interact with your posts.

Weight – certain content types (images, for example) are more likely to appear in the news feed than others.

Time decay – how much time has passed since you published your update.

FacebookIf all this seems a bit alien, fear not: here are five simple tips and one golden rule that will help you satisfy the algorithm and increase the number of people who see your posts. These tips form the basis of a discipline that has become known as newsfeed optimisation.

1 Post regularly – People are most likely to see your post when you first publish it. So don't be afraid to post daily or more than more than once a day. Also think carefully about when your audiences are likely to be online – it's not necessarily going to be Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm; it may well be in the evenings or weekends.

2 Post pictures – Look at your own newsfeed and see how many images appear towards the top. Where possible, try to use images or videos to accompany your posts. Facebook* went on record in 2011 to say that "posts including a photo album, photo or a video generate about 180 per cent, 120 per cent and 100 per cent more engagement than the average posts respectively".

3 Try fill-in-the-gap posts – The more people who are talking about your posts, the more likely it is that people will see them. Give people the chance to fill in the gaps and they're more likely to comment. For example: "The reason I use Facebook is ____; I think this guide is ____." Facebook* said that fill-in-the-blank posts generate about 90 per cent more engagement than the average post. 

4 Don't be afraid to ask for the Like – "Hit 'Like' if you think this article has been useful". I wouldn't advocate using these sorts of posts all the time, but they can certainly help to drive interactions, which helps to get your posts seen.

5 Keep it snappy – Make your point concisely and you are more likely to get the interactions that will help get your posts seen. As Facebook* said: "Keep your posts short whenever possible: posts between 100 and 250 characters (less than 3 lines of text) see about 60 per cent more likes, comments and shares than posts greater than 250 characters."

If you're not already using the approach advocated above, why not give it a go? In my experience, it will help you to increase the number of people you reach. However, you'll only know if this is the case if you – and now for the golden rule – measure, measure, measure.

You don't need an expensive third-party tool – although some of them are very good. There is a wealth of information in Facebook Insights that will help you analyse how your Facebook page is contributing to your objectives, from how many interactions you are driving to how many people you are reaching. Anyone with admin rights for your page can access Facebook Insights and download reports.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on the guidance above. Please tweet me @rsalmonuk or (to practise what I preach) complete: "I think news feed optimisation is_______."

* The Facebook quotes are taken from Page Publishing Best Practices, which was published in 2011 but I think remains relevant today. You can download a copy here.

Rob Salmon is director of marketing at Torchbox

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