Many organizations assume that when they post something to their organization’s Facebook page, everyone who has liked the page will see it. This is not the case. Just as your Facebook friends don’t see everything you post, neither do the fans of your page. In fact, late last year, Facebook tweaked its algorithm for determining what content fans of your page will actually see.
Facebook put it this way: “People are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show.” Facebook’s news feed tweaks are designed to ensure that the content a user sees is the content they are interested in.
The result is that posts are reaching fewer and fewer people. Many organizations and businesses are reporting that while previously an average of 16 percent of users who liked a page would initially see each post, that number has decreased to about 2-3 percent. More people will see the posts as more and more people like, share, or comment on it. While this drop in reach is frustrating, the smaller percentage of fans who see your posts are more likely to engage with it (which is why tracking engagement is more valuable than tracking overall likes). This is what Facebook calls a smarter algorithm.
Last week, I met with Mark Laxor of the Johnson-based Chimp-n-Sea Wildlife Conservation Fund. Mark was not happy with Facebook’s recent algorithm changes. Many small organizations have spent hours building up their Facebook page likes, and it now seems unlikely that those fans will see much of the content posted by the organization.
Despite this, there are a few ways to ensure that your content gains more views, either organically, or by using Facebook’s paid advertising.
How to Reach Your Fans “Organically”
The first step towards reaching more of your fans is to understand how Facebook determines the content a user will see in their news feed. Facebook’s old algorithm, called “EdgeRank,” used to base its decision on whether to show a user a post on only three factors:
- Affinity: The measure of how close the relationship is between a user and a page. If someone visits your page or interacts with your content often, they are more likely to see your next post.
- Weight: How much interaction a post generates. The more likes, comments and shares your post gets, the more people Facebook is going to show your post to.
- Decay: How recent the post is. The newer the content, the more likely it is to be seen.
Although the algorithm is now more complicated, if you create interesting and engaging content and review the information contained in Facebook Insights as to when your fans are online, achieving high marks on the three original determining factors won’t be difficult.
With the new algorithm, it is also important to note that links embedded into a post increase the weight of your post. Therefore, sharing articles related to your organization will help put your organization’s content into your fans’ News Feeds. Also, Facebook is now “bumping” content with comments. If you can encourage your fans to comment on your posts, those posts will continue to be pushed to the top of your fans’ News Feeds, increasing views.
Elise Werth of the Waterbury Public Library, used some of these strategies. In a celebratory email, she wrote: “Just wanted to show you how our stats have increased immensely since we initiated some of your suggested strategies - woohoo!”
How to Reach Your Fans Using Facebook Advertising
With its new News Feed algorithm, Facebook appears to be pushing more organizations to pay to advertise for views. Although not always a great option for smaller nonprofits, boosting posts can be a good way to get a “bump” in views. When you boost a post, be sure to select the appropriate geographic region and interests for users who will see it.
One organization that tried “boosting” posts, Franklin County Home Health Agency, found that even a small budget could help them reach a new, targeted audience, and drive some traffic to their website.
According to Mary Senior Harwood, the organization’s Community Relations Coordinator: “In the past three weeks, we have boosted two posts for seven days each and promoted our page for seven days – all for just over $100. Our first boosted post was a photo and short blurb about our newest rehab therapists with a mention that we’re still in the market for a physical therapist. We boosted this post to everyone 21 and older not already connected with our Agency who live in Vermont. This resulted in a potential audience of 300,000. Through this post, we reached almost 7,000 people, increased traffic to our website, particularly to our current openings page, and had a modest bump up in our page likes as well as referral traffic directly from Facebook to our website, specifically to our current openings page.”
For every Facebook ad success story, there are other organizations that have reported paying for advertising without seeing great results. For example, the Richmond Free Library tried “traditional” Facebook ads - these appear on the right side of the screen on Facebook pages - to promote their “Love Your Library” book sale. With a little money, and targeted outreach, they reached 8,000 individuals, 36 of whom clicked on the ad. Rebecca Mueller, the library director, noted that “our non-paid activity of shares, comments, and likes were 22 individuals, so I’m not sure whether 36 for the paid ad is significant.”
Paying for Facebook views is another cost to a small organization, but depending on what your goal is, it may be a good strategy to reach more people for a specific event or fundraising goal.
Facebook is an excellent tool for spreading your organization’s message and can also certainly lead to higher turn-out at events, more donations, and broader reach in your community. It is important to understand how you can create posts that will be seen and shared by your fans. And, if you choose to pay for advertising, be sure to set specific goals and keep track of your successes, in order to get the best return for your money.