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Understand the Essence of Facebook Engagement

Published: October 29, 2013

Author: Chad Wittman

Facebook’s goal in the News Feed is to deliver the most interesting content to their users. Facebook uses a wide variety of techniques to define what “interesting content” is. One of their favorite techniques is to analyze how a Facebook post moves through their platform. This is also the most interesting area for brands attempting to market on Facebook. Brands ask “how do I get Facebook to think my content is interesting?”
Here’s reality: Facebook has become really good at knowing if your content is interesting. I’ve seen my fair share of brilliant plans to skirt around Facebook’s algorithms, but time and time again these loopholes get quickly shut down. Why do these techniques get shut down? Facebook knows if the content is truly interesting.
Facebook has access to unprecedented data. A time not all that long ago, Google began tackling the incredible task of “indexing” the web. The result was a fine-tuned search engine that delivered the best content to the right users. There is a reason they remain number one. Now Facebook emerges to tackle the job of “indexing” the social graph. They’ve made incredible progress since of the inception of the News Feed, but it still has a ways to go.
The incredible level of data that Facebook has access to now enables them to apply robust data analysis including machine learning to identify interesting content. This change now forces Facebook marketers to adapt their strategies. In the early days, simply understanding how many times to post, and what time of day to post, would cut it. The News Feed wasn’t saturated, and success was more easily attained.
Facebook can watch as a post moves through their platform. They can examine inbound links, geographic interactions, friend circle interactions, etc. They can begin to study “why” this particular post is engaging. They rely on triggers to estimate this impact. By creating feedback loops, they’re able to monitor too much or too little exposure. All of this is done to understand what will drive more engagement.
How Do The Best Brands Do It?
Nowadays, brands must identify what actually drives engagement at a user level. For example, a company like Nike has tens of millions of fans. These people have become a fan of the Page for a wide variety of reasons. One may be a fan for soccer, another for basketball, another because they think the logo is cool, maybe another for discounts. When Nike goes to publish content about basketball, this message could easily be lost in the news feeds of soccer fans, logo fans, or discount fans. Facebook will in turn look at this lack of interest, as an overall lack of interest in the brand, and begin to display the brand’s posts less frequently. Like I said, Facebook still has a ways to go.

Yet, Nike still has an incredible opportunity at hand. Yes, a post about basketball to all of its fans may fail. However, Nike can craft a supplemental Page called Nike Basketball to focus in the content to drive maximum engagement. When we narrow the focus to Nike Basketball, our options become more clear – but still a decision exists. What specifically about basketball? Shoes, clothes, athletes, maybe sports equipment?
Where Nike can really hit a “social” homerun is in determining what to talk about with these fans. Facebook uses big data to determine which objects should be displayed across the board; what if Nike used big data to determine what their fans wanted to talk about first? Where Facebook’s value really becomes exciting is the ability to discover this information. Facebook’s platform offers the opportunity to dive deep into your fans data to find out what they want to see in their news feed, before you publish it. This can be done with extensive research and data analysis of Facebook Page data.
What Does All This Mean?
In the search world, there is a very clear line between brands that work on Organic Search results and those that rely on Paid Search results. This separation is happening in the Facebook ecosystem, right now. A blend of both paid and organic is typically the optimal solution. In the meantime on Facebook, brands will start to try to carve out as much Organic Reach as they can get – to help reduce their ad spend.
It’s time to step up your game as a Facebook marketer. It’s time to start understanding exactly what your Facebook fans want. There isn’t enough News Feed space to go around, this space has become highly competitive. The brands that take the extra step will be rewarded; those that don’t will struggle. It’s time to begin to truly align fans’ expectations with your Facebook strategy.

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