Sometimes I feel like Jerry Seinfeld over here, standing at the microphone, asking, “And what’s the DEAL with Facebook algorithms!”
All through 2014, Facebook’s algorithm changes have been causing serious headaches for pretty much any business trying to keep it together on social media. Reach is up, reach is down. This type of post does great, that type of post tanks every time. It’s like playing Whack-a-Mole while wearing a blindfold!
Except that Facebook just came out and told us some things we can do to get our posts seen by more people.
They up and announced it, just like that! About 2 weeks ago, Facebook explained that they were tinkering with the algorithms that determine how many people in your audience actually see the things you post.
And while they usually keep the details of those changes under lock and key, this time, they said, “To heck with it,” and told us what we need to do differently if we want to get better results.
This means that there are things you might be doing right now that you need to STOP DOING, and pronto.
What are those things, exactly? And how do you need to adjust your own strategy to keep up with the times? Let’s take a closer look!
1. Facebook is Killing Click-Bait
Facebook always says that its algorithm changes are implemented with the user experience in mind, and in this case, they’re REALLY telling the truth.
Y’all know what click-bait is, and you know because it’s been gunking up your news feed for at least a year. It’s when someone teases your curiosity juuuuuuust enough to get you to click through to their site, with a post like this:
What a tantalizing headline, right? Ten images – that’s not a huge time commitment. And what about them could make you cry, or make you furious? Get clicking to find out!
It used to be that because articles like these garnered so many clicks from curious users, they got higher organic reach from Facebook. That reach made it easier to get MORE clicks, along with more likes and shares, which in turn improved reach even more, eventually becoming this self-perpetuating cycle of escalating popularity.
The thing is, a lot of click-bait sucks.
When people figured out that click-bait headlines were scoring major exposure and traffic, though, they started showing up EVERYWHERE. “You’ll never believe what this guy did to propose to his girlfriend!” “One look inside this teacher’s lunchbox and you’ll cry!” “Is this Civil War photo proof that Kim Kardashian can time travel?”
It’s low-quality content created for the sole purpose of getting you to click. You click, you satisfy your curiosity, they get more exposure and traffic and money, and that’s that. But Facebook is sick of it.
Facebook has set up its algorithm to detect the telltale signs of click-baiting, so that it can differentiate between links that just get a lot of curiosity clicks and ones that people actually, you know, get actual value from.
How do they do that, exactly?
Facebook doesn’t have a room full of people somewhere reading headlines and making judgment calls. Rather, their technology looks for certain red flags in user behavior that can indicate when something is click-bait. Primarily, these are:
- Articles that users click to, but don’t spend much time reading
- Articles that have a significantly higher rate of clicks than interactions (likes, shares, and so on)
So if you click through to see that photo insinuating that Kim Kardashian time-traveled to the early 1860s, for example, you’re probably going to take one look and then bounce on outta there. It’s not a substantive piece of content. Facebook will calculate that you didn’t spend much time on the page after clicking the link, and use that to help determine the value of whatever you saw there (and consequently, whether that link deserves a broader reach).
Same basic principle with the second factor. 10 thousand people might click that link, but if only 100 care enough to leave a comment or like it on Facebook, the social network may determine that it was a low-quality link, and shouldn’t necessarily be shown to a big audience.
How does this affect you?
Because of the types of data Facebook’s algorithms are collecting, there are certain things you need to do.
First of all, don’t link to bite-sized content. When someone clicks a Facebook link and doesn’t spend much time on the page it leads to, Facebook does NOT approve. So while a 100-word blog post may seem like a great idea at the time – and may in fact be an amaaaaazing little post – somebody breezing right through it might send Facebook the wrong message. Create and link to content that people can really sink their teeth into.
Second, encourage people to interact with your links ON FACEBOOK. Here’s a great example: back in March, the popular site Copyblogger made a bit of a splash when it made the decision to straight-up eliminate commenting on its blog posts.
That was actually kind of a genius move, because it takes alllll the conversation that was happening on-site and moved it to social networks like Facebook. Now, instead of leaving comments on a blog post, readers leave comments on the Facebook link leading TO that blog post – and that’s the sort of thing Facebook LOVES to see.
Does that mean you should stop people from commenting on YOUR blog? Not necessarily – I mean, I’m not! (Let me know what you think about that in the comments below! #shameless) But it DOES mean you should always remember to foster engagement on Facebook. Encourage people who click the link to leave comments on it, and join the conversation when you can – you might actually have fun doing it!
2. Facebook is Distinguishing Between Links and Photos
The second big change to Facebook’s algorithm is either going to affect you in a HUGE way or not really make a difference at all.
Basically, if you want a link you share on Facebook to be accompanied by an image, there are two ways to do it: adding an image to your link post, or adding a link to your image post.
Here, I’ll show you. First, here’s an image that I shared with a URL in the caption:
Now, here’s a link I shared with an image preview:
See the difference? Just like with the click-bait thing, now, Facebook wants to give its users more of what they want.
The social network reports that its users more frequently click on link posts with images, rather than images with URLs in the captions. Such being the case, those are the types of posts it’s going to favor.
How does this affect you?
Easy – if you want to display an image, share a link with an image preview – NOT an image with a link in the caption. If you’re doing that already, you don’t have to change a thing. If you usually post image updates with URLs in the caption, though, you’re going to want to change your strategy – otherwise, those updates just aren’t going to get seen as much as you want them to.
So Go Make the Changes That Make a Difference!
We’re not always so lucky as to be flat-out told by Facebook how we should change our posting habits to get better reach – so take advantage of this knowledge! Tailor your posting strategy to accommodate these algorithm changes, and you just might notice that finding your audience is a little bit easier.
Feeling stuck finding ways to make the changes Facebook wants? Share what you’re thinking in the comments below, and we can all put our heads together to work on solutions!