In the United States, 71% of adult Internet users are on Facebook (Pew 2013); as a whole, Facebook has a billion users (Business Week 2012). That’s more users than are on any other social media platform out there right now, which makes using Facebook to market your business a no-brainer. However, successfully gaining visibility on Facebook requires more than setting up a page and posting on it. Facebook is saturated with users and marketers. There must be some way to filter the content that users see in a News Feed; otherwise, we would be inundated with status updates and marketing messages. Twitter, for example, is not filtered. Users who follow hundreds of accounts miss a lot of content, because it moves so quickly.
So how do you make sure your business gets the visibility it deserves? Read on to learn how you can beef up your Facebook marketing practice.
A History of Ranking
Enter Facebook EdgeRank. EdgeRank was a unique formula that Facebook used a while back to determine when to serve up content and to whom that content should be served. The basic components of the algorithm were these:
- affinity—the relationship that each fan had with a page and its content
- weight—the type of action taken on each post (likes, comments, shares), and the type of content posted (text, link, picture/video)
- time decay—how recent/current the content was
While Facebook still uses these three factors, the EdgeRank formula has been replaced by something far more complicated that doesn’t have a fancy name. Today, Facebook uses 100,000 different factors to determine what appears in your News Feed (Marketing Land 2013).
The New Ranking System
Facebook’s fine-tuned News Feed algorithm focuses on users and what Facebook thinks they want to see. This determination is based on the types of content each user tends to like. To make sure users don’t miss anything they may have wanted to see, Facebook employs a tactic called “Story Bumping.” Story Bumping is like a second chance for content. If an older post continues to receive a lot of interaction, Facebook will serve it up to more people who haven’t seen it yet. Essentially, it gets bumped to the top of more users’ News Feeds (TechCrunch 2013).
Be a trend spotter. Beyond relationships and the kind of content you post, the newest update to the News Feed algorithm focuses on news and trending topics. You can see it on the top right area of your page. In essence, Facebook is fighting to become your primary news source—in direct competition with Twitter, a social platform that is well known for being a source for breaking news.
Beware the “meme.” What the new update also does is penalize pages for posting memes. According to a Facebook spokesperson (TechCrunch 2013), Facebook views memes—which often take the form of low-brow jokes and images—as “low-quality content.” This move away from “low-quality memes” and toward news suggests that Facebook encourages link sharing and will most likely rank that kind of content higher.
Sound overwhelming? Here’s the bottom line: Brands that win the algorithm game know what their fans want, and they give it to them. Whether you use coupons, information or entertainment, serving up valuable content that your fans want to see will keep you at the top of the News Feed—and top of mind.
Pay to Play: Facebook Ads
Unfortunately, these days it’s hard to be successful on Facebook without paying for advertisements. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. While setting up a Facebook page may be “free” for a business, reaching fans without spending money is becoming harder.
There are several ways you can “pay to play” with Facebook ads. Consider these options for increasing your business reach, along with some best practices that will maximize ad spend.
Page Post Engagement
You would use Page Post Engagement ads to increase the reach and engagement (likes, comments and shares) of your Facebook posts. The Boost option, found in the lower-right area of your post, lets you choose to boost a single post for a set dollar amount or to set your budget and have Facebook boost the most recent posts until the budget runs out. A boosted post has a greater likelihood of being seen by those who like your page, as well as their Facebook friends.
If you’ve recently gained a lot of new followers, it’s a good idea to boost some posts to increase your engagement. Your new fans have no relationship with you (remember that Facebook looks at the relationship you have with each fan to determine whether to serve up your content to that person), so Post Engagement ads will help ensure that your new fans continue to see your content.
In Page Like ads, on the right-hand side of your Facebook page, you usually include a brief message and a related image. The primary function of these ads is to attain page likes. Before posting an ad, make sure you use Facebook’s audience selector to target the correct audience. Ask yourself: Who is my audience? Where do they live? What are their demographics? Targeting potential fans in this way will ensure that your new likes come from people who are interested in your brand and its services or products.
Pro Tips: As a fitness professional, you should focus on people who live in your area and are your target demographic. Also try to target people in the “Fitness and Wellness” Interests category. Facebook’s Interests looks at the types of content with which each user engages. This helps marketers identify their audience more precisely and lets them advertise to people who are more likely to engage with their ads. Note: Be wary of organizations that sell page likes. This can be a waste of time and money, because you can’t be certain whether those people have any interest in your content.
Ads That Click Through to Your Website
Simply stated, these are ads designed to draw people back to your website. Ads like this should contain engaging, eye-catching photos and a strong call to action.
If you are hosting an event—such as a charity workout or a nutrition workshop—add it to the Events section on your Facebook page. From there you can send “invites” to your connections, and they can then RSVP to the invitation. Facebook Events are great because they prompt attendees to share the event information with others who might be interested in participating. Attendees are also notified every time the event is updated, which increases potential exposure and keeps participants abreast of necessary details. There is no cost for this. And from here you can create ads to promote your event and gain even more exposure and registrations. These ads will take users directly to the event’s information or allow them to join the event right from the ad.
Let’s say you want to promote a Mother’s Day personal training package. You can use the Offer Claim ad option to input all the details of your promotion, and then post that information to Facebook. Individuals who click the offer are emailed redemption instructions and details about the offer. Once you’ve created the offer, you can use Facebook ads to promote it.
Overall Best Practices for Ads
- Make sure your image is colorful, clear and relevant to your target audience.
- Rotate your images. Facebook allows you to upload up to six different images that will rotate as your ad is shown. Not all images appeal to all people.
- Include a clear call to action in your ad. Make sure your viewers know exactly what you want them to do.
- Use Facebook’s ad metrics to determine ad performance.
Facebook would not be such a popular platform if it did not focus on the user experience. The large base of users who spend hours a day checking their Facebook pages is a gold mine for brands. However, as consumers become inundated with advertising and messaging, it becomes harder and harder to get their attention. Smart business owners pay attention to their audience and to what those people find valuable. If you do the same, Facebook could become your greatest marketing tool.
Business Week. 2012. Facebook: The making of 1 billion users. www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-10-04/facebook-the-making-of-1-billion-users; accessed Apr. 18, 2014.
Marketing Land. 2013. EdgeRank is dead: Facebook’s news feed algorithm now has close to 100K weight factors. http://marketingland.com/edgerank-is-dead-facebooks-news-feed-algorithm-now-has-close-to-100k-weight-factors-55908; accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
Pew Research Internet Project. 2013. Demographics of key social networking platforms. www.pewinternet.org/2013/12/30/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms/; accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
TechCrunch. 2013. Facebook to publicize news feed algorithm changes, starting with new “story bumping.” http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/06/facebook-story-bumping; accessed Feb. 24, 2014.