How To Boost Your Organic Reach On Facebook

Logo-facebookAlthough its ongoing popularity is often debated, Facebook still accounts for one of every six minutes spent online, meaning it remains an essential social media marketing tool. In this comprehensive guide we examine how to use Facebook's algorithm to boost the organic reach of your posts.

____________________________

Guest Post by Kendall Walters on Hootsuite

Facebook boasts a whopping 1.65 billion monthly active users. It remains the most-used social media site among all ages, accounting for one in every six minutes spent online and one in every five minutes spent on mobile.

Simply put: everyone uses Facebook and they use it a lot.

The Facebook algorithm determines what any one of those users sees in their News Feed at a given time. To say it has a huge impact on the Facebook experience would be a colossal understatement.

Fortunately, in the last few years Facebook has begun to tell us more and more about how the News Feed algorithm works, what it favors, what it doesn’t, and what it means for business Pages.

Become familiar with these levers and you’ll know which ones to pull to get your content seen by more people. Boosting organic reach is what it’s all about.

Table of contents

How to improve organic reach on Facebook

What is the Facebook algorithm?

Facebook’s core News Feed values

How does Facebook determine the algorithm?

What the Facebook algorithm takes into account

Other factors the Facebook algorithm considers

How you can impact what appears in your News Feed

How to improve organic reach on Facebook

The Facebook algorithm is a complicated beast—we go into detail about specific changes in a section below—but there are a few things brands can do to improve their organic reach.

We’ve compiled insights from Facebook’s News Feed FYI blog on what types of content the algorithm favors, so read on for some key takeaways on what brands can do to impact their chances of showing up in their followers’ News Feeds.

Quality content is key

What many of Facebook’s algorithm changes really come down to is quality. Sharing quality content is essential to not only being shown in News Feed, but having your content appear higher in users’ feeds.

Best practices in regards to quality:

  • Share high-quality content whenever possible
  • If you’re sharing links to articles or blog posts on your website, ensure that they’re quality content that readers will want to spend time with
  • Aim to be informative (in whatever way that makes sense for your business and your industry)
  • When you share videos, aim to choose ones that will resonate with your audience
  • Don’t reuse content from ads for organic Page posts as these posts will likely receive less organic distribution

Don’t be spammy

An extension of Facebook’s preference for quality content is its ongoing aversion to spammy content.

Best practices to avoid being spammy:

  • Be particular about what you share and avoid content that doesn’t look reputable (such as content that could turn out to be a viral hoax)
  • Avoid clickbait tactics, such as overly exaggerated headlines or ones that withhold key information
  • Avoid encouraging users to take a particular action when they view a post—such as encouraging lots of clicks
  • Don’t like-bait (publish posts that explicitly ask users to like, comment, or share the post)
  • When looking for content to share, watch out for frequently circulated content (photos or videos that have been uploaded to Facebook over and over again) as that’s considered spammy behavior
  • Avoid spammy links, such as stories that use inaccurate language or formatting to try to trick people into clicking through to a website that only contains ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads
  • Avoid sharing overly promotional posts as posts that solely push people to buy a product, install an app, take part in a promotion or enter sweepstakes without adding any additional context—these posts will likely receive less organic distribution
  • If you have a third party app, ensure that share settings are set up so that users take an explicit action to share, rather than share implicitly as explicitly shared stories are prioritized over implicitly shared ones

General advice

Post quality content. Avoid being spammy. What else? There are a few other things to pay attention to when using Facebook for your brand.

General best practices for Facebook Pages:

  • Post about timely topics (when it makes sense for your brand to do so)
  • If it makes sense for your brand, give live video a try—when a Page is broadcasting, its video is more likely to appear higher in News Feed
  • When relevant, tag other Pages in your posts because they may then be seen by a new audience (users who follow the tagged Page)
  • Avoid publishing pure text posts—instead focus on sharing rich media such as links, photos, and video
  • Make sure your Page profile is complete (yup, that matters to how Facebook assesses your Page)

One of the best ways to stay on the Facebook algorithm’s good side is to follow best practices offered by the network itself. Facebook’s media hub offers an on-going series of posts on best practices covering topics such as clickbait and live video.

