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If you’re a business on Facebook, you know there’s been a big push toward the pay to play model when it comes to advertising on the social media giant. After all, Facebook is a business, too, and it’s not in their best interests to give away services for free. And in this modern age, brands simply can’t afford not to be on Facebook.

So, as a marketer, what can you do? A lot, actually. But first, it’s good to understand a few things about how Facebook works.

Every 60 seconds, 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded to Facebook. That’s why. There’s simply too much content for users to wade through. If we think of Facebook as a business, then Facebook’s product is entertainment, which is why they’ve amassed so much data and spent so much effort trying to perfect the News Feed. They want to deliver information to people that people actually want, so that users will stay engaged.

At first, that may seem bad for your brand. How is my message going to get through all that noise? How do I compete with all that content? And, it’s not fair that not all my Fans get to see all my posts! Change your perspective a bit, and you’ll see it can actually be a good thing for three reasons. 1) Facebook’s modus operandi encourages you to create better, more engaging content. 2) When your content is displayed, it’s nested alongside other quality content, theoretically increasing your brand affinity through positive association. 3) Your content may be shown to fewer people, but that reduced audience is automatically optimized based on Facebook’s wealth of consumer data.

Long story short, if you can learn to play by Facebook’s rules, you can still achieve excellent reach without increasing your ad spend. And thanks to those annoying rules, you’ll be pushed to create better ads, see your ad displayed alongside other quality content and have interested potential customers see your ad with minimal effort on your part.

Facebook is needy. It wants you to do things a certain way. The more you do what Facebook wants, the more Facebook will do what you want. Below are a few rules of thumb to get more.

Facebook knows what you are doing. It knows when you link back to yourself. It knows when your posts are promotional. And Facebook does not want to push out your promotional posts unless you give it money. So, if you think you can get on Facebook and talk about yourself all day, you are incorrect. Only people can do that, not businesses.

What does Facebook want you to share? Imagine your business is a real person, and then post what that person would post, keeping in mind what your audience is doing while they browse Facebook. They’re looking to kill time, catch up with friends, check in with family or share something cool that is happening to them. Keep it along those lines, and remember that social media is a two-way conversation.

Say, for example, that you’re a grocery store. The obvious temptation is to use Facebook to post your daily sales. That’s not really the information people are looking for when they get on Facebook, however. Better alternatives would be information on new products that are available, conversation starters that ask your customers what they’d like to see in-store or human interest stories that relate to your store and community. The more you let people talk about themselves, the more they will like your brand. That sounds backward, but when you consider that talking about ourselves triggers the same brain response as food and money, it starts to make sense.

Does this mean you should never post promotional content? Of course not. But a good strategy is to implement a 4:1 ratio. Four pieces of engaging content for every one piece of promotional content. And you’ll probably want to boost that promotional post. Which brings us to the next topic…

Money is the great equalizer, but you don’t have to boost every post. By following the Golden Ratio of 4:1, you can supplement your organic reach from engaging posts with boosted reach for promotional posts. You can also boost engaging posts for additional interaction, if you wish.

Reasons to boost a post may include:

  • To get the ball rolling in terms of likes and engagement for a newly active brand
  • To build brand awareness and affinity
  • To promote a new product or offer
  • To drive any specific desired action from your audience

If you want to promote a sale or a product and link back to your eCommerce site, Facebook will drastically reduce your organic reach. You can deal with this set back in two ways. First you can boost the post. Second, you can post your information without a link back. This is a double edged sword because, on one hand, your post or ad won’t sell if people don’t see it, and on the other, you’ve made it more difficult for a user to take action without providing an easy way to access your site.

The important takeaway here is that, although Facebook is moving to a pay to play model, organic reach is still a powerful tool for brands. It just occasionally needs a little help from the almighty dollar.

Facebook has very specific guidelines for each of its myriad types of posts, including desktop and mobile posts, Carousel ad posts, right-hand ads, Video ads and the like. These guidelines are too in-depth to cover here, but you can access these straight from the source.

The important thing to remember is that keeping inline with these guidelines will result in Facebook’s algorithm identifying your post or ad as higher quality, thus expanding your reach.

Facebook wants you to use Facebook. While there are a plethora of social media aggregators and dashboard tools, Facebook will prefer your posts if you use their tools. Facebook Publisher. Facebook Offers. Facebook Instant Articles. They’ll also prefer your posts if you upload your shareables (videos, infographics, etc.) directly to Facebook for distribution as opposed to linking from YouTube or another site. The more you use Facebook and the more imbedded in the platform your content is, the more Facebook will like you.

Facebook’s algorithm exists for one reason: to improve the quality and relevancy of content displayed to each individual with a Facebook account. It’s updated frequently in order to respond to new influences and to prevent smarty pants from exploiting the system. Right now, this is how it works.

Because Facebook’s algorithm is all about ensuring content is quality, the platform rolls out content in stages. When a user or brand first posts new content, Facebook will show to post to roughly 10% of that user’s fan base. Based on engagement (likes, comments, shares), Facebook will expand your reach to more of your followers and fans.

What does this mean for your brand? It means you need brand ambassadors. Ambassadors can be your employees or a handful of die-hard fans. Their job is to engage with your post when it’s still fresh, in order to boost its virality.

Facebook judges you on past post performance. If you post something that’s a total dud, or post too much promotional content too closely together, you’ll get dinged. You’ll see your organic reach plummet, and it’s not uncommon to experience that set back for a few days. The best way to overcome this is to use a content aggregate service, like Buzzsumo or similar, to make sure you’re sharing highly engaging content and to stick to the Golden Ratio of 4:1.

Think of your engagement posts as building equity for promotional posts. When you post a promotional message without boosting, you’ll have to trade in some of that organic reach equity you’ve built up. That’s why it’s so important to keep boosted posts as part of your social marketing strategy if at all possible.

Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve learned something. And if you need assistance getting your social media marketing up and running or want to see a better ROI for your efforts online, be sure to give us a buzz.

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Ed Sharp

Ed brings 15 years of traditional and digital media sales experience to the agency, giving us a perspective most agencies don’t have. When he’s not working or seeking new knowledge, Ed hangs out with his wife, two kids, two dogs, one cat, and a hamster. And yes, the cat and hamster are best friends.

Chaney Given

Chaney is a talented and accomplished designer and illustrator, who has expanded his skill set to include motion graphics and video editing. With nearly a decade of experience, his client work includes Waterstep, Baptist Health, the Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Schools, First Harrison Bank, and many more