Defeat the Facebook Algorithm
How many friends do you have?
Go ahead, take a look. Here’s a link to Facebook so you can look. I’m confident you’ll come back.
You have a lot of friends. Most of you probably didn’t realize that you accepted so many friend requests over the years.
Let’s try something else out. Go look at the individual names.
As you scrolled through the names, did you notice something? Did you realize that you never see some of these friends online?
Maybe you thought they were inactive users – and that could be the case. Odds are that a lot of these “friends” are old co-workers or maybe high school/college chums. If you click on their profiles, they have activity. They still comment on posts, share articles, and add images.
So why don’t you ever see them?
Facebook’s algorithm is at work.
Personal and Business Accounts Within Facebook’s Algorithm
If you think your “friends” posts are invisible, think about the business pages you’ve been asked to like. We won’t go through an exercise asking you to look at all of the pages you are a “fan” of. If you follow 10 or 100, the results are the same.
Facebook made an algorithm update in 2018 and made everything a little more personal. Instead of getting equal play, business accounts are pushed behind a paywall (kind of). Users want to see friends and family, and Facebook wants to deliver.
Business Page Experiment
I ran several experiments in 2020 to see how many of my business page followers actually saw my posts. Over the course of four months, I regularly posted my weekly blog link. I didn’t promote or solicit comments. Every week I would see similar, underwhelming results.
My results matched up perfectly to what many industry experts were saying: only 2% to 10% of your audience will see your organic post. If you want your message seen by the masses, you have two major considerations:
- Focus on building a larger Facebook audience so you can grow your 10%
- Boost or Sponsor your post
Both options will take time or money. Besides your initial wave of asking friends and family to like your page, how else do you grow your audience?
Some companies get page likes by having contests. You know, the Like/Share/Comment giveaways. Although most of these contests violate Facebook rules, the police are pretty passive with enforcement. Officially, you should be using a third-party contest platform, but it’s also frowned upon to force someone to like your page to enter.
Either way, you are paying to get to your message to your audience.
Personal Account Experiment
Long before I really dug deep into the Facebook algorithm, I decided that I would have some fun on my own. Much like everyone else on the internet, you get sick of seeing the same old things – especially on Facebook. They might want to keep you on their platform, but sometimes they do a lousy job.
I decided to create my own criteria to hide and display friends.
Rules for Unfollowing
- Graphic Images (Beaten dogs, missing fingers, TV-MA stuff)
- Racist, Sexist, and Homophobic commentary
- People that annoy me by just seeing their name
- Movie or Television Show Spoilers (current)
Strikes (3 and you’re out)
- Consistent 3rd Grade Grammar Mistakes
- Pushing Political/Religious beliefs (extreme commentary)
- Overwhelming amount of business-related posts (weekly)
- Sharing of irrelevant polls
Less Offensive Strikes (5 or so)
- Selfie-a-day (or per hour)
- “How Awesome Is My Kid” Posts
- Life Story in One Post
At the end of the day, I eliminated nearly everyone on the platform.
Little did I know, Facebook will do this work for you. The personal algorithm is not that hard to manipulate. If you want to see more posts from your relevant friends, here are some tips:
- Flag your friends as favorites
- Like your friends’ posts.
- Even better than a Like or Reaction, leave a Comment (with more than one word)
- Watch your friends’ videos and click on their photos.
If those tricks sound underwhelming, they are.
Facebook wants to emulate a community of friends. They want to surround you with the coolest, funniest, and most entertaining people in your life. If you are laughing at jokes, sharing opinions, and loving their photos – it’s a good indication that these are your people.
Should I Just Use My Personal Account for My Business Objectives?
The common question I get from owners and clients deals with posting from their personal Facebook account. If your personal account gets all of the visibility, why wouldn’t you just share all of your posts that way?
Have you ever been caught in a conversation with a friend where they won’t stop talking about work?
People will start hitting the hide or unfriend button real quick if you blast out your big sale every other post. People are interested in your life, even the corporate side…but you are on the wrong network. Head to LinkedIn.
If I really want to maximize the eyeballs on a business post or objective, I will share the message from my personal account. This should be used sparingly. Once your name is hidden from your friend’s timeline, it’s difficult to make your way back.
Getting People to See Your Business Posts
For anyone that had a chance to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix got a glimpse of the Facebook Algorithm at work. The goal is to make money and keep users on their platform. Facebook will show quality content that people are engaging with. Although business accounts aren’t favored in organic posts, they can still go viral.
Getting a post to go viral is easier said than done. We don’t need it to explode nationwide, just in our small community. Social media companies throughout Wheeling and Steubenville fight hard to get their clients on peoples’ radar, but we tend to see the same thing over and over. If anyone would have figured out the winning formula, it should be an advertising agency or social media consulting company, right?