On the matter of clickbait best practices, Facebook offers the following advice:

  • Share headlines that inform
  • Post headlines that set appropriate expectations
  • When curating content as a Page, share links that have clear, accurate headlines

When it comes to best practices for live video, Facebook offers these suggestions:

  • Tell people ahead of time when you’re going to broadcast
  • Go live when you have a strong connection
  • Write a compelling description before going live
  • Ask your viewers to follow you and receive notifications when you go live
  • Say hello to commenters by name and respond to their comments
  • Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more people
  • Be creative and go live often


Now that you’ve read our tips on how to boost organic reach, we can dive into the details and evidence that support those directions.

What is the Facebook algorithm?

Facebook has said that the average user has access to more than 1,500 posts per daybut only looks at 300. The Facebook algorithm is the thousands of factors, or signals, that Facebook uses to determine which posts should be among the 300 that gets served up in a user’s News Feed. Basically, it’s how Facebook curates an overwhelming amount of content into a manageable chunk for the individual user.

Up until about 2011, this ranking system was known as EdgeRank.

Facebook’s original News Feed ranking system was based on three elements:

  1. Affinity: how close is the relationship between the user and the content or its source?
  2. Weight: what type of action was taken on the content?
  3. Time Decay: how current is the content—how recently was it posted?

While those three items are still included, Facebook’s current News Feed algorithm takes into account as many as 100,000 individual factors, according to Marketing Land.

Many of the factors are based on how users behave on Facebook and actions they take to indicate whether a piece of content is of interest to them or not.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of product management for News Feed, explained the need for an algorithm in a blog post: “When we launched News Feed in 2006, it was hard to imagine the challenge we now face: far too much information for any one person to consume. In the decade since, more than a billion people have joined Facebook, and today they share a flood of stories every day. That’s why stories in News Feed are ranked — so that people can see what they care about first, and don’t miss important stuff from their friends. If the ranking is off, people don’t engage, and leave dissatisfied. So one of our most important jobs is getting this ranking right.”

Facebook’s core News Feed values

Facebook has gone so far to codify the priorities—what they call their “set of core values”—that they take into account when adjusting the algorithm for News Feed. As laid out in a blog post by Mosseri, those values are as follows:

1. Friends and family come first

“Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places, and things you want to be connected to—starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period—you just have to scroll down.”

2. Your feed should inform

“People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them—and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative.”

3. Your feed should entertain

“We’ve also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends.”

4. A platform for all ideas

“Our integrity depends on being inclusive of all perspectives and view points, and using ranking to connect people with the stories and sources they find the most meaningful and engaging. We don’t favor specific kinds of sources—or ideas.”

5. Authentic communication

“The feedback we’ve gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine—so we can show more of them in News Feed. And we work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading, sensational, and spammy, to make sure people see those less.”

6. You control your experience

“Ultimately, you know what’s most meaningful to you—and that’s why we’ve developed controls so you can customize what you see… We take your actions as feedback to help us better understand what content is important to you.”

7. Constant iteration

“We view our work as only one percent finished—and are dedicated to improving along the way.”

How does Facebook determine the algorithm?

To decide when changes to the algorithm are needed, Facebook relies on its Feed Quality Program. This system includes “global crowd-sourced surveys of tens of thousands of people per day, as well as people who answer more detailed questions about what they like seeing in their feeds.”

Facebook uses the program to ask users to rate their experience and provide feedback.

What the Facebook algorithm takes into account

Mosseri explains what News Feed is, how it works, and what that means for publishers in this video from the 2016 F8 conference.

As the video explains, there are a few basic factors that the News Feed ranking takes into account. When deciding whether to serve a piece of content to a user, the algorithm considers:

  • Who posted it
  • What type of content it is
  • When it was posted
  • What interactions it has

But the algorithm is a lot more complicated than that and there are a number of other factors that Facebook takes into account when ranking News Feed.

