How to make Facebook work for you

April 24, 2014

Facebook is a big social network, with over 1 billion users around the world, and over 125 million U.S. users active on the site every day. When it makes a big change, it’s big news. Lately, the change that has everyone buzzing is the precipitous drop in organic reach for organizational pages. Facebook has been putting the squeeze on its content providers, and it’s affected a lot of nonprofits. So, why doesn’t Facebook show your posts to more of your fans?

The short answer is: Business revenue. It’s Facebook’s job to deliver value to its shareholders, and they do that by selling advertising. The longer answer, though, gets to some of the more interesting moving parts of how Facebook works, and if you understand how it works, you’ll understand how to make the most of your content on the platform.

A few ground rules for posting engaging content

So, Facebook is a business, and a key part of their business is keeping you, the user, on their site as long as possible. They do this by showing you the most engaging content they can; they figure that if you keep finding things you want to like, comment on, or share, you’ll keep scrolling. As a content creator, if you can produce more content that readers want to engage with, you’ll likely find a bigger audience. Here are some best practices:

  • Post more photos: Facebook has always been a platform that emphasizes visuals first. Posting interesting, engaging photos, especially with text overlay, is a proven winner.
  • Post content regularly: If you don’t post content consistently, you may slip off the radar of your fans, and if they stop engaging with your content, Facebook may stop showing it off. Two or three posts a week is a good place to start; once a day is a good goal.
  • Celebrate success, and say thanks: Items like good news and thank you’s tend to be extra engaging and Facebook users gravitate toward them.

Why doesn’t Facebook show more of your content to your fans?

Facebook’s explanation is that there is just too much content coming through for each user to see everything.  So, to create the best user experience possible, they have to pick the most engaging content. Traditionally, posts from friends and family have earned more shares, likes, and comments than posts from organizations, so Facebook prioritizes personal posts over those from brands and organizations.

Facebook is a business, so brands can pay to increase their reach, either by advertising for new fans, or by promoting individual posts.  Focused advertising can be worthwhile, especially when your organization has an urgent call to action and you want to quickly mobilize a lot of people online. Promoting a post is an extremely flexible, easy way to get your content in front of many users. You choose how much to spend, and Facebook shows you how many people they’ll show the post to. You can target by demographics, geography, and interest. Likewise, if you’re trying to boost your page’s fan base, advertising your page can help you capture a new, wider audience on the platform.

Retaking control of the conversation

All indications are that Facebook will continue down this pay-to-play path, but that doesn’t mean that your nonprofit can’t get something out of it, too. If you can’t reliably reach your Facebook fans on Facebook, get them to go where you can: Email. Converting your “likes” to email supporters should be a core part of your Facebook strategy, and will help you contact them where they are, on your terms.

To learn more about getting the most out of Facebook, check out our tip sheet.

Collin Dunn