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Amanda Harvey
Amanda
Harvey

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Understanding Facebook algorithms: better targeting your ads

Last modified: 2018/08/09 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

As the Facebook platform continues to adapt year after year, their user experience has become a main point of interest. This social media giant continues to look for ways to make online conversations and experiences as meaningful as possible. This means some significant changes and updates to their algorithms. These changes have created a sense of curiosity and concern for content marketers, brands and businesses especially regarding organic reach for advertisements.

But, how about we think about the ways in which these algorithm changes can work to your benefit? It all starts with a little understanding! We’re here to offer some inside information about how to better target your ads so that you can best utilize the current Facebook algorithms.

How do Facebook algorithms work in 2018?

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source: unsplash

Let’s think about Facebook from the perspective of an individual user. When a person signs into their account, they have the possibility of viewing thousands of different posts that appear in their newsfeed. The algorithm works by arranging posts as suited to this individual's wants and needs, as each user will be more likely to interact with content that is specifically targeted towards them. The algorithm has been broken up into further content categories and these are as follows:

  • Inventory (content available);
  • Signals (considers the content itself);
  • Predictions (considers the individual user);
  • Overall score.

These are the key factors of the Facebook algorithm, and as such, they are in place to provide each user with the best possible overall experience. For brands and content marketers, it's important to focus on the Signals category. This is how they determine how to create and structure posts in order to increase the visibility of your content. 

Before the current algorithm updates, Facebook used specific signals to determine how posts should be shown to individual users, directly affecting their content ranking. Some of these factors were as follows:

  • The average time a user spends on a piece of content;
  • If the content is shared as a link on Messenger;
  • Overall engagement;
  • Comments or replies on the piece of content;
  • Time of day when content is posted;
  • How informative the post is.

The most recent algorithm updates have changed how Facebook organizes individual newsfeeds, as they now look for signals that focus heavily on active interactions, such as comments and shares. Now, some of the more important factors for your content to be seen are below:

  • Link sharing over Messenger;
  • Multiple replies to comments or videos;
  • Engagement with a brand post;
  • Comments and likes on specific pieces of content.

It’s also important to mention that Facebook has begun privileging person-to-person content rather than public content from brand Pages. As we mentioned earlier in this article, Facebook has restructured their ethos to place value on interpersonal content rather than brand to person connections.

This means that person-to-person content is valued in a different way, sparking more active engagement from users. Another note is that these algorithm changes look for story-driven content, and as a result, brands and content marketers should begin to focus on ways to make content personal and conversational. Clearly understanding these ranking factors is the first step towards better targeting your content.

How to better target your ads to rank higher!

Now that we’ve carefully considered the type of content that Facebook will favour in the newsfeed, we need to further find ways to make sure the content you’re putting out into the world is seen as active rather than passive. As we’ve mentioned, active interactions hold much more weight in terms of how content is organized. These interactions involve some form of sharing, commenting or interacting. In the opposite regard, passive interactions are those which involve neutral actions: these are things like clicking, hovering over content or watching.

In 2018, commenting holds the most weight when it comes to the Facebook algorithm. If a discussion has generated on one of your posts, it will have a much higher chance of ranking in the newsfeed than one without. For example, live videos are an excellent way to engage viewers towards conversations and as such, these have a much more significant engagement rate than regular videos.

However, you should be looking for ways to engage users in organic conversations rather than baiting them into commenting. Baiting comments will result in a demotion of your posts. If you know a thing or two about social media marketing, you should already be focusing on posting meaningful, creative and engaging content rather than empty click-bait articles. 

Sharing is another huge factor in the realm of the Facebook algorithm. There are two distinct types of sharing on this platform, and they are people sharing links or content within Facebook messenger and direct engagement with publisher posts as shared by friends. In this regard, Facebook places weight on posts that can be shared both publicly and privately.

Another point is that user engagement, comments and conversations on posts hold more weight than someone simply sharing your post. Posts which have been shared and continue to generate comments will have a much wider reach than those without comments.

Lastly, reactions are another key factor in the Facebook algorithm. Reactions are considered a form of active engagement and this is a sure-fire way to help brands actively reach more users!

Spring into action!

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source: unsplash

So, what can you do with all of this information about the Facebook algorithm? Businesses and brands using the platform should look to focus on creating the most meaningful content as possible, and this will lead its way to increased visibility and reach. Shift your focus to creating content for a specific audience. Instead of creating content with your brand in mind first and users second, we are recommending that you look for ways to spark meaningful and emotional-based engagement.

Creating content for a specific audience will require you to truly understand the needs and desires of your specific audience. What are their challenges and motivations? What does your audience care about? Everything you share on Facebook should serve as a way to work towards engaging with one of these core questions. This way, your followers will feel compelled to interact with, comment on and share your posts.

Next, post content that will naturally spark meaningful interactions. Video is an excellent method to generate a wider reach, as it works in powerful ways to engage with users. In general, video performs much better than images or links in terms of engagement. Explore the ways in which videos can be used to communicate information about your business or brand and see if this creates wider and far-reaching forms of engagement. If video content marketing doesn't work for your specific brand, explore other options! Remember, be creative and the possibilities will be endless. 

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