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Unraveling the Facebook Algorithm
The Problem: How do I prepare for Facebook’s new changes? What can I be doing now to drive engagement? The Solution: Focus on video &...
- 10 Videos (29 min)
- 1. Overview
- 2. Video is Facebook’s Best Friend, So it’s Yours Too
- 3. Video Without a Big Team
- 4. Partner Posting & Shares
- 5. Facebook Live & Recirculation
- 6. Leveraging Facebook Live
- 7. Recirculation Tactics
- 8. Partner Posting
- 9. Predicting Facebook’s Future Changes
- 10. Actionable Take-Aways
How do I prepare for Facebook’s new changes? What can I be doing now to drive engagement?
Focus on video & user experience, Facebook Live, direct uploads, and Facebook Watch groups and brand partnerships.
- Wired’s direct upload videos performed 3x better than linked posts in engagement and 2x better than photos.
- 90% of what will make your videos do well is still the actual content.
- Square videos perform 2x better than wide angle.
- When Facebook launches a new feature, they give a bump in engagement to anyone using it.
- A rising tide floats all ships – the more engagement you receive on shared posts, the more your posts will increase as well.
- Less than 10% of your audience will see any one post, so recirculation is always something to consider.
Hey, I am Alex Baker Whitcomb and today I am going to show you how to unravel the Facebook algorithm.
Facebook can be one of the hardest social media platforms to find success on. There is all kinds of changes, the algorithm can be a mystery. But today I am going to help you understand where these changes come from and figure out how to predict it and take advantage of that.
After this session you will be able to take advantage of what Facebook prioritizes most, you will know how to avoid the penalties and you will be able to predict the changes that are coming in the future.
So before you ask the question I am going to start with why are we listening to this guy anyway? So, for one I am work at Wired I am the creator of Wired social video strategy. When I got to Wired for the most part we used social media as a distribution platform. We used it just too just take things from our side and put them into Facebook, twitter et cetera. We do things pretty differently now and we will get into that as we go on. I worked in the roll out of new products at Facebook headquarters I don’t have Mark’s personal cell phone but it’s getting into the mindset of what a company like Facebook does when they roll out something new.
How do they prioritize it, how do they think about changes, what are they hoping for, for their users? I don’t have all the secrets but just having that overall idea really helps, and don’t claim to be a social media master. This is something I see a lot and I think that if you are claiming your social media master there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media actually works. It is something that moves and it changes all the time and you can’t, if you are a master of it today you won’t be a master of it tomorrow. It is something you have to constantly adapt to, so think it is important that people know that there is no real mastery of it. Even Facebook doesn’t have it mastered.
Video is Facebook’s Best Friend, So It’s Your Too
So Facebook has changed a lot, there have been a lot of changes in the algorithm that we have seen some of them are here on the screen and a lot since we made this slide. Especially lately in the news and it can be hard, one of the harder social media platforms to understand when it comes to these changes. They range, they change I think Facebook has changed much more than maybe other social media platforms have. The algorithm can be very hard to predict and that can be incredibly frustrating for you as a marketer or just as a personal brand. But there are ways to take advantage of this and when something is changing that is an opportunity to adapt and change. So how can you take advantage of it? Instead of falling behind all that is changing all the time. Let’s talk about some ways. One I think is, I think most people know that video is Facebook’s best friend so it is yours too. Video is prioritized the most in the algorithm more than any other type of post. So Wired video posts perform three times better than link posts and two times better than photos. That is significant thats huge, that is why you are seeing such a big pivot to video. The pivot to video is both because Facebook pivoting to video but it is also Facebook pivoting that and prioritizing that because other people.
You, me other brands are pivoting that way so you can shift the algorithm based on what you do. Square videos perform better ore than two times better than why in engagement. So why would square video perform better than Y? Well, it is certainly not because it looks better. It is really because it stands taller in the news feeds, so when you have a horizontal video it stands like this and when you have square it actually heightens it gets taller and it is a little harder to scroll y. so it is not surprising that you perform a little better in engagement. When you get to a vertical video of how the square player is as high as it gets.
