Crack the Facebook algorithm in 7 steps

Find out how to increase the performance of your social media content by using our step-by-step guide to crack Facebook’s algorithm and rank organically.

“Why do some posts go viral while others receive almost no reach without as much as a courtesy ‘Like’?”

The answer to this question eludes many

If you’re disheartened by the fact your thoughtfully produced content just isn’t getting the engagement it used to and you’re struggling with the Facebook algorithm, you’re not alone.

The good news is that the algorithm isn’t a black box anymore (yay!), as the platform has shared how it ranks and prioritises content in News Feeds.

Advertisers and brands looking to become more effective in their content strategy – both paid and organic – stand to benefit from a basic understanding of the algorithm.

HERE’S HOW THE ALGORITHM WORKS IN 2021 WITH EXPERT TIPS ON HOW TO INCREASE THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR CONTENT: 

1. CREATE CONTENT WITH YOUR CORE AUDIENCE IN MIND

As you may know, the new-ish [2018] algorithm update prioritises content posted from friends over publishers. This was done in an effort to serve ‘meaningful content’ that the user will likely have a positive reaction to.

What brands and marketers need to do now:

Create content with your core audience in mind, not generic ‘for-the-sake-of-posting’ content. The content should truly add value to the news feeds of your specific audience/segment.

The black box revealed: 

The nitty gritty:

  • Inventory includes content posted form Friends and Publishers.

  • Signals include the type of content, the publisher, the age and purpose. The aim should be to signal to the algorithm that your content is meaningful and relevant to your target audience.

  • Predictions represent the behaviour of the user and it takes authentic engagements like Comments, Likes and Shares from real profiles into account. It does this to forecast how likely people are to have a positive reaction to the content.

  • The Final Score is based on predicted relevancy. If the content you’re releasing is earning Likes, Shares and Comments, Facebook will take these ‘active signals’ and deem your content more meaningful/relevant.


2. BE A CONVERSATION STARTER

So, how do you generate these active signals without been penalised for being too ‘click-baity’?  

Be a conversation starter – any piece of content from educational to entertainment should provoke conversation. The outcome of doing so will result in social media users stopping their scroll to interact and share.

EXAMPLE: Sephora strikes a balance between advertising  and conversation-starting  with well-crafted sponsored and organic content.

See how the last line of the caption copy provokes conversationGreat.

You know all those “like if…” or “share and win” posts? These kinds of captions are considered engagement baiting.

RECOMMENDATION:

Stay away from asking people to Comment, Like or Share. Your content should inspire them to engage without having to ask and Facebook penalises brands who do this.


3. HOW FACEBOOK RANKS VIDEOS

It’s also important to note the two updates to how Facebook ranks videos:

  • Facebook wants to encourage longer viewer durations, so Facebook recommends captivating video content that is at least 3 minutes long.

  • The platform places increased value on repeat reviewers, so producing a series of content that keeps viewers coming back is strategic.

    ‘Factors such as loyalty and intent, video and viewing durations and originality have always been prized.’
    – Content Specialist at Tinuiti, Search Engine Marketing Company


4. THE CHANGES

Facebook Changes in 2020: Responses to Developing Events and Concerns

2020 was an unprecedented year with the global pandemic, a racial justice movement, wildfires, US election news and more. With the new challenges each of these brought to the News Feeds, Facebook made adjustments to how certain news pieces were displayed and at what frequency:

  • In response to users continually reporting a preference for news stories that are credible and informative the platform continues to make ongoing updates that “prioritize articles in News Feed that we identify as original reporting.”

  • Due to the rise of people working from home, it introduced a series of work tools including Workplace Rooms, Live Producer, Oculus for Business, and more.

  • In an effort to help small businesses struggling with decreased foot traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform launched Facebook Shops  to help businesses establish an online shopping experience quickly and easily.


5. FACEBOOK SHOPS

The good news for marketers looking to take advantage of the  Facebook Shops  feature  is that by doing so  the  page  and/or product content  will likely improve in their rankings. 

Why do  I  forecast this? Because Facebook is moving towards the goal of becoming a  leading social commerce platform  whereby it will enable  users to interact with brands directly on the platform from start to finish, from discovery to transaction, thus taking the middleman out in the same way that big players like Amazon do.

ThinkingThe better pages utilise Facebook Shops, the more sales and the more commission revenue the platform earns! It is just a forecast, but I feel it is likely to impact the algorithm in some way.

ALL THIS FUTURE-LED THINKING SOUNDING A BIT FAR-FETCHED?  WELL, IT’S NOT.

Kyle Withers, AI expert at VentureBeat shared “Facebook says its AI-powered shopping systems segment, detect, and classify images to know where products appear and deliver shopping suggestions.”

Image source: https://venturebeat.com/

It is however important to note that there are some reasons to be wary of jumping on the Facebook Shops bandwagon and they are listed  here. 


6. Reply to your audience

While branded content will never truly be able to compete with someone’s sister’s circus-performing-cat, it’s still very important to prioritise building connections with audience members.

Why? Because the algorithm prioritises posts from Pages that a user has interacted with in the past.

Takeaway: Bumping up your reply game is key, whether that’s in Messenger or the Comments.


7. Looking for a quick win? 

Skip the algorithm using Facebook Stories.

The thing about Facebook Stories is that they aren’t part of the newsfeed. They live above it (literally and figuratively) and they aren’t restricted by the algorithm. Whoop!  

Image source: TechCrunch

“ACCORDING TO FACEBOOK, THEY’RE ALSO EFFECTIVE AT DRIVING TRAFFIC: 58% OF PEOPLE SAY THEY’VE VISITED A BRAND’S WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AFTER WATCHING A STORY.” – HOOTSUITE ‘HOW THE FACEBOOK ALGORITHM WORKS IN 2021’


CONCLUSION

Okay, I know I said ‘crack the algorithm in seven steps’ but here are a couple extra freebies I’d like to close off with:

  • Don’t forget to tend to your branded Facebook Group  [if you have one] because the algorithm prioritises posts from Groups users care about.

  • Don’t be afraid to Go Live on Facebook. Yes, producing live content is scary (super scary for novices) but they earn 6 x more engagement than regular video and the algorithm really likes it.

That’s all for now folks! Have questions? Contact me on juliar@icollective.agency

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Our Digital Business Director,Julia Rhodes,  is a social media expert who has been producing effective digital campaigns for over 9 years. Some of her previous clients include The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Al Jazeera English, Standard Bank, Lipton and adidas. Her specialty is producing effective social media videos and one of her claims to fame is that she successfully made a video go viral for one of her UK clients.