Facebook Algorithm Guide 2020
Understanding how the Facebook algorithm works will enable you to leverage the most from the platform. This article explains how the Facebook algorithm works, giving you the tools to underatand how to work with it and not against it.
Doing so will mean better engagement and reach.
What is an algorithm?
An algorithm is the backbone of a social media site and uses user data and user interaction to decide how content is distributed on the platform. This process ensures that the content users see on social media is interesting and relevant to them.
Without the algorithm, an users feed would be filled with every piece of content posted by the accounts they are following.
What happened to the Facebook algorithm in 2018?
Since 2018, Facebook is no longer the blooming, organic champion, mass views, huge reach, cheap ads platform we used a few years ago. Reach has dropped considerably – in the wake of the big algorithm change. This change is still the backbone of how Facebook works today.
Two main changes to the Facebook algorithm came into effect:
1. Personal Prevalence
A user’s connections (profiles) became more prevalent than ‘brands’ (pages). This means content posted on pages is not receiving the same amount of reach as it did in the past because Facebook is prioritising what the user’s personal connections (profiles) are posting and giving them space on the feed. There’s no more to it than that.
2. Meaningful Content
Facebook measures the value of a post by its engagement levels and the more engagement a post receives the more users will see it. After the change, ‘Meaningful interaction’ is the catalyst for reach on your page content, and without this content simply won’t go very far.
What is meaningful interaction?
The key here is to understand that ‘likes’ alone won’t give you as much return as in the past. ‘Meaningful interactions’ need a little bit more effort from the user than clicking a button.
Here are the 5 top ranking signals the Facebook algorithm measures:
Facebook have specified that interactions between users is one of their priorities, so naturally, comments would be a primary tool for conversations between people on your post. Comments carry more weight than ever before, so content should be created with the intention of accumulating comments and interactions between users.
Even though a ‘like’ is good, the other reactions will give you more return from now on – the ‘like’ is the reaction that gives you the least return. Varying your content around receiving a specific reaction (humour for a ‘haha’, epic views for a ‘wow’ etc). Tip, it would be a good idea to place the desired emoji in your message as a prompt for which emoji the user should be using – people tent to copy what they see if everything matches up.
3. Comment Replies
On top of commenting, the algorithm also takes replies in the comment section as engagement indicators. Make sure that you’re sparking the discussion within conversations in your comments section as well as creating great content that inspires people to tag friends. Reply to users asking more questions, tease them into interacting again – do everything you can to be engaging and drive those reply numbers.
4. Sharing in Messenger Groups
This is a perfect example of Facebook putting more focus on personal, meaningful interaction. Sharing with friends in a group on messenger is far more personal than posting on a wall for all your friends and Facebook recognizes this, bridging that gap between social and the dark social.
5. Engagement on Shared Posts
A share is always a great, but the true value will only be returned if the shared content is also being engaged with in a meaningful way – using all the above. A shared post will go through the same algorithmic process as a post on your wall, so the more engaged the post, the further it will travel, the more reach your original post will entail.
What is the best approach?
With the Facebook algorithm, everything revolves around one core element; meaningful user interaction.
If you are creating content that does not draw the user into engaging with you, you might not be seeing the reach levels you expected– and this won’t change unless you re-think your content strategy.
Today, your content creation should be focused around ‘starting a conversation’ and being very ‘shareable’. Content being shared, and then engaged with in other communities will have a big positive impact on your native content reach and if you get the core post right, Facebook will do the rest for you.
But here are a few other things youn need to understand about the Faceook algorithm.
1. As little as 2% initially see your content
What many don’t know is that when you post on to your page or profile, only a few people initially get to see your content, and this figure is lower than 2% on pages.
When you post anything on Facebook it doesn’t get shown to everyone immediately. Facebook initially shows it to only about 2% of the page followers, and what happens next is down to the way the 2% reacts to your post. If the 2% start engaging with it and share it on their profiles and pages, Facebook will start showing it to more people organically on you page. It makes sense, right? If a post is good and gets likes and shares, you get rewarded.