Other factors the Facebook algorithm considers

The thing about Facebook’s algorithm is that it’s constantly in flux. Big changes are announced on the company’s News Feed FYI blog, but smaller changes happen as often two to three times every week, according to an article in TIME.

In 2015, Facebook published 12 posts on the News Feed FYI blog. By the end of August 2016, there had already been eight new updates posted.

The following factors are listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent changes listed first. In cases where multiple updates were made to the same (or a similar) ranking factor, those changes have been grouped together under a single header and included in the list based on the date of the most recent change.

Alongside each update, we’ve included insight into what it means for brands.

Stories that are useful to individual users

On August 11, 2016, Facebook made a change to News Feed to show users more “personally informative” stories.The update created a news ranking signal to predict what stories would be most interesting to each individual user.

Facebook explained: “Something that one person finds informative may be different from what another person finds informative. This could be a news article on a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, a review of an upcoming movie, a recipe, or anything that informs you.”

This algorithm factor is combined with one that takes into account how relevant a story might be to a user personally, using factors such as their relationship to the person or publisher who shared the post.

What this means for brands

This update isn’t expected to have much of an impact on Pages.

Facebook explained in the announcement blog post: “We anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed. Some Pages might see a small increase in referral traffic, and some Pages might see minor decreases.”

Reducing clickbait

On August 4, 2016 Facebook announced plans to reduce clickbait in News Feed.

The update is a follow up to an August 2014 change. The earlier update reduced the distribution of posts with a high bounce rate, where people clicked on the post and then quickly returned to News Feed.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

The 2016 update uses a system that identifies phrases commonly used in clickbait headlines that are not used in other headlines, in a process similar to the way that email spam filters function.

Facebook defined clickbait as “headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer.”

A team at Facebook reviewed thousands of headlines to determine if they were clickbait by considering two key points:

  1. If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is
  2. If the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader

The change is intended to reduce the prominence of posts with headlines such as these:

  • When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions and Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!
  • He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going to Bed and What Happens Next is Hard to Believe
  • The Dog Barked at the Deliveryman and His Reaction Was Priceless

The system not only identifies posts that are clickbait, but also looks at which web domains and Pages the posts come from. Over time, links posted from domains or shared by Pages that consistently post clickbait will appear lower in News Feed.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained in a News Feed FYI blog post: “We anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed as a result of this change. However, websites and Pages who rely on clickbait-style headlines should expect their distribution to decrease.”

Mosseri told The Verge that the system doesn’t mean publishers will have to write dry, information-dense headlines in order to be seen.

He explained: “We’re not trying to make sure all headlines are the same, or uninteresting. We’re trying to respond to feedback from the people who use Facebook every day—they really don’t like seeing these headlines that mislead them… If you’re a publisher, or you’re a content farm, and you post 50 things a day and 48 of them are clickbait, you’ll see a significant drop in referral traffic and reach.”

Stories from friends

On June 29, 2016, Facebook announced a change to News Feed ranking to prioritize content from friends. The update means that content posted by “the friends you care about” will appear higher in News Feed.

This change is an extension of updates Facebook implemented in April 2015. At that point, Facebook made a first step towards ensuring that users wouldn’t miss content posted by friends they care about.

That update was accompanied by two related ones:

  1. In order to improve the experience for people who don’t have a lot of content available to see, Facebook has relaxed a rule that prevented users from seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row.
  2. Due to feedback from users, Facebook decided to rank stories about friends liking or commenting on a post lower in users’ News Feeds or not have them appear at all.

What this means for brands

Reach and referral traffic may decline for some Pages, said Facebook engineering director Lars Backstrom in a blog post. But the “specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.”

The impact for Pages from the 2015 change was expected to be similar.

