Facebook’s “Secret Sauce” for Engagement Unveiled

facebook edgerankIn yesterday’s post Is Facebook Losing Its Effectiveness for Businesses, Nonprofits & Churches? we looked at how Facebook has made changes that are now causing only a small percentage of the people who like a Facebook page to see the updates posted by that organization (unless you want to pay Facebook to promote each post).

It is worth noting that the number of people who see each update varies greatly. In the examples cited in yesterday’s post, the most viewed updates were seen by about 3 times as many people as the least viewed updates. That begs the question…

Why are some updates seen more than others? And what if anything can we do to increase the number of people who see each update?

Facebook decides who sees what updates based on an algorithm called EdgeRank.

The company Wildfire recently analyized over 60,000 Facebook brand pages and 1 million posts and published their analysis in a whitepaper titled EdgeRank and Your Brand. United Methodist Communications took that whitepaper and boiled it down to an extremely insightful blog post.

Here’s how the UMComm post explains EdgeRank…

The EdgeRank algorithm consists of three main factors: affinity, weight and time decay (read Facebook Timeline: Explained and debunked for a better definition). Briefly, when you post content that “weighs” more (i.e. photos), your “affinity” score (based on your page’s popularity) goes up. Time decay scores continually decrease, but if people “share” your post, then it has a longer shelf life. Each “share” resets the “time decay” meter for that specific “share” and creates more engagement.

It’s also important to note that Wildfire found photos to be the most engaging type of content followed by videos and then status updates and finally links. Including more than one kind of content in an update improved engagement.

There’s lots more great info in the blog post and whitepaper, which I highly recommend reading, but I want to keep this post short and wrap it up with some very practical advice…

7 Tactics for Getting your Facebook Content Seen by More People

1) Post photos and videos from organization events. When you do, tag the people in the photo/video. That will encourage them to like, comment & share the media.

2) When posting an announcement, include an image and a link to where a person can take action.

3) Ask questions. This encourages comments and discussions, and the more comments the higher the EdgeRank and the more people who will see it.

4) Include calls to action with your updates like “Please like and share this post with your friends!”

5) Post at optimal times. Chances are if you post to Facebook at 2 AM few people are going to see the update. But when do most of your folks view Facebook? First thing in the morning? During business hours? Evenings? It depends on your organization, so experiment and measure results.

6) Organize and email/text your virtual street team. Put together a core group of 5-10 people who love your organization, are engaged in social media and want to promote your content. Then immediately after you post something to Facebook, email or text the team and ask them to like/comment/share. Their engagement will increase an update’s EdgeRank causing other people to see it.

7) Tailor your content for each social media platform. People engage with content differently on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t simply copy and paste a tweet into Facebook (or use a tool like Hootsuite to post to several social media sites at once.)

Discuss…

  1. What are your thoughts on EdgeRank and these suggestions for getting content seen by more people?
  2. Are you going to start implementing any of them?
  3. Got any other suggestions?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

10 Responses to “Facebook’s “Secret Sauce” for Engagement Unveiled”

  1. Paul,
    You are dead on here. It is all about the content. Preparing to teach some workshops I purchased advertising in order to have the experience. It did great things for my page traffic.

    But then I watched as I posted good engaging content. It was even better for page traffic. Check out the graphic on this post.
    http://churchsocmed.blogspot.com/2012/11/facebook

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Good post, David. Love the comparison between the results produced by ads and good content. I do think good content is very important, but I think there's something even more important thank content – http://occ.tc/s3Ws2t

      Looking forward to continuing the conversation tonight.

  2. Great post Paul.

    One thing I would add to #6 is to have some of your virtual street team delay their sharing instead of everyone sharing the post at the same time. This isn't some tested/proven idea, it's just a theory I have from the info about EdgeRank and common sense.

    The EdgeRank part is that the info indicates that the Time Decay is reset when a post is shared again. So, by having some members of the team delay sharing, they can be resetting that Time Decay.

    The common sense part is this…There's a good chance that there's a lot of overlap in friends of each of your virtual street team. So, by spacing out some of the sharing, those overlapped friends have multiple times during the day when they can see the post instead just trying for the one, best time of the day.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Hey Kurt, interesting idea. I was thinking getting the whole team to like/comment/share as early as possible would cause a big jump in EdgeRank early which would take a while to tail off (especially if it causes other likes/comments/shares), but you make a good point that spreading out the likes/comments/shares over time could produce better results especially if there's a lot of overlap in the street team's friends. It'd be an interesting experiment to run.

      Chances are that if you email/text the street team, not everyone would be available to engage right anyway, so it'd probably get at least somewhat spread out over time naturally.

  3. Definitely some intriguing thoughts that I'm going to keep in mind! As I look toward our website, our FB Page, etc… I think I may consider taking this into account and looking at advertising, streamlining, and improving how our church FB Page (and as a limb, our Website) can be more effective. Thank you!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Hey Terry, glad you found it helpful. I'd love to hear more about the specific changes you make once you figure that out.

  4. Which is better – having a page and getting your members to 'like' it, or setting up a separate account where you can add church goers as friends? I have a 'page' set up for our church and maintain it, but I've seen other groups and organizations set up as a regular account. I wonder if that would that get around having to pay to get your updates read?

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      I like your "outside the box" attempts to solve the problem, however, profiles are intended exclusively for people, so to set up a profile for your church would violate Facebook's Terms of Service.

      Also, status updates from individuals/profiles face the same EdgeRank fate as those from organizations/pages. They get filtered and there is a "promote" option which you can use to pay FB to ensure all your friends see your update.

  5. I like that idea of Virtual Street Team. I think I will implement that. I did send a FB PM to a few friends when I started an new fanpage to get them to like it before I promoted it. That worked well. Thanks. I'm always wanting to learn about edgerank.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Cool! I'd love to hear more about how things go with your virtual street team. Would love to have you guest post about it and share what you learned from your experience.