So when you do a vertical now you are just squeezing in and you have got those black bars in the slide and it doesn’t work it is gone. Another thing I would really like to note about this is that ninety percent of what is going to make your videos do well is going to be the content of your actual video. You can’t just put u bad content and then make it square and make it a video and think it is going to do well. There are badly shot vertical videos that blow up all the time because the content is so good. So this is just a way to bring you from ninety to a hundred, not a way to totally save a strategy. Facebook watch video out performs on paginated video, so Facebook watch is a relatively new portion of Facebook where it s kind of a response to a Hulu type thing where you can have a series. This can be longer kind of short episodes and they perform better than on paginated video. Now why is that? This is one of the core points about the overall strategy on Facebook. When Facebook comes out with something new, they are going to prioritize it okay? They are a business any business is going to do that to get its users on board. So when Facebook watch comes out why does it perform better than on paginated video?
Because it is new, because they need to get this into the system and get you on board. So that is a great thing to know. Facebook lives get more engagement than link posts and on average more comments it relative to engagement than produce video. So Facebook lives don’t usually get more likes or even shares than a produced video. But they do get more comments, two things about that; one is Facebook is trying to drive comments. That is one of the algorithms changes, so Facebook lives becomes a much more part of your strategy when you know that they drive comments. Why do they drive comments? Because Facebook lives is a conversation. People can ask questions and you can respond they can’t do that with produced video it is just if they have a comment. When you are on Facebook live they can say anything they want and it drives up the comments which drives it up in the algorithm since they are starting to really prioritize that. This is sort of a side note, burned in captions receives ten percent higher engagement than SRT captions.
SRT captions are those ones you upload in the reason for that is burned in when you actually put it into the video file. They can be bigger or they can have your branding, they can move it is just a better experience for someone who is on Facebook.
Video Without A Big Team; 1. Video Cuts
So what if you don’t produce a lot of video? This is something that I get a lot and something I have thought about a lot at Wired we have a video team and most people don’t have a video team.
But we do actually have to deal with this. Because our video is relatively small and we produce maybe three to five videos a week but we post three to five videos on social. How do we do that? So you can still take advantage of Facebook’s video prioritization if you don’t have a team. Here is how, video cuts for an example we have a series called Google autocomplete where we interview a celebrity and we ask them the most googled questions about themselves. So when we make, we made one recently about Bill Nye that is one video cut. It can be 8 to 10 minutes long, it will have maybe ten questions we will do that one cut. Then we will do what I call social cut. We will do square, we will have it be much shorter and just be the best parts of it. We will have it have burned in captions that’s two cuts, no you can cut it up more and do singular questions. Is climate change real and just give that one answers and have that be a video cut. So if there are eight to ten questions suddenly, you can have eight, ten cuts of a video. Now I think you are want to pull the best questions you don’t want one that is cut out every part of the video. So usually I would say to referee, but even so if I did that I have five cuts of one video to post on social. So that is one way to stretch it out,
Partner Posting & Shares
Partner posting is another one. Partner posting is a largely confusing to many people and I am going to clear it up in some later slides for you.
But partner posting is huge because if I have Bill Nye and I have three partners and I send it out to those three and they give me videos well guess what? I have four videos now. It can be (26:31 sp) so to speak. So partnerships are great way to extend the length of how many videos you have. Shares, you don’t have to have a partnership with someone to share their contact. That is kind of the point on social media, so if you want to share other people’s content on to your page you can do that and that will give you more video prioritization. The more engagement you get, this is kind of a side note also but an important one. The more engagement that you get on singular posts the more your page is going to be boosted. The better other things other things on your page will do. Other posts are going to start to rise when one starts to rise. So it is in your best interest to share something that you think will do really well even if it is not yours because it will help you. It will help boost your following and it will get you that video prioritization that you want.
Facebook Live & Recirculation Overview
Facebook live you can do live anytime, anywhere for any reason and it doesn’t have to be produced.
