If you’re a brand, or if you manage social media for a brand, you’ve probably noticed a big drop off in the number of fans you reach with each individual Facebook post. While many brands were surprised to find that 100% of their Facebook posts weren’t seen by 100% their fans, most could count on their posts appearing on the pages of somewhere around 56% of their fans at any given time.
All that changed this Fall, when EdgeRank, the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what posts users see in their newsfeed, changed its formula, resulting in a 40% drop-off, on average, in the number of fans who saw a brand’s post at any given time. While brands and brand managers scrambled to figure out to how combat the drop-off in reach, Facebook found itself having to defend charges that it changed EdgeRank in order to force brands to spend money to “promote” their Facebook posts, thereby getting their status updates back in front of a higher percentage of their fans.
No matter Facebook’s motivation in changing the EdgeRank algorithm, the fact is that the current formula isn’t going away any time soon. Luckily, the formula used by EdgeRank is widely known (Weight x Affinity x Time Decay = a posts’s EdgeRank score), and there are some easy things your brand can do to push your posts’ EdgeRank scores higher. The higher your post’s EdgeRank score, the higher percentage of your fans that will see your post.
With that in mind, here are five thing your can do to increase your EdgeRank Scores:
1) Vary the type of content (weight): The first factor EdgeRank takes into account is how often an individual fan interacts with the kind of content you’ve posted. Immediately following EdgeRank’s algorithm change, it appeared that photos were valued more highly than other types of posts, but straight text posts and links have been make a surge as of late. Brands should make sure to vary the kinds of posts to determine which kinds of updates get the most traction with their fans.
2) Vary the times of posts (time decay): Another big factor in the EdgeRank algorithm is time decay: the amount of time between an update is posted and a fan of a brand logs on to see the post. The older a post is, the lower it’s EdgeRank score will be. For this reason, it’s important to experiment with posting at different times of day. Once you know the optimal time of day to post to reach the greatest amount of fans, the better chance you have of increasing your posts’ visibility.
3) Target posts to your demographic (affinity): The third factor in EdgeRank’s formula is affinity. Simply put, affinity is the number of times a fan has interacted via likes, shares, and comments, with your posts. The more often a fan engages with your brand, the more likely she is to see your posts popping up in her timeline. In order to encourage fans to engage with a post, you need to make sure your brand is pushing out content that is targeted and of interest to your fan base. Lack of interest in a brand’s content leads to lack of engagement with a brand’s posts. For example, fashion brands shouldn’t be posting content about model cars, and model car makers shouldn’t push out content on the latest line of Jimmy Choo’s. Know your fan base and give them what they want.
4) Ask for what you want: While EdgeRank has caused many brands to re-think their social media strategy, some of the old marketing axioms hold true, one of the best being the absolute necessity of calls to action. Fans are much more likely to do what you want them to do if you actually ask them to do it. If you want fans to share your content, “share this post!” or “please share!” ” should be clearly stated. Like this post if you agree . . .” is another tried and true strategy for fan engagement. You might be surprised at how effective asking for engagement can be.
5) Have fun: Above all, remember that no one is on Facebook to read an endless stream of brand postings, just like no one watches TV just for the commercials. If brands truly want to stay in their fans’ timelines, they need to be entertaining. Talk about current events, ask questions, take polls, post cartoons. Do whatever it takes to hold the attention and favor of your fans.
Just like in real life, engaging and entertaining others means not talking about yourself all day long. A good rule of thumb to follow is to post about your brand one-third of the time, post about and ask questions of your fans one-third of the time, and post about things that are of interest to both your brand and your fans one-third of the time. While this “Rule of One-Thirds” is easily modifiable to suit your brand’s needs, it’s a good touchstone to keep you on the right path.
Has EdgeRank made it harder for brands to reach their fans via Facebook? Undoubtedly. We’ll probably never return to the days when brands are able to reach 60% of their fans without paying to do so. But, as with all things social media, creativity and flexibility remain the keys to remaining relevant, visible, and worthy of engagement by brand fans.