Time spent viewing an article

On April 21, 2016, Facebook updated the News Feed ranking to take into account the time users spend reading or viewing content they click on from News Feed.

The update factors in the time users spend looking at an article in the Facebook mobile browser or an Instant Article.

It looks at time spent within a threshold to prevent unintentionally treating longer articles preferentially and it does not take into account loading time.

Additionally, Facebook also said that they would reduce how often users see articles from the same source back-to-back their News Feeds.

The change was in response to feedback that the actions that users take on posts—such as liking, clicking, commenting, or sharing—don’t always indicate what posts they’d like to see. For example, people may not take these actions on an article about a serious current event or a post from a friend that contains sad news, but users do still want to see that content.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained in the announcement blog post: “We anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes. Some Pages might see a small increase in referral traffic, and some Pages might see minor decreases.”

Live Video

On March 1, 2016, Facebook announced that it’d be changing the News Feed ranking to take Live video into account.

First introduced in December 2016 and expanded to all users in early 2016, Live video has been a very popular feature. Facebook considers it a unique content type, distinct from other videos shared on the platform.

The algorithm update means that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when they are in fact live (they can still be discovered and viewed after the broadcast is over). Facebook says people spend more than three times longer watching broadcasts when they’re live compared to when they’re not.

“This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact,” Facebook explained in the announcement blog post

What this means for brands

Facebook says they expect the impact to publishers to be minimal: “We do not expect Pages to see significant changes as a result of this update.”

It’s worthwhile to note that this is a good incentive for brands to give live video a try—you could see a significant boost in organic reach.

Reactions

On February 24, 2016 when Facebook rolled out Reactions globally, they explainedhow the News Feed algorithm would take Reactions into account.

Facebook explained in a News Feed FYI post: “In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, ‘wows,’ or ‘sads’ a post—we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

Facebook has not yet announced any further iterations of this algorithm ranking factor.

What this means for brands

For all intents and purposes, Reactions will be treated the same as Likes, a treatment that extends to their effect on advertising.

Facebook explained: “Reactions will have the same impact on ad delivery as likes.”

While Facebook hasn’t made any statements regarding how they might differentiate Reactions from Likes, these new signals can still be useful to brands in terms of gauging how your audience is responding to a piece of content.

Qualitative feedback

On February 1, 2016, Facebook explained how they’re using qualitative feedback to show relevant stories in News Feed.

The social media giant has a Feed Quality Panel comprised of more than a thousand people. This panel is tasked with rating their experience on Facebook every day and giving feedback on how Facebook can improve the content they see in their News Feeds.

Additionally, Facebook surveys tens of thousands of people around the world on a daily basis. These users are asked to rate each story that appears in their feed on a scale from one to five in response to the question: “how much did you want to see this story in your News Feed?”

Facebook says it uses this information to determine what stories people would like to see near the top of their feeds, even if they don’t click, like, or comment on them.

Facebook explained: “News Feed will begin to look at both the probability that you would want to see the story at the top of your feed and the probability that you will like, comment on, click, or share a story.”

What this means for brands

Facebook explained: “The impact of these changes on a story’s distribution will vary depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In general this update should not impact reach or referral traffic meaningfully for the majority of Pages; however some Pages may see some increases in referral traffic, and some Pages may see some declines in referral traffic.”

Furthermore: “Pages might see some declines in referral traffic if the rate at which their stories are clicked on does not match how much people report wanting to see those stories near the top of their News Feed.”

Facebook advises brands to avoid encouraging users to take a particular action when they view a post—such as encouraging lots of clicks—because such tactics are likely to cause only a temporary spike in the Page’s metrics.

User connection speed

On October 6, 2015, Facebook announced a >change to News Feed ranking that would take into account connection speed.

Facebook uses an open-sourced Network Connection Class which it developed in order to determine how fast a user’s connection is. With this update, Facebook began to retrieve more stories and photos while a user is reading News Feed on a slower connection, a change that’s intended to ensure that stories are available as a user keeps scrolling.

