Why Facebook can be like a newborn baby

Digital marketing expert Rob Salmon looks at recent changes to the social media network

Rob Salmon

Looking after a Facebook page can be a bit like caring for a newborn baby – extremely rewarding but a tad challenging at times.

Take EdgeRank – the algorithm that determines what you see in your news feed and whether people will see your posts. Just when you think you've figured it out, it will do something you didn’t see coming. Like when you think you’ve persuaded your little one to sleep through the night but he or she suddenly wakes up kicking and screaming.

Back in August, I wrote an aritcle for Third Sector giving you some tips on how to get your posts into the news feeds of your audience. A lot of what was in there, such as the benefits of driving interactions, is still true today. But there have been some tweaks to the EdgeRank algorithm that I thought would be worth looking at.

It started in mid to late September, when large numbers of pages started to report a significant drop in the reach their posts were receiving. Some also mentioned how these declines coincided with emails from Facebook advising how they could increase reach by advertising. I pondered – and am still pondering – if this could be seen as the start of a move from an editorial-led platform to an advertorial platform.

We also started to notice some other interesting trends. Check out advice on how to reach your audience on Facebook and you'll see lots of people recommending that you should use images because they get more interactions and more reach.

Just lately, however, we've noticed a new top performer when it comes to reach – simple text updates. You won’t find quite so many folk recommending that as an approach to maximise reach!

By a plain text status update I mean something like this: "Thank you very much to everyone who helped us raise £1,000 at last night's King Sing event", or "The thing I'd really like next year's event to feature is ______", or "What do you want for Christmas?", or "The winner the Sports Personality of the Year should be ____".

My hunch is that if you try something like this now, you'll reach many more people than if you used an image or a video.

For whatever reason, it seems that Facebook is now giving more reach to these types of update – although it could all change again tomorrow. The nature of plain text updates means that publishing this sort of material has its limitations and I wouldn’t recommend using them all the time. Pictures, links and videos on Facebook can still reach substantial numbers of people and help you achieve what you want to achieve.

On one of our client's Facebook pages, outside  the sector, a well-performing image post has been getting a reach of about 12,500. If you are the administrator of a page, you’ll see this figure under each of your posts. It will say "XXXX people saw this post". Yet a simple text update with no link has been reaching about 27,500 people. So it is a big difference. We’ve seen a similar trend on a number of other pages.

What I think this demonstrates is that you need to keep an eye on Facebook and, in particular, the insights data, because things will change as it develops and grows and it will often leave you with an unexpected surprise.

Rob Salmon is director of digital marketing at Torchbox. You can contact him on Twitter @rsalmonuk


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