So if you are feeling like you want to do free videos a day two, or even three of those it could be Facebook lives of you interviewing somebody else. You answering questions of you experiencing something and I think Facebook lives where they are just making coffee and answering questions. Open yourself up to your audience and have a conversation with them and recirculation. When I post Bill Nye let’s say if I post Bill Nye yesterday. I could post that same thing again in a couple of weeks; now you might have think that people are going to see the video twice. You are probably wrong; for the most part less than ten percent of your audience is going to see anyone post. So, if you try to do it a couple of weeks later and a couple of weeks after that. The likelihood that someone is going to see it twice is not very high. Also another way to re-circulate is based on news if Bill Nye announces that he is running for president then you can the post it again and it might even do better than in the first time. Because the topic is trending,
Leveraging Facebook Live
Let’s talk about how to take advantage of a Facebook live. Engaging in short copy is really important because people are going to come in and out and with the regular video everyone is going to see the first few seconds and see that introduction and know what they are getting into. In Facebook lives people are going to come in and the likelihood of them coming in at the beginning is very low. So you want them to understand exactly what they are getting into and not make them work too hard to get into that. Fifteen to twenty minutes has been the swift spot for us I think it changes. But the key is the rollercoaster, so when you are on Facebook live it’s not just going to say 200 viewers, 220 viewers. It’s going to dip and come up; it’s going to change between 300 to 220. 300 to 220 and eventually you are going to watch it go 280,200,260,180. You are going to see it starts to come down and at that point you and cut it off. This one that I have up on the screen was our genius editor and chief Nick Thompson and for all these reasons this live did well. But one of them is we paid attention to the rollercoaster, we got to the 15 to 20 minutes and it was actually going up still. So we ended up going for an hour and a half we actually just had to stop because Nick had other things to do. But that is paying attention to the rollercoaster; go as long as your audience wants you to go. React quickly, in this case the (30:08 meaning) had just voted to appear in that mutuality. We could have waited to do a produced video, we could have waited for an article but instead we opt on the news as it happened and we were one of the first major brands to really put anything on the table for it. Answer questions quickly, answering questions is sort of the point of a Facebook live otherwise you might just want to do a produced video. In this case it was something that, it was a news topic that was trending that was also confusing and having a real master of the subject like Nick at your disposal was a really incredible thing for people if people react to that. If you wait and do questions at the end a lot of people will leave because they are going to come in and they are going to ask their question and if you are not answering any questions they are probably going to live. So if they come in and their question is answered pretty quickly, they might be more likely to ask more questions. But also other people are going to go, oh wow! You answered this question quickly I am going to ask some questions and the dialogue really starts to flow. The last thing is use it when you don’t have the time and resources to come with the produced video. So in this case it was actually advantageous for us to go really quickly and respond. But you can just a Facebook live if you don’t have a video team or if you don’t have the time or if you don’t have the bandwidth to really do what you are hoping to do with video.
Reduce, reuse, recycle this is about recirculation. So we try to wait at least a week before posting again but there is no hard math on that. I try just no to overflow our feed with the same type of thing but for the most part no one is coming to your page. I know that is upright to hear but no one is searching Wired and going to our Facebook page they are just seeing it in their news feed. So you can repost and just try to be at least a week so you lower the chances a little bit that someone will see it twice but you can post fairly often. Cross post from other accounts you may have if you don’t know cross posting is a Facebook feature that allows you to post someone else’s video on to your page and it looks like your own made video. But they get all their video use and you get all the engagement, so you can have me to talk more about cross posting in another video. But if you have other accounts we have, for instance we have a Wired science account, a Wired culture account.
If I have Bill Nye I can post Bill Nye onto my Wired account then I can post Bill Nye onto Wired science and cross post it back to Wired. Now that video has shown up twice on my feed but on to different forms and that is really important if they come up in different forms they are not going to get deemed in the algorithm quite as much since they are coming from different sources. Watch the trending by the repost video that maybe relevant, so if you have pounds of catalog from your head of the kinds of videos that you have like the example I used before Bill run for President. Somehow he comes up in the news, I am watching the trending bar and I see him come up I know it’s time to repost that Bill Nye video. Schedule in advance, don’t trust yourself to post three or four times a day and watch the trending bar undo the absolute best video at the best time. For me right now wired is schedule and has three or four videos that are just scheduled ahead of time. That is because I just know I am going to get busy and I am not actually going to take the time to post the five things. I try to live some room, so I will schedule something in the morning, I will schedule a couple in the evening and I will leave maybe the middle of the day sort of open while I am at work so that I can decide the best things for them. But if you schedule in advance you will know that you will get enough video on your page and you won’t have to bank on you being free enough to post it.
Switch quickly to reposting and sharing, so you can just repost a video and cross post a video from other sections. You can also share back your own video and those are three different ways that you can get your video kind of back into the news feed pool if you will.