Facebook explained: “For example, if you are on a slower internet connection that won’t load videos, News Feed will show you fewer videos and more status updates and links.”

Additionally, if a user is on a poor internet connection and their News Feed is loading slowly, Facebook will download the story they’re currently looking at rather than a series of News Feed stories. And if a user has a congested or poor quality connection and Facebook is unable to load any new News Feed stories, it will display stories that loaded on a previous visit.

What this means for brands

This update is specific to user experience and shouldn’t affect Pages.

Viral hoaxes

On December 4, 2015, Facebook announced a change to News Feed prioritization aimed at reducing the prominence of viral hoaxes.

The change came about as a result of the platform’s daily user surveys.

Facebook explained in a News Feed FYI post: “With this update, if a significant amount of people tell us they would prefer to see other posts more than that particular viral post, we’ll take that into account when ranking, so that viral post might show up lower in people’s feeds in the future, since it might not actually be interesting to people.”

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Facebook.

This update follows a January 20, 2015 change regarding hoaxes. That update reduced the distribution of posts that users had reported as hoaxes. It also added an annotation to posts that had received many of these reports. Facebook was clear to specify: “We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy.”

What this means for brands

Facebook explained in a News Feed FYI blog post: “As viral posts are typically anomalies, and not an important part of distribution for Pages, we don’t think this change will impact your Page’s distribution.”

Hide

On July 31, 2015 Facebook made an update to how News Feed takes into account stories that people have chosen to hide. Facebook explained that a small subset of users hide a high number of stories in their News Feed, including ones that they’ve liked or commented on.

In general, News Feed recognizes hide as a signal that a user wishes to see less of a certain type of post. In the case of users who hide most of the stories that appear in their News Feed, Facebook says it won’t take hide into account as strongly as before.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained in a News Feed FYI post: “This update means that the small group of people who hide many stories will start to see more stories in their News Feed, and so will likely hide more stories overall. This means that the total number of hidden stories across Facebook will increase—so Page admins may see an increase in this metric in their Page insights. We do not expect Pages to see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update.”

Video

Facebook announced changes intended to improve video ranking in June of both 2014 and 2015.

The ranking factor introduced on June 23, 2014 considers both whether someone has watched a video and for how long they watched it with the intent of discovering whether that user would like to see more or less video content in their News Feed. Previously the Facebook algorithm for videos took into account likes, comments, and shares.

The update applies to all videos uploaded to the social network by users and Pages, but does not include links to other sites, such as video sites, as those are covered by different ranking factors.

On June 29, 2015, Facebook further updated how it ranks videos. Now the algorithm also takes into account certain actions that users take on a video, such as choosing to turn on sound, making the video full screen, or enabling high definition.

What this means for brands

In terms of the impact to Pages, the News Feed FYI post about the 2015 update explained: “This improvement means that videos that people choose to watch will reach a larger audience, while videos that people ignore will be shown to fewer people. As always, we recommend that Page owners post stories and videos that will resonate with their audience on Facebook.”

In contrast, the 2015 News Feed FYI post explained that Facebook does “not expect most Pages to see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update.”

Time spent on stories

On June 12, 2015 Facebook announced a change that would take into account the time a user spends viewing a story in their News Feed.

This ranking factor does more than simply look at time spent on an individual story: it looks at the time a user spent on a story in their feed in comparison to the time they spent viewing other stories.

What this means for brands

Facebook said that they don’t expect Pages to see significant changes as a result of this update to the algorithm.

Reducing overly promotional Page posts in News Feed

On November 14, 2014, Facebook announced changes to the algorithm intended to show users more stories from friends and Pages they care about and less promotional content.

There were already controls on the number of ads users see in their News Feed, but no such controls existed for promotional content posted by Pages.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

According to the feedback they’d received from users, Facebook shared the consistent traits of overly promotional organic posts:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

What this means for brands

This was a significant change for many brands.

