Facebook Like thumbFacebook marketing today is far different from what it was just a few years ago.

A few years ago if a brand had built a following of people who had liked its Facebook page, new posts by the company were likely to be shown by Facebook to a quarter or so of those people; as people Liked, Shared and commented on the post, it would be seen by even more.

Interacting with your Facebook fans

Over time Facebook has changed its algorithm to show posts by brands to fewer and fewer people. In the fall of 2013 a major algorithm update reduced the number of people seeing a particular post even further so that now less than 10 percent of a brand’s followers typically see an individual post.

This is what reach looked like in 2013 for a Facebook page that I managed:

Facebook graph for people who saw posts

A few years ago, because of that much larger organic reach, it was cheaper and easier for companies to build Facebook fandoms, too. At that time enough people were likely to see organic posts and when their friends saw their interactions with the posts the friends would be more likely to then Like the brand, too. But as organic reach has declined, companies now either need to build a fan base by promoting Facebook following as part of their regular marketing, or use Facebook ads targeted at people likely to want to Like them. (More on advertising to build a Facebook following below.)

Today the bigger the brand, the less the reach for their posts. Why would that be? Why would Facebook punish the largest brands? Well, there are two possible reasons, and they may both be true:

  1. Facebook wants to encourage engagement between the brands and their fan base; a very large fan base may have many more people with a weak affiliation to the brand and who never act on one of the brand’s posts
  2. The larger brands, of course, also have the largest resources for buying Facebook ads to increase the penetration of their content with their fan base.

What Facebook wants now is for brands to post relevant and/or entertaining content that people engage with. For some brands it may even be better to divide their fan base into smaller, country or regional groups if that will make it possible for them to target content better and increase engagement.

This is a good example of what Facebook doesn’t want: basically it’s an ad, but a kind of boring (and unpaid) one. And it’s interacted with by less than .02% of Starbucks’ 35 million followers.

Starbucks Facebook post

The engagement rate for this post from Eating Well’s less-than one million followers is about 10 times higher:

Eating Well Facebook post

So definitely continue to post to your Facebook page; your content will be shown by Facebook to the people most likely to engage with it. Single photos are still the most common type of post on Facebook, and they get the highest level of engagement. This despite the fact that Facebook says it prefers links to high quality, off-Facebook content over photos. Facebook also appears to punish memes versus photos, and posts that ask for engagement, such as “Please share this”, compared to posts that get engagement without asking.

With the new algorithm you may want to post more: experiment with posting three or four times a day. And test which times generate the most engagement.

And remember that this is social media. This is where you can have a conversation with your customers. People like to have their comments Liked by the brand, or commented on or answered. Think like a person at a party, not like a company, and you’ll have more success in social media.

Advertising on Facebook in 2014

The assumption among many marketers has been that Facebook adjusted its algorithm to show brand content to fewer people to make those brands pay advertising dollars to engage with their fans. And it’s working – advertising by brands on Facebook is up as their organic reach has plummeted. Facebook provides brands with many advertising options.

Facebook News Feed versus sidebar ads

Facebook introduced ads into its News Feed a few years ago, and they were immediately tremendously successful. According to Marin Software, News Feed ads have a 67% lower cost-per-click and 64% lower cost-per-acquisition than sidebar ads, resulting in a far better ROI.

Facebook News Feed ad

Facebook is also a good channel for driving traffic to your website from people previously unaware of your offerings. With the larger News Feed ads you really are getting prime real estate. And you can target these ads by many demographic and interest factors, and only to people who haven’t already liked your company on Facebook.

Facebook ad targeting options

You can also use Facebook ads to grow your fan base by targeting people in appropriate demographics with particular interests who haven’t yet Liked your page.

Facebook Mobile Ads

A few years ago Facebook was having a lot of trouble figuring out a mobile ad strategy. The time was well spent, though: they nailed it.

Facebook mobile ad

Mobile ads are now over half of Facebook’s revenues. A big win for Facebook is mobile ads that drive app installation, and they also have mobile ads to promote usage of an app that a person has already installed.

Facebook Remarketing

Three forms of ads are essentially different forms of remarketing or retargeting:

Just as with Google remarketing, Facebook remarketing is usually one of the best uses of a company’s advertising dollars because you’re only advertising to people who are already aware of your brand. By targeting customized ads to people who actually visited specific product/service pages on your website, you’re narrowing your advertising even more to just the most interested and increasing even more their likelihood of buying that. This remarketing can be instant: if you have the program set up, a person who goes directly from your website to Facebook can see your ad there, too.

The rise and fall of the Fit Over Fifty Facebook page

For a few years I ran a special interest Facebook page, Fit Over Fifty. This was initially about diet and exercise for keeping fit, and then expanded into a broader definition of “fitness” with posts on active people over 50, birthdays and deaths of famous people over 50, and inspiration content. The most popular posts were memes.

For the first year or so I spent the lofty sum of $5 a day to advertise on Facebook for fans. It was very inexpensive to gain them – I was getting fans for about ten to twenty cents each. Once I reached around 4,000 fans I decided I had a critical mass and I could stop advertising altogether. And the page following continued to grow until ultimately it exceeded 9,000 people.

This organic growth – without any brand or Facebook advertising — worked because my page had an extraordinarily high rate of engagement. Dozens of people would Like, Share, or comment on a typical post.

Two Fit Over Fifty Facebook posts

A few posts had over 10,000 people engaging with them; one truly went viral and had over 200,000 Likes.

Even before Facebook reduced the organic reach of posts it was typical for Facebook’s “Talking About” engagement metric for most brand pages to be only about .5% to 1% of a page’s followers. Mine was usually in the 35% range, or higher.

But I could see in 2013 that the reach of posts was steadily decreasing. (See the graph at the beginning of this post.) That, combined with my feeling that I had said all I cared to on the subject and learned what I wanted from managing the page, led me to discontinue posting on January 1, 2014.

Fit Over Fifty final Talking About count

The image above was captured on the last day that I posted to Fit Over Fifty, on January 2, 2014. I still had a “talking about” engagement rate of nearly 25%. That was fun.

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