The problem isn’t that they don’t have the answers, it’s that they can’t do the work. They need you, and your personal Facebook account, to do the work.
Using Your Personal Account to Get Attention
Posting the right things at the right time on your business account will only get you so far. Remember how to clean up your newsfeed by liking and commenting on friends’ posts? There is another benefit of participating. When you comment on a post, you often get a reply. Facebook might get the hunch that they would like to see your content in their feed.
Smart digital marketers everywhere are commenting on posts and wishing you Happy Birthday just so they can slip into your newsfeed.
By leveraging your personal account, you can start to slip in some feelers. Maybe once a month you decide to share a business page post and solicit comments on your personal account. You may never get a single new page like, but your reach for that post will double. You have all of these new faces looking at your brand, but interacting with you (via your personal account).
The more active (and engaged) you are on your personal account, the more people will see your activity. If 80% of your content is personal and 20% is business, you will likely stay under the threshold of being muted.
Be an Early Adopter of New Facebook Features
It’s pretty simple. When Facebook puts out a new feature, they are going to try and promote it. Going Live on video continues to be a Facebook algorithm breaker. They want users to go Live and for Facebook to become the new hub for video content (beat YouTube). If you notice a new feature, start using it.
Facebook is always looking to gain new users and marketshare. If they could, they would keep you on their platform for everything imaginable. They want to be your:
- Community Calendar for Events
- Messenger for Private Messages to Friends
- Source for News and Videos
- Photo Album and memory databank
- Business Directory
- Video Conference Hub
- Marketplace for Resale Items
- Jobs Board and Directory
When Facebook first arrived, it was a simple website for friends to connect. All of these features were added and promoted.
Find a way your business can utilize a new feature. Your business will skip the line and get some added visibility in the Facebook algorithm.
I’ve tried posting every single day. Consistency is key, but the Facebook algorithm values quality of quantity. There were plenty of studies that show dropping the number of times posted actually helped reach. There are also others that say post as often as possible so you have a better chance of finding a gem. With either method, there are some smart hacks you can try.
If you have a specific person in mind that can make a difference for your business, become their friend. Everyone has a different tolerance for who they will befriend, but it doesn’t hurt to send an invite. Worst case scenario, they don’t accept.
Best case scenario:
- He or she becomes your friend.
- They start seeing your posts – because Facebook tends to highlight items from new friends.
- They organically like your business page (but more likely they like it when you send them a personal invite a few weeks later).
- You are now on their radar and hopefully you provide enough information that entices them to make contact.
This seems a bit calculated – but if those eyeballs are that important, here is your strategy.
Partner with Influencers
I know the Ohio Valley isn’t the home of many national influencers (if any). That doesn’t mean we don’t have individuals with huge followings. Take a look online and see which person on your friends list has the most contacts (friends). Imagine if they sent our your page to everyone on their list? Better yet, what if they posted about your brand.
That’s what an influencer is and does. These micro-influencers can help you gain a lot of fans and followers fast.
Think about what I said for influencers but cross out “person” and add “business”. Find out what business accounts have a ton of fans and see if you can partner. Odds are these accounts are local restaurants. People love food and seem to like every local establishment.
One of the major reasons why you have a business account is so you can check on your audience. Every post gives you information on reach and engagement. You can find out when your core audience is online and what they like. Use this information to craft better content at ideal times.
You don’t have to rely on guess-work.
Can You Beat Facebook’s Algorithm Without Paying?
It’s difficult to get your message out to the masses without paying in one form or another. The glory days of free Facebook publicity is over. If paying to get your message seen on Facebook infuriates you, you might want to head over to a different social media network. Your newest “blog link” post will never see the light of day in the organic world.
However, you can still find value without pouring your entire budget into Facebook. The little tips and tricks can bring you new users and new conversions. Most of the time you have to commit to putting in the work and if that is more cost-effective than paying for a sponsored post, then put in the work.
The Facebook Algorithm is a very controversial topic.
Small business owners wish for the old times. Corporations dump their ad spend and try to find any loophole to gain an advantage. And your followers don’t know (and likely don’t care) one way or the other. They just want to be entertained. It’s your job to find your way into their feed.
Podcast Recommendation: “The Facebook Algorithm Problem”
If you want a deeper look into algorithms (Facebook specifically), I’ve found an interesting listen. This podcast goes a bit deeper into Facebook’s goals and the history of their newsfeed. There are times where it can be viewed as political, but I feel he does a good job keeping it level. It’s an interesting look into how the system works. Enjoy.