What's the Facebook algorithm anyway? And why should I care?
If you use Facebook to market your private practice, chances are you will have heard of the Facebook algorithm. Whether you understand - or even care! - how it works is a different matter. But while this should absolutely not be the be-all-and-end-all of your life, it is useful to have an idea what it does and what impacts who sees your posts so that you can make the most of the free marketing opportunity that Facebook gives you.
Facebook’s people say that the goal of the algorithm is “to show stories that matter to users”. So in recent years, they have changed things to make sure that users see more of what is important to them, posted by people who are important to them. Put simply, posts from family and friends and people you regularly engage with are prioritised over content from businesses.
The algorithm ranks content by considering four things:
Inventory There are literally billions of pieces of data (posts) added to Facebook every day and the algorithm takes inventory of these to work out what you, as a user, are most likely to want to see and what you are most likely to have a positive reaction to. They do this because if you are having a good time and positive experiences on Facebook you’ll stay on the platform for longer. So, the algorithmn’s first job is to weed out what it thinks you don’t want to see.
Signals These are what Facebook can learn about a piece of content ~ what type of content it is, how old it is, who posted it, what its purpose is, how popular it is. This is something that you as the poster have some control over, and can work on to improve your marketing results. Signals are scored as active (good) or passive (meh). Active signals are things like reactions (likes/loves/wows etc), shares, comments and conversations on posts - things that show a post is meaningful and interesting for your audience. Passive signals are things like the length of time someone views a post, or the time of day it was posted. The more active signals there are, the more likely the algorithm will score the post highly. So what you’re looking for from your Facebook posts is engagement that tells the algorithm that the info is interesting and relevant to users. You want to create connections and get people talking. We’re therapists - we can do that!
Predictions The algorithm will predict what a user is most likely to want to see and how they will react to posts based on their previous habits. A good example of this is what has started to happen when I’m scrolling through Facebook on a Saturday night. One Saturday night I saw an advert for a book. I liked the look of the cover, clicked the link to Amazon, read the blurb and bought it for a bargain 99p. And immediately I noticed that I started seeing more ads for books and bought a couple more. Now my Saturday night scrolling has a generous helping of ads for cheap books from Amazon, and I’m creating a backlog of lots unread books!
Final Score If the algorithm sees that your post is interesting because people are reacting to it, commenting on it, or sharing it this will increase the score the algorithm gives the post. The higher the score the more likely it is that your post will be 'fed' to more Facebook users and this increased reach makes it more likely that your post will be seen by more people.
Something else to think about
From time to time - usually just when I feel like I’ve got the hang of what is working best for my business marketing! - Facebook changes the algorithm and I have to go back to trial and error to see what works best for my business now.
So, for example, some business users of Facebook are reporting that they have seen a drop in the number of people seeing their posts/adverts this year. My understanding is that a change Apple have made to the way their users engage with adverts has affected the post reach for some businesses on Facebook. I must confess I don't understand this fully myself yet, but effectively I think it means the data collected to help personalise ad experiences can’t be collected from as many people by third party apps. So Apple users will still see ads, but maybe not as many that are directly relevant to them, meaning that your content may not be fed to as many interested people as before.
Personally, I have seen a drop in post reach and engagements on my counselling page www.facebook.com/tranquillocounselling in the last couple of months, but whether this is to do with Apple’s change or whether it is more to do with the fact that I have been posting less frequently recently is something I don’t know. So it’s back to the drawing board and experimenting to see what works best. I'll post any revelations to my Tonia Higgins - Tranquillo Coaching page on Facebook.
If you’re looking for help to find your Facebook voice and use Facebook to market your practice my Success Strategy Sessions or Facebook marketing workshops are for you. Contact me to for more information and dates.
Social Media Algorithms 2021: Updates & Tips by Platform
How Apple’s iOS 14 release may affect your ads https://www.facebook.com/business/help/331612538028890?id=428636648170202