Social media is the holy grail of traffic for websites. Almost 10% of all traffic online comes from Facebook alone. If you can figure out how to get your content spread and shared in social media, you stand to benefit from a significant number of organic visitors.
Not only that. Social signals like shares and mentions from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are increasingly associated with higher rankings in search results. Everyone is looking for the formula on how to break through and get social media traffic and engagement. This is a 25 step game plan for how you can get your content in more Facebook news feeds.
Social media distribution is no longer free
First thing first. The social media landscape has shifted. Investing time and money into organically running a Facebook fan page could be a waste of time. You ultimately depend on Facebook algorithms to reach the people who like your page, but Facebook doesn’t care about you.
There is a strong likelihood that your content goes completely unnoticed in the busy Facebook news feed. Did you know that your Facebook page wall posts are viewed by less than 2-3% of people who like the page?
The organic distribution of page’s posts is gradually declining as Facebook tweaks their algorithm and we might soon see the end of organic reach – ZERO organic reach! Facebook recommends the use of paid ads to reach all your likes.
Facebook is basically monetizing your likes by charging you for news feed distribution. Facebook owns your page and your likes, not you. It’s a great business model. Keep this in mind when thinking about your distribution strategy.
I don’t recommend you put all your eggs in one basket. Use social media to help build your audience and a direct communication line through email. Email audience you will always have full, unrestricted and free access to.
We should not complain about Facebook and other social networks, though. Don’t forget that Facebook’s a business, not a charity organization. The primary goal is to make money for their shareholders, and they can do whatever they want with their own site. Accept this, be smart and work around the limitations.
There are more than one billion people using Facebook every day. It’s a major player and can help you get your content in front of more eyeballs. Let’s take a look how.
Facebook news feed ranking algorithm factors
Getting people who like your page to engage (view, click, like, comment, share) with your updates is just as difficult as getting them to like your page in the first place. A typical Facebook user has more than 1,500 stories that could be displayed in the news feed on each visit.
This is impossible to catch up on so Facebook has an algorithm that chooses and prioritizes the 300 posts or so that the user actually sees.
Facebook algorithm is similar to the one Google uses to rank websites, consists of many factors and is continuously evolving and changing. That’s why it is important to test things and never get stuck doing the same thing. In January 2016 video format was getting the highest organic reach, followed by photos, then links and only then status updates.
Only a few months earlier it was images first, followed by status, links and then videos. Live video broadcasts are currently the format that Facebook wants to push. Keep evolving your strategy as the algorithm evolves.
There are actually more than 1000 different factors on how Facebook decides which posts get the exposure and most of these are unknown. Here are some of the known factors:
- How complete the page profile is
- User’s previous interaction with the page
- Number of likes, shares and comments the post gets from user’s friends and from the world at large
- Type of post (photo, video, link, status update) and how much the user has interacted with the type in the past
- When a user likes something, this means that they want to see more of it, so Facebook shows them more
- When a user hides something it makes the news feed display less of that content in the future
- How frequently content from the page is hidden, the more people hide content, the less it will be displayed
Understanding your audience: Day, time and type of post
Even if you are successful in reaching your fans, the engagement rate of a typical Facebook page post is less than 1%. Because of this, it is critical to understand what content works best with your fan base and then amend your content strategy to increase the organic reach. Look at the reach of the total fan base and engagement from people you reach to see how well your content works.
You want to post the right type of post at the right time of day to have the highest chance of reaching the largest possible audience. Facebook Insights will help you with this. Look at your insights for “Posts” to analyse these factors:
- Day of week and time of day to post.Your audience might be present at certain days or times more than others. Make sure to post on the right days and times.
- Type of post to post. Plain status update, link thumbnail, video, image. The type of post affects your organic reach.
