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How the Facebook Algorithm works and how to Outsmart it

If you read through this article, you will understand how to manipulate the Facebook algorithm and use it to make clever marketing decisions to reach the right audience.

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Many people (advertisers and non-advertisers) wonder what the Facebook algorithm is and how it works.  Now, the big question we always get is: what is Facebook Algorithm ?, how can you use the algorithm to gain an unfair advantage in the most popular social space called Facebook.

An algorithm: is a process or formula for solving a problem based on conducting a sequence of specified actions. It can be simply described as a well-defined procedure that allows a computer to solve a problem.

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Do you wonder how Facebook displays Ads that are relevant to your interest or activities online?, for instance, when you search for “ways to lose weight” on Google or Facebook, you will begin to see sponsored ads on Facebook that are related to weight loss or bodybuilding. This is the work of the Facebook algorithm. The algorithm crawls your activities online, gathers the data, and uses them to make advertising/marketing decisions.

Your interest, age, location, education, and other demographics are used for ad targeting by Google, Ad networks, and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…

Facebook has the luxury of data to work with because they partner with google and other electronic platforms/websites to share data that will be used for business purposes.

Your news feed is populated with user-targeted information from either those on your list or advertisers. This implies that Facebook only shows you what they want you t see.

Key tips about algorithms:

  • Google Algorithm: If you search for things on the google search engine, some websites will show up before others, similarly, ads related to what you are searching for, will show at the top of your page. Chances are that you will click on the ads above the search results because they are somewhat relevant to what you are looking for. Google algorithm is called a page-rank algorithm.

    Google Algorithm
    Image showing  how Google Algorithm works 

YouTube Algorithm: When you place a search on YouTube, you tend to see a couple of videos before others, this is because YouTube has programmed its algorithm to rank and give preference to some videos before others.

Youtube Algorithm
Image showing how YouTube  Algorithm shows search-related content

The special thing about the Facebook news feed algorithm

According to statistics, Facebook has a continuously growing population of   2.6 billion active users worldwide. This is however the platform with the highest number of social gatherings online, which is why Facebook remains the most used platform for digital Ads. You can hardly find a product that has no interested audience on Facebook. Most things people see on Facebook appear on the news feed. It is really important to know how to manipulate the news feed and trigger the algorithm to increase engagement with your content.

The algorithm was deliberately designed by the Facebook engineering team to only show you what they want you to see.  There are two ways  to show content on Facebook;

a) Through the direct friendship account: This is the basic  Facebook account where people directly connect by requesting friendship and accepting to be friends with others on Facebook using the “friend request” feature. Here, people can exchange content like videos, pictures, and text with others. The algorithm shows this to those on their friends’ list and to “friends of their friends” if the content is redistributed (shared) by those on their list.

b) Through the Facebook page: The special thing about having a Facebook is the flexibility it gives to create promotional campaigns and reach much more people as your budget can carry. With a page, Facebook reveals more data to you like, the number of people reached, actions taken by people who engage with your content, and the flexibility to extensively target people based on interest, behaviour, demographics, etc. The list of things to do with a Facebook page is so inexhaustible. Facebook pages favour advertisers more.

Facebook uses a machine-learning algorithm for its news feed, this technically means that the algorithm that controls what we see on Facebook can learn and capture details about me and you.  The things we see on Facebook are a product of our activity and behaviour online(on or off Facebook). The algorithm uses this data to decide what to show to you. This is called targeting.

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That’s not all,

If you read further, I will reveal the secret of using your understanding of how the algorithm works to favour your business and create ads that will be shown only to the right people who will take the action you desire like visiting your site, buying your product, service, etc. 

How to use a Facebook algorithm to the advantage of your business: 

1. The Facebook algorithm optimizes posts with video or photo more than a post with just text: Do a test by creating two different posts on your Facebook timeline, create post 1 with text only and post 2 with a video or photo. Watch the engagement from the two posts, you will notice that post 2 (with a video or photo) will outperform post 1 with only text. This is not magic, it is what works best for the platform, so the algorithm is programmed to give preference to video/picture content over content with text alone.

2.  The Facebook algorithm does not optimize the post with marketing terminologies: As mentioned earlier, Facebook has a special form of algorithm known as a machine learning algorithm,  this algorithm has a special feature called the “keyword tracking”.  With this, Facebook can determine your motive based on the keywords you use.

For instance, if you use keywords like: Buy this mobile phone now; the audience reach will be low because the news feed algorithm will detect the keyword ‘BUY’ and automatically conclude that you are trying to sell something. If you want this type of post to reach more people, then you have to sponsor the post. This is their trick to ensure that only paid ads convert reasonably.

If you are selling something to the organic audience use different words instead of the key marketing words like buy, order, purchase, add to cart, etc.

3. Facebook increases reach and engagement for nice, emotional or eventful keywords: If you create a post like Happy birthday my dear friend, congratulations, wow you look great and so on, the engagement tends to outperform posts with Ad related keywords, this is because Facebook gives priority to it users and any post that looks eventful will rank better on the news feed.

If you are creating Ads, you are free to use some marketing terminologies, but your post will perform better if you have good comments relating to acceptance, approval, product review, recommendation, etc. Facebook keeps changing its policy, your ads must meet the community standard else it may not work.

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What do you think?

Written by Ferdinand Anok


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