Much is being written lately about the death of organic, non-paid reach and engagement on Facebook. And with good reason: Facebook has continually tweaked their algorithm, moving more and more towards restricting the reach of free content by brand pages and 'forcing' them to pay for ads.
As a Facebook user, I appreciate Zuckerberg's rationale (at least based on his public statements) that they're trying to protect users' experience by not having them bombarded by content from brands. By forcing brands to pay to get more exposure, they're cutting down on the number of brand posts that users see. This gives the user more of the content that actually want to see: their friends' photos and the latest annoying "Which [insert random movie character, city, or color here] are you?" meme. (OK, maybe we could do with fewer of those.)
But I am also the administrator of a brand page with 40,000+ followers, and a job description that includes, in part, an expectation that I'll be effective at reaching them. Furthermore, as a federally-funded nonprofit, we are prohibited from spending money on advertising, so I don't have the option to pay to boost my organization's posts.
So what to do?
So far, I have managed to maintain fairly consistent levels of engagement with our page's followers (See the graphic below). How have I done it? Here are my three tips for surviving on Facebook without spending money to boost posts.
1. Consistency. This is not just about posting regularly and maintaining a presence on Facebook, though those are important. Another thing I do is post similar types of content on the same days each week. Every Monday we post featured children available for adoption (I work in the arena of foster care adoption). Every Friday we ask a "Feedback Friday" question. And so on. I have found that if I vary from that,I hear about it. Oh, and engagement drops.
I also post at the same times of day every day. For us, that time is between 10-11 am PT, which I learned through a combination of testing and Facebook Insights analysis. It may be different for you. The point is, find your organization's best time, and be consistent with it.
2. Engagement: Speaking of consistency, consistently monitor for and respond to comments and questions. Lots of people talk about engagement through social media, but don't say you want engagement if you won't engage. And trust me, you want engagement. Not only is it better business, but it also helps boosts your posts ranking in Facebook's algorithms, increasing its visibility without you having to pay for it.
There's another way to engage besides just responding to comments and questions. One of the things we do is look for people who post questions on our wall that are really meant for the other followers. "Does anyone have any experience with..." is a common beginning of posts by our followers. If the question is a good one, I'll post a reply telling them we'll ask their question as a status to get more of our followers to see it, and then I follow through and do so. (This is a good source of some of our Feedback Friday posts.) The user who posted the question loves that we're listening to them and helping them out. The other followers love helping out a fellow user and having their opportunity to share their own expertise. And we have a post that now has high engagement, boosting our page's rankings and getting us in front of more of our followers.
3. Content: One of the things sometimes gets forgotten in the Facebook gloom and doom predictions is that content still rules. Good content, anyway. For the first two tips here to work well, the content you post has to be relevant to the audience and bring some sort of value. In our case, that's a steady stream of resources they want around foster care and adoption, links to profiles of children who are available to be adopted, and news that affects them (such as last year's renewal of the Adoption Tax Credit). Some content obviously does better than others, but with some testing and monitoring (again, use Facebook's Insights to see what's doing well), you can get an idea of what your audience is responding to.
Do you have other ideas of ways to maintain high visibility and engagement on Facebook without paying for it? Please share them below!