Facebook’s News Feed FYI post explained: “As we’ve said before, News Feed is a competitive place—as more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased. All of this means that Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

Facebook noted that the change would not increase the number of ads that appear in users’ feeds.

Timely stories from friends and Pages

On September 18, 2014, Facebook made a change to the algorithm intended to show more timely stories in News Feed.

It included two new updates.

One factors in trending topics to ensure that if a friend or Page posts a story about a hot topic, that post is more likely to appear higher in News Feed so that the user sees it when it is relevant.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

The other takes into account the rate at which people are liking and commenting on a post. News Feed FYI explained: “If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date.” If posts are determined to be less timely based on this ranking factor, they’re more likely to appear higher in News Feed early on and lower at a later time.

This signal will also be taken into account when Facebook considers which stories to ‘bump’ in News Feed. The post explained that bumping is when Facebook resurfaces “stories that people did not scroll down far enough to see but are still getting lots of engagement.”

What this means for brands

Facebook said that they don’t expect the updates to have a significant impact on Pages.

The News Feed FYI post explained: “If a Page posts about a trending topic or if a post sees a high velocity of engagement early on that then drops off, that post may begin to see increased distribution early on and less distribution over time.”

Feedback about ads

On September 11, 2014, Facebook made changes to how the algorithm factors in ads.

This change, along with the one prior to it, takes into account ad hides—when users indicate they don’t want to see a piece of advertising content.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

With their earlier update to the algorithm (announced on September 27, 2013) Facebook placed more emphasis on the feedback they received from users about ads, including how often people reported or hid an ad.

The September 2014 change added another layer to this ranking factor. Facebook decided to also take into account the specific reason a user gave for not wanting to see an ad to use as a signal to determine whether or not they should show the ad to other users.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

Additionally, Facebook announced it would also be paying more attention to feedback from users who don’t often hide ads as a stronger signal.

What this means for brands

For the earlier update in September 2013, Facebook explained that the changes were intended to ensure that ads are shown to the people who want to see them most:

“This means that some marketers may see some variation in the distribution of their ads in the coming weeks. Our goal is to make sure we deliver the most relevant ads, which should mean the right people are seeing a specific ad campaign. This is ultimately better for marketers, because it means their messages are reaching the people most interested in what they have to offer.”

For their more recent changes, Facebook explained the impact for brands in a News Feed FYI blog post: “Most advertisers will see no change to the delivery of their ads or how their ads perform on Facebook. These updates are designed to affect the ads that a small set of people give us negative feedback on, and allow us to show people ads that we think are most relevant for them, and make sure advertisers are getting their messages in front of the right people.”

Implicit vs. explicit third party app shares

On May 27, 2014 Facebook made a change to the algorithm to prioritize explicitly shared stories from third party apps over implicitly shared ones in News Feed.

What this means for brands

If your brand has an app that publishes stories implicitly, Facebook for Developerssuggests considering the following options instead:

  • Share Open Graph stories explicitly
  • Share in a more personal way with the Message Dialog

Spam

On April 10, 2014 Facebook announced a series of improvements intended to reduce spam.

The update targeted three types of spammy behavior:

  1. Like-baiting—posts that explicitly ask users to like, comment, or share the post
  2. Frequently circulated content—photos or videos that have been uploaded to Facebook over and over again
  3. Spammy links—stories that use inaccurate language or formatting to try and trick people into clicking through to a website that contains only ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite Blog

Image via Facebook.

Facebook has since zeroed in on “spammy links,” also known as “clickbait.”

What this means for brands

In terms of the impact for brands, Facebook explained: “The vast majority of publishers on Facebook are not posting feed spam so they should not be negatively impacted by these changes, and, if anything, may see a very small increase in News Feed distribution. A smaller set of publishers who are frequently and intentionally creating feed spam will see their distribution decrease over the next few months.”

And looking specifically at like-baiting: “This update will not impact Pages that are genuinely trying to encourage discussion among their fans, and focuses initially on Pages that frequently post explicitly asking for Likes, comments, and shares.”

