The squeeze began in late-August. Alarm is spreading.
The communications manager at my congregation, who is also the administrator of its Facebook page, sent me an email this week. She was dismayed that the number of people seeing their Facebook posts had dropped substantially. And she was being asked by Facebook to pay for promoted posts and other ads.
I had seen it, too, because we manage Facebook pages for clients. Most everyone who administers a Page has probably noticed it by now.
Facebook claims it is “free and always will be.” But that’s for individual profiles. It makes no such claim about its more than 42 million Facebook pages.
Whether as part of a long-term business plan or a response to the crisis of its falling stock price—which seems likely–Facebook has decided to try to mine gold from pages.
How It Is Being Done
It’s all in the secret sauce. Facebook operates using a closely-held mathematical algorithm known as EdgeRank that controls who sees your posts and which ones they see. Kind of like Coca-Cola’s secret formula, but in this case, Facebook can tweak the formula whenever it wants.
Facebook appears to have made a change to its algorithm in the second half of August that resulted in a 50% decline in the percentage of posts seen by fans in less than two months. Fans will still see some posts, but fewer than ever.
Fact is, once people like your page, they often never come back. And if they do, it was previously estimated that less than 17% of fans ever see the posts of the average Facebook page.
What To Do?
It’s always been true that posts that have had more clicks, likes, comments, and shares are ranked higher by EdgeRank and appear in newsfeeds of more fans. But now it’s become even more competitive.
If you are the manager of a Facebook page, you’ve got to face the fact that your old ways of doing things are no longer going to work. How are you going to be more engaging with your audience? You can always succumb and pay Facebook for a variety of advertising. Facebook promoted posts, sponsored stories, and other ads do work. But even if you’re not a national brand, the dollars can quickly add up. So what’s the alternative?
Here’s a list to get you thinking. It’s by no means complete.
1) Photos first: EdgeRank favors photos, as they are most frequently shared. So, if you haven’t done so yet, download Instagram to your smartphone and start clicking away. But don’t post any photo—post photos that relate to your organization and will grab the hearts and minds of your fans so they will like, comment, and share.
2) Create a caption contest: Add text using ROFLBOT http://wigflip.com/roflbot/ to photos and images. Perhaps start with a photo of a good-natured member of the group then add a question, such as “What Was I Thinking?” Challenge your fans to write a caption. See how many you get. Don’t try only once. Turn it into a weekly caption contest. Send the winner a T-shirt or another prize.
3) Run a photo contest: Ask your fans to post their best photo to your wall, where they will appear in the “Recent Posts by Others” section. Select the best one each day or week and share it on your wall with a comment that invites a response. Remember this is social media. You don’t want to sanitize everything that you may disagree with, but you can always remove truly offensive posts.
4) Be provocative: If you’re sharing a link to an article, share something that will cause your fans to react and engage with. It can be anywhere along the continuum of human emotions. And make sure it has an image, too. Why? You know why. Because Facebook’s algorithm favors images.
5) Post every day: Multiple times a day is better, but that depends upon your organization’s resources and activities. But whatever number you decide upon, do it consistently with purpose. Use Hootsuite or another tool to schedule your posts. That will free up time to monitor for comments that you may want to reply to or remove.
6) Go for shares: When you post to your wall, invite your fans to “use the ‘share’ button to tell your friends.” By doing so, you are asking them to place your posts on their wall and into the timeline of their friends. That has the biggest impact for your page.
7) Ask for comments: Solicit responses by asking questions relevant to your organization’s goals, designed to produce heart-felt responses, and stir up conversation. Comments are powerful but less so than shares.
8) Post video: Creating video posts has never been easier if you own a smartphone. If you’re stuck in the idea that video demands the expense of a camera crew and professional editing, get past it. A 90-second interview can be shot, uploaded to YouTube or Facebook, and shared in no time. Or shoot and post a quick 15 to 30 second video to ask a question or invite fans to an event. It doesn’t have to be text. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use short, professionally made videos if you have them. Experiment to determine what works. Then sell it in the headline of your post.
9) Ask your fans for help: Facebook offers a way for people who follow a page to see all of the page’s posts in the Notifications column. They key word here is people. So ask your human fans for help. You can’t ask other pages.
From a fan’s Facebook profile, the fan should visit the page that they want to receive all posts from. Just hover a cursor over the “Liked√” button. A dropdown menu will appear, with “Get Notifications” unchecked. Simply click on “Get Notifications.” The posts will appear in the Notifcations section of a personal profile.
Another tactic is to add favorite pages to an Interest List.
To do this, ask your fans to visit their personal Facebook profile’s news feed. Click on “Add Interests,” located way, way down at the bottom of the left hand column. Hover your cursor over “Interests.” “More” will appear. Click on it. A new page will appear where you can add new Interest lists or add to ones you’ve already created. You’ll need to remember to click on your Interests lists, but you will see everything your favorite page has posted to their timeline.
Has Facebook Shot Themselves in the Foot?
Will Facebook squeeze the millions of page owners to the point that they give up? There are a billion people on Planet Earth now on Facebook. How far can that number climb? Can the local businesses and organizations, companies and institutions, brands, artists, public figures, causes and community events just say no?
Unlikely, but not impossible. There’s always Google+.
I’m SCOTT PETERSON, co-founder of Relay Station Social Media LLC.
We help companies, nonprofit associations, and government communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, social media and Internet marketing, online video campaigns, website development, analytics, and training.
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