14 tips for effective Facebook page posts
If your post gets engagement, it will reach more people. Your engaging stories will appear near the top of news feed even hours after they have been published. Because of this, you must create genuinely interesting content. Before posting ask yourself if anyone would want to share or recommend the particular post to their family and friends. If the answer is no, don’t post it.
You now know the ideal days and hours to post your content on. You also know what type of post your audience responds to best. Let’s take a look at how you can write effective Facebook page wall posts optimized to reach more people and get more engagement:
- Upload video content. Facebook has done a big video push since 2014 which has made original videos uploaded directly to the platform grow substantially. Videos auto-play on the platform (a brilliant move by the way) and for pages videos get the biggest organic reach. Video is booming and in January 2016 Facebook announced that there are more than 8 billion video views with more than 100 million hours of video watched daily on the platform. Watch out YouTube!
- Be natural. Facebook is, for the most part, a fun and relaxed platform, so write in spoken language. Always consider your audience, but don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be too formal.
- Be topical, timely and relevant. Write posts that need to be read and engaged with now. Include keywords and hashtags when there are relevant trending topics. More on timely content here.
- Keep it short. The longer the length of the wall post, the less engaging the wall post is. Posts of 80 characters or less are the most engaging. Learn to edit yourself and keep your posts all short and simple!
- Emotions sell and encourage readers to share. The most shared posts sway and persuade. They are invitations to discussion and interchange. Try to write posts that scream for reaction. Create posts for commentary.
- Ask questions. Ask questions that are easy to answer. Be very specific. Ask questions that are polarizing. Posts with a question get more engagement than posts without a question.
- Place questions at the end of your post rather than at the beginning or middle of the post to make it stand out the best. Posts that end with a question have a 15% higher engagement rate than posts with questions at the beginning or in the middle.
- Fill in the blank. Use sentences with one word missing and let your fans fill in the ______.
- Post quotes. Inspirational quotes work very well across social media. Try also to post quotes within images.
- Don’t game the distribution by asking people to like your post. Facebook is not a fan of call-to-actions to like or share and the algorithm may penalize these types of posts.
- When linking out use Facebook’s default link format. Some bloggers prefer to put a link within a photo post but Facebook has announced that it is best to use link format. The algorithm now prioritizes links in the link format compared to links in status updates or captions.
- Full URL’s. If you do use links use full URL’s. Engagement rates are 3 times higher for posts that use the full-length URL instead of the URL shortener like bit.ly.
- Tag other pages. Obviously, don’t do this all the time and don’t tag irrelevant pages, but do experiment with it when it is relevant and appropriate. Tagging another page means that your post might be shown to some people that like the tagged page.
- Use the Audience Optimisation tool to improve the relevancy of your post by telling Facebook who is most likely to be interested in and engage with your content. Here’s the list of top 2,001 interests of Facebook users.
How to optimize your blog for Facebook
The basics of setting up a Facebook page are pretty simple and you should aim to have these covered before we move to things to do on your blog.
- Create a Facebook page for your site and complete all the page information
- Set your cover photo as that is the most prominent image people see. The cover photo image size is 851×315 pixels
- Set your profile picture. This is the image that will be shown next to your wall posts in people’s news feeds. The size of the image is 180×180 pixels, but make sure it also looks good at 32×32 pixels
- Promote your Facebook page on your site. One way to do this is to put the Like Box in the sidebar.
- Include Facebook like and/or share buttons on all your posts. This will help get your content spread on Facebook, will increase the traffic you get from there and hopefully result in more likes to your page. Mashsharer is a good plugin that makes it easy for visitors to share your posts. See my list of recommended WordPress plugins.
- Publish shareable content that is a natural fit for Facebook. Humorous content that makes people laugh, relatable content that people identify themselves with and / or useful and educational information. My detailed guide to creating shareable content.
- Write great headlines and catchy excerpts for your posts. When your post is shared on Facebook a preview that includes your post headline and the excerpt are included. These play a big part in getting people to click on the preview so optimize them and make them as clickable as possible. More on clickable headlines here.