Partner posting, this is so important and I think it is confusing to a lot of people but I will be honest. It is confusing to major brands too. So let’s talk about what it takes to have a good partner. Brands should be in your real house but not direct to competition, as in any partnership you want to have some similar… you want to have some common ground.
But you don’t want to be actual direct competition because then you have nothing to offer them if they are exactly the same as you. So you want to get something that is in your space but they have got something that you want and you have something that they want. Remain true to your brand when I take on partner posts for wired, the thought that goes through my head is what are the things that they have that I wish wired published. I am not going to take things that we also published but I am going to take things that are so Weird and totally something we would build. But we didn’t and I am going to take this, because your audience expects certain things from you and it does not matter if it comes from a partner or shared or anywhere else.
You have a reputation to uphold here and you have got to uphold that in even when you have partnerships. So remain true to your brand even when you are appalling from other outlets. This is so important remember that your post on their page helps them too. It’s not just that you scratch their back they scratch yours. When they give you a video and it performs really well. They get the video views but you get the engagement so if there video on your page has actually helped you because the engagement soared into the roof because let’s face it. Most of the time when you get partner posts it’s their best performing thing. So they are going to perform well, it boost your following it boosts the other posts on your page. It’s a great thing for you and your approach on their page is getting you video views and exposure for sure. But they are getting all that engagement from that and it’s great for them too. So keep that in mind when you are thinking about equal partnerships. Be careful not to lose all your top priority positions don’t have thirty mediocre partners. Have five really good partners that have really good content that perform really well. Because if your top thirty posts are the best posts from other bands your content isn’t going to surface very much into someone’s newsfeed. If the five popular post are from other brands then you can fill in the others. At least your stuff is still going to be on the page wall you get engagement from this other partners. Trade analytics to make sure you are getting fair swap. Trade hard numbers, and make sure that what you are getting is right and this is actually it is sounds scary but it can be a huge advantage. This is how you can cook brands bigger than yourself because it doesn’t have to be one to one. You could share three posts from a much bigger brand and they share one of yours but if the numbers match up you are okay. So you can share as many posts as you want to get your exposure on a much larger publication and that is a great way to think about that and decide on the metric that you are both interested in. do you just want referrals to your website? Do you just want engagement to help boost your page? Do you need more video because you don’t have it? Do you have a lot of video and you need more content? If you decide what you want, learning what makes a fair partnership would be a lot easier as you go forward.
Here is another thing that we talk about a lot, sharing verses cross posting. When you cross post it looks like a native video it’s actually a little bigger there is not so much busyness going on around it and so when you want engagement you want to cross post because it looks just like a regular native video. The copy is a little more obvious but when you want followed, you want shared because your page is much more prominent. In fact when you cross post there is no mention of the other brand unless you mention it in the copy which I suggest that is a key part to partnerships I think. But even the mention of the copy is not as obvious as the shared National Geographic’s with the link that go right there. If you want following have them share it. If you want more engagement you should cross post.
Predicting Facebook’s Future Changes
This I think is the most important thing that you can walk away with today. We have talked about some specific things and how to take advantage of this Facebook changes. But how do you predict what is going forward; if you were Facebook what would you do? People like to think like themselves and they likely like to think as marketers and when Facebook comes out with all these changes they go why do that and that is frustrating that they have changed that. The day you start to think like Facebook is he day that it becomes a lot easier to be n Facebook. Don’t use words like, like and share in the copy so this is a change that Facebook actually made they changed the prioritization so that you are penalized for using that in the copy and people were outraged. But let’s think that through, is that actually good content from users of Facebook? Is that actually what people what your users want to see? No, no one wants to see click page, they don’t want to see you trying to trick the algorithm you might be able to trick the algorithm with something like that. But you will not trick the users and Facebook knows that and they don’t want you to be able to do that and they are going to come down on things like that, and you can’t be surprised when they do and in a sense it is to your own benefit. Your users don’t want that either, the Facebook is trying t help you do the right thing for the people that use Facebook and the people that use Facebook are the same people you are marketing too. Give real information from on the platform if I am Facebook I don’t want everybody clicking off into something else. So yes, if you just try to tease them and pull them somewhere else that is not going to so well on Facebook because the users don’t like I ad because Facebook doesn’t like it they are a business. That makes sense to me build a community don’t just be a distribution pushing to something else, don’t over sell.