This is how Facebooks, in a way, sees your content. If your content does not recieve many reactions, it will not show it to many more people after that and your content will be invisible thereafter.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that every single piece of content you post is focued on attracting reactions from your audience. Anything that doesn’t will not go very far.
2. Engagement gives you reach
The important thing to know is that as your engagement grows, so does your reach. Facebook uses engagement as one of the metrics to rate how good your content is. The more people react to your content, the more engagement you recieve, and the more Facebook will value your content.
Even if you think you’re posting good content, if no-one is engaging with it then Facebook is going to assume that you’re not sharing anything worthwhile. Read the data in front of you; it’s not what you think is best, it’s all about what’s giving you the best engagement.
Engaging and shareable content tends to be emotional or relative to the audience that sees it, drawing out a social reaction from them. You need to be planning at least 40% of your content to do just that; building the reach of your posts, building a following, which in turn will increase the amount of people seeing your posts in the first place – the circle goes on etc, etc.
Relevant article: 10 Ways to Increase Facebook Engagement
3. You need genuine followers
Remember, the future of your content rests with the random 2% or so sample of your own followers that sees your post first. If they don’t react to it (e.g. because they don’t find it interesting) then your content will be invisible.
So this means, if you’ve been collecting or buying empty followers, that have no genuine interest in your content, and end up not engaging with anything, then Facebook is going to rate your content poorly. Even if you genuinly are posting great content, if your followers don’t react, you are putting your content at risk of being hidden by Facebook when it doesn’t deserve to be.
To avoid this, make sure the content posted is true to your business and the followers you are trying to collect in the first place. The nature of your content will draw its own following, and that following in turn will give you a 2% sample that is more likely to engage with your post when they see it.
Remember, do not attempt to create general engagement bait material that has nothing to do with your business in order to ‘go viral’, this will give you no real follower benefit long term.
It’s better to have a loyal following of 5,000 – rather than have 500,000 random people following that don’t engage with the your posts.
4. Long term content is better
Because of the algorithm process you may find that it takes a few hours, or even days for a post to finally break through and be seen by a mass audience.
As an example, posts with an expiry soon after (e.g. “The show starts in 15 minutes”) will not be very effective on Facebook as they will not be seen in time.
So spend your time creating more evergreen posts (that will be valid for the longest possible time) in order to give it the best chance of being seen.
Posts that are evergreen, with no expiration date and shareable no matter when the audience sees it will live longer on Facebook. Why? Because as with new posts, if people engage with older posts Facebook will start increasing the reach again, and again.
So, adding a few pieces of evergreen content to your calendar will not only potentially give you more reach, but will be available to post time and time again when needed.
5. Photos are great, but video is better
The final point to share may be the simplest, but it’s always important to remember that media formats such as photos and video attract more engagement than text only posts.
Spending more time creating a post with either will be more benificial than posting a text only message.
Further more, Facebook is trying to compete with the likes of YouTube and will give video more prevelance if it can. But, your video still needs to be good, remember.
Relevant Article: What Makes a Good Facebook Video
Can you cheat?
You may have seen bait posts; “Share now to be entered into the prize draw” or “You’ll never guess who showed up at this party”. These posts are designed to bait users into interacting with a post to boost the engagement levels. Today, the Facebook algorithm can identify these posts, and penalise them and the page.
So, don’t try and fool the Facebook algorithm by creating ‘bait content’ and having people ‘vote for their favourite’ or ‘comment with the correct answer’ – Facebook have set up to counter these practices with decreased visibility.
Spend your time creating high value pieces of content that your audience will want to see and interact with, it will pay off in the long run.
If there’s one thing to take away here; engagement = reach.
If you run your Facebook page with this in mind at all times, Facebook will reward you.
Although we’ve seen decreases in the data, all in all, this is a relatively healthy change for Facebook. Over the years Facebook became a passive time waster for many, but we’ve seen content creators move with the change and creating far more interesting pieces of content.
As for the benefit of seeing your neighbours ‘Dog Album’ instead of your favourite content creators, that’s personal preference.