- Include stunning imagery into your content. When people share your posts on Facebook, those posts display a highly visual preview. Images on your blog need to be larger than 600x315px to display in a large thumbnail. More on using stunning imagery.
- Use proper Open Graph tags. These tags are a code included in your blog which allows Facebook to preview some of your content when it is shared on Facebook. The preview normally includes the headline, image thumbnail and an excerpt of the post. Use this debug tool to see how Facebook sees your blog now. An easy way to add proper Open Graph tags is to install WordPress SEO plugin and in “Social” section for Facebook tick on “Add Open Graph Meta Data”.
- Integrate Facebook comments into your comments area. Facebook comments do require commenters to use their real identities and their real Facebook accounts. When people have to post in their real names and their friends and family might see their words they might be more careful with what they write. This, in theory, would eliminate a significant amount of spam that any blogger gets and would allow you to optimize your time for writing.
When using Facebook commenting your words also appears in your news feed with a link back to the post you commented on. This can be an extra traffic source for a blogger if friends and network of the person who commented sees the link and clicks on it. Also when you respond to comments you can choose to respond as your Facebook page. This gives more exposure to the Facebook page and hopefully more “likes” as well.
One possible negative aspect about Facebook comments is that you will have fewer comments. There might be less spam and fewer trolls but you will have fewer comments in general. Some people just don’t have Facebook accounts. Some people do not want to have their personal Facebook account, full name and profile picture scattered all across the different comment areas around the web.
How to get more people to like your page
- Add value to your Facebook page. Drop the sales pitch and use your page to provide tips and tricks, additional information and pictures. Prepare a conversation calendar for social media and synchronize that plan with your blogging activities. This will help get people to engage with you.
- Build credibility and trust with your users. Showcase your skills and knowledge. Share your expertise generously. Help users solve their issues, help them achieve their goals. Win loyal fans one by one.
- Be interactive. Talk to your fans and make sure you’re not distancing yourself from them. Reply to their questions, “like” their answers and start engaging discussions. Monitor the conversations on a regular basis and never leave a question without an answer. This will help build a community and more people will be spreading the word about you.
- Go find your audience proactively. Don’t just interact with your audience, but also your competition and their audience. Start participating in discussions on other Facebook pages that you know consist of audience like yours. Don’t be a spammer but leave valuable comments. ’Like’ some of the other comments people have left. If they need an answer and haven’t gotten one, help them, if you can.
- Give things away. People love free stuff. Create and run exclusive giveaways and other competitions for your Facebook readers.
- Consider joining or running a Facebook group. They’re a good alternative to pages, but could also be used to promote a page. More than 925 million people use Facebook groups every month now. About 60% of all Facebook users use groups too. They could be a great source of traffic.
Nothing works? Boost your efforts with paid advertising
Organic opportunities may be dying but there is still a lot you can do through paid means. Paying for advertising and paying to reach a targeted audience can be great for you.
Facebook allows such great targeted advertising options, which you cannot get anywhere else. Target by any interest, demographic or geographic. Target people who are lookalikes to your own database. Target people who have visited your blog through features such as custom audiences. It’s worth making a deposit and testing Facebook advertising.
By putting advertising spend behind some of your most engaging and shared articles, you will find that your pay-per-click cost on Facebook ads goes down as Facebook ad costs less the more engaging a piece of content is.
Facebook ads can actually be an effective and inexpensive way to reach your targeted audience. Identify your content that gets most shares in social media and content that people spend a long time-consuming and boost that content through social media advertising.
Just be strategic about when you use it. If you are a writer that focuses on providing great content for free, you probably don’t want to advertise and pay to reach people. It’s not good for your wallet unless you have a goal for how to monetize that audience. You want the quality of your content to do the talking and spread the word for you.
But what about when you have something to sell? In those cases, it makes sense to use Facebook advertising and the targeting options it offers you to find people who want what you have.