I think this goes along with like and share but even if you are over selling they work temporarily to get your life at someone post and your reputation will suffer and overall that will hurt you and if you are over selling. If you are not being genuine on the platform and on social media you should be scared of Facebook changed because they want you to be genuine and the people who use it want you t be genuine. Anytime you are doing click big things, you are trying to trick the algorithm in some way you are over selling you are in danger of being affected by the next Facebook change and I think at wired almost every change except for a couple have really have not been afraid off because I think we are really user fist.
But there are a lot of brands who fall into that and that could be scaring. Drive comments, Facebook wants to be a community they wanted to be people having important conversations and discussions and communication. So is it really that surprising that they want to drive comments? No. so start to drive comments Facebook lives are going to be able to do that the next one groups. Groups are a way to drive comments that they didn’t have as much engagement as pages but now they are in the zone of trying to get people to come together and have discussions all off a sudden groups are a real deal. So when you see these algorithms changes like we are going to prioritize comments more.
Don’t be scared, think about how you can take advantage of that and push your game to the next level because the people that are attracted to you business they probably do want to be heard. They probably do want to comment and have conversations and build your trust and reputation. I just think if you are being genuine and trustworthy and you are upholding your reputation. For the most part these Facebook algorithm changes aren’t going to hurt you because you are exactly the kind of producer that Facebook wants. I you are making Facebook users happy then they are pretty unlikely to hurt you in the algorithm and I think that is an important thing to keep in mind.
What now, what actionable things can you take away from this today? Consider a group of watch page and even more than that consider anything new that comes out. At wired when they allowed 360 video we made one but the day that they allowed it. And it was terrible and the quality was not great and we didn’t know what we were doing. It didn’t matter it performed really well and every time you experiment like that you are feeding into their system and it is going to help you. So considering a group of watch page it really takes advantage of what they are prioritizing right now. Video and comments and it can be a great move into this future that Facebook is trying to create.
Come up with some Facebook lives, this can be just general Facebook live ideas. This could be daily Facebook lives ideas, this could even be news items that you think are going to come down the line that you want to be kind of ready for they are writing a real house. Have some in the back of your mind so you are not having to think about it every day. Try and come up with a few that are really in the real house and try them out and see how they go. Schedule recirculation, we talked about that. Don’t trust yourself to re-circulate five times a day, schedule somehow have a structure and leave yourself some legal room to get on top of trending news.
Think of 4 to 5 partners and go after them. Dream big, people need content you probably have something that they want or you wouldn’t be successful at all on social already and you can go after partners much, much bigger than you if you have something that they want and if you are willingly to make sort of an unfair trade which is very new to trade analytics. But if you are willingly to sort of free things from them then you put one wing back. This is going to help you get more content on your page, it’s going to help you connect in the right places. It is going to help you get exposed but it will also help your reputation. When a huge, huge brands share something of Wired’s that is good for us not just in engagement it is good for just our brand recognition. So these four to five partners could really change the game for you on social and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend in the business. Consider a set of video guidelines this is again don’t trust yourself to change each video as you go. Have an idea of what you are going to do thumb nails it is truly important because when you are scrolling that is what you are going to see first. Other format or you are going to be squared horizontal or vertical. On a sizzling show the first three seconds is what catches the but everyone just swipe them through. They only have a couple of seconds to really hook somebody in and nail down your metrics. I think actually speaks to a broader question and that is what do you want your Facebook page to be? Is it a distribution platform people just see it and they click and they go to your site? Or is it a community? And to me, I am going to give you a little personal advice. I think your page should be a community, people don’t like to be sold too. They love stories that involve people, they want things to be genuine, hey want a community and they want to talk, they want to have themselves be heard and they want to learn something and if you use it just as you are posting your old links. It isn’t dynamic enough to really catch somebody and if you use it as a community you are going to get more referrals anyway. Because you are going to be a trusted source so I think if you can really build that community and it will build the amount of followers that you have. It will build your brand reputation and you can become an expert in the field and who doesn’t want to listen to expert in the field? I think that is how you can predict this feature that Facebook is waving into. So that is all from me I hope this was helpful and we will see you next time.