Did you know that your Facebook updates may never be seen by more than half the people who like your page? Last month, Facebook changed the way it displays the News Feed, the scrolling list of updates and actions that users see on their walls.
Now, people have two options: They can see Top News or Recent News—with the default being Top News. With Top News, Facebook is trying to highlight the posts that will be most interesting to users. To do this, it applies an algorithm called EdgeRank that is based on how recent an update is, how relevant it seems and how many people have liked or commented on it. The higher the EdgeRank, the more likely it is that an update will show up in Top News.
Experts estimate that only 0.25 percent to 5 percent of status updates make it into Top News. And Facebook users are equally split in their use of Top News and Most Recent. The News Feed is important because most Facebook users don't return to your fan page once they've liked it.
In short, if one of your fans uses Top News and has a lot of active friends, she may never see a single one of your updates. Welcome to NFO, or News Feed Optimization. Here's what you need to know to get your company info to the top of the news.
1. Post often—but not too often
Freshness definitely seems to be one key to polishing your EdgeRank, but you have to balance that with not boring your fans. If you're a media company with tons of interesting content, you can post several times a day. But pestering your audience with ho-hum info will cause them to unlike you.
2. Post to customers' schedules, not yours
Yes, it can be hard to find time to participate in social media, but for maximum benefit, you should time your posts for when you think your customers will be most likely to pay attention, advises Lukas Maixner, COO of SocialBakers, a Facebook statistics portal.
If you want to market to the white-collar crowd, posting on weekday mornings may get you great results. If you're targeting teens, you might wait until after school.
"In general, rather than trying to guess the right time, we recommend maintaining the frequency, consistency and relevancy of your posts—and not being afraid of playing around a bit," Maixner says. "Don't underestimate the power of weekend posts."
3. Post directly on Facebook
Here's one you won't like: While social media dashboards like HootSuite or TweetDeck allow you to post to multiple social networks, Facebook doesn't seem to like them.
"Facebook is starting to frown on auto-posted content," says Jeffrey L. Cohen, social media marketing manager for Howard, Merrell and Partners, a strategic branding and advertising agency, and managing editor of SocialMediaB2B.com. Not only can this lower your EdgeRank, but Facebook also sometimes aggregates posts together solely by the app used. Instead of listing the posts, it may simply display, "And 10 more from [Your Brand] using HootSuite."
EdgeRank aside, Cohen points out that Facebook gives you three times as many characters, as well as the ability to tag pages and people. "So, even if you have similar content, you are better off customizing it for each medium," he says.
4. Keep it short
Keep your copy to-the-point. BuddyMedia, provider of a Facebook management system, finds that posts with 80 characters or less are more than four times as likely to get a like or comment.
5. Keep the conversation going
The more activity a particular item has, the higher its EdgeRank. You can double the impact simply by responding to other people's comments. Even more important, this tactic keeps your fans engaged and puts a human face on your company.
Mari Smith, social media speaker and trainer, and co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, says the best way to do this is to set up and follow a consistent policy for yourself and employees, such as replying within two hours to every post.
6. Be liberal with photos and video
Facebook has assigned a higher weight value to photos than to other content, according to BuddyMedia. Photos are a quick and easy way for you to introduce your products or people, and they catch the attention of multitasking fans. Videos can play directly in the news feed. BuddyMedia says you should limit the length of your videos in order to keep people’s attention, and provide brief text explaining what the clip is about.
7. Keep an eye on your stats
Says Smith, "What often happens when people start out with their fan pages is, you're getting some traction, but you don’t know what you don't know." Facebook.com/insights is a good place to start, or you can try some inexpensive Facebook analytics tools. Smith says you can dramatically improve your engagement rate by experimenting with these tactics—but you won't know what's working unless you pay attention to the response.
Image credit: zandwacht