Topics users like

On February 24, 2014 Facebook updated the algorithm to show users posts from Pages that Pages they follow have been tagged in—something that already occurs with updates from friends. When a user is tagged in a photo, it may be shown to their friends, even if those friends aren’t connected to the user who uploaded the image.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained: “This means some Page posts that tag other Pages may be seen by new people.”

This is an update that brands can use to their advantage by sharing the love and tagging other Pages in their updates—so long as they’re relevant mentions!

Text statuses from friends and Pages treated differently  

On January 21, 2014 Facebook changed the algorithm to treat text status updates from Pages differently from ones posted by friends.

This is because Facebook realized that text status updates from Pages did not prompt the same behavior as those from friends (users who see more status updates from friends are more likely to write status updates).

The update means that text status updates from Pages will be treated as a different category of content.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained in News Feed FYI: “Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types.”

Simply put, text status updates posted by brands will likely not be seen by as many users as updates that include rich media, such as photos, videos, or links.

Relevant articles in feed

On December 2, 2013 Facebook made an algorithm change to prioritize high quality articles in News Feed.

They explained: “We’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on these stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

This update also added related articles, which are displayed to a user after clicking a link to an article.

Additionally, Facebook updated bumping—a process that resurfaces stories a user didn’t scroll far enough to see—to highlight stories with new comments: “As a result, people may start seeing a few more stories returning to their feed with new comments highlighted.”

What this means for brands

Facebook gave no indication that this change would impact brands.

Organic Page content

On August 23, 2013 Facebook announced plans to prioritize “high quality” content in News Feed.

Facebook built a machine learning system that uses over a thousand factors to determine if content is high quality. Those factors include:

  • How frequently content from a certain Page is reported as low quality (by being hidden by users)
  • How complete the Page profile is
  • Whether the fan base for a particular Page overlaps with the fan base for other known high quality Pages

What this means for brands

Facebook explained the impact of the change on Pages in a News Feed FYI blog post: “For most Pages the impact should be relatively small, but Pages that are seeing good engagement on their posts could see further increases in reach.”

The network says that the ideal Page strategy focuses on producing high quality content and optimizing for engagement and reach. They offered the following tips:

  • Make posts timely and relevant
  • Build credibility and trust with your audience
  • Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”
  • Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”

And be sure to fill out your business’ Page profile completely—Facebook cares if you’re missing information!

Resurface old stories

In their first News Feed FYI blog post on August 6, 2013, Facebook announced a change to the algorithm that would allow old stories that a user didn’t scroll far enough to see to reappear near the top of News Feed.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

Stories would only be resurfaced if they were still getting lots of likes and comments. The update applies to organic stories only and does not impact how paid content appears in News Feed.

What this means for brands

Facebook explained the impact of the change for Pages in a News Feed FYI blog post:“For Page owners, this means their most popular organic Page posts have a higher chance of being shown to more people, even if they’re more than a few hours old.”

How you can impact what appears in your News Feed

The Facebook algorithm takes into account a ton of factors when deciding what to show in a user’s News Feed, including who posted the content and whether the user tends to like, comment on, or share similar content. But Facebook also offers some tools for users who want more control over what appears in their feed.

Facebook first introduced News Feed controls on November 7, 2014, then updated and expanded those controls on July 9, 2015.

The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach | Hootsuite BlogImage via Facebook.

With News Feed preferences, users have the option to:

  • Select friends and Pages to see first in their News Feed so that they don’t miss any of their posts
  • Find new Pages to connect to through Page suggestions based on the types of Pages the user has liked in the past
  • Select friends and Pages to unfollow via a list of the top people, Pages, and groups that have appeared in their News Feed in the past week
  • See a list of all the friends and Pages they’ve unfollowed and re-follow any they wish to get updates from again

A lot goes into managing an effective brand presence on Facebook. Simplify the process by using Hootsuite to share video, schedule posts, monitor engagement, and track the success of your efforts.