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March 16, 2020

7 Ways to Beat the Facebook Algorithm and Get More Engagement without Paying for Ads

It’s hard to find an article about social media that doesn’t mention the continuous drop in organic reach of Facebook business pages.

And it seems like this drop isn’t stopping any time soon. In late 2019, Facebook rolled out another algorithm update which caused the reach to go down another 2.2%. This means that page owners can now expect only about 5.5% of their followers to see their posts.  

The rates are even lower for massive pages with millions of followers.

Yes, Facebook wants you to pay for ads if you want your posts to reach your followers. After all, they are a business too. They have to make money somehow.

But here’s an interesting fact: there are more than 60 million business pages active on Facebook. They could reach over 2 billion people. Still, only 6 million of them pay for ads. 

That’s 10%. What do the rest of them do?

Well, some of them are content with the tiny organic reach they have. Others find different ways to boost it.

Here’s what they do to avoid paying for ads and still reach more than 5% of their followers:

1. Post when your fans are online

Test various times to post. Take a month for this. Then analyze the engagement rate of your posts. At what time did you get the most reactions, comments, and shares?

If you use a social media management tool like Buffer, Sendible or Hootsuite, you will actually be able to find this report without any additional effort on your part.

The graph below shows the best times to post in order to boost your engagement.

Image via Sprout Social

You can use this as a starting point but do try to find the best times for your business. Averages can be quite deceiving.

2. Go native with videos

Yes, it’s easier to just paste a YouTube link in the Facebook compose box. You might even be tempted to think that you’ll shoot two birds with one stone: get engagement on your Facebook page and traffic to your YouTube video.

However, when you post a video directly to Facebook, it begins playing automatically as people scroll through their feeds. They will see the first seconds of it whether they click play or not. 

If the beginning of the video is good, they will be hooked before they know it and keep watching.

Speaking of videos, how long should they be?

Facebook have revealed that videos longer than 3 minutes get shown organically to more people. 

Still, this doesn’t mean that you should always create longer videos. As always, there is no one-size-fits-all and you should test to see what your audience prefers.

In general, the sweet spot is somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds. Longer videos might deter some people from committing too much of their time.

3. Spark conversations, don’t “just post”

It’s amazing how many people forget the “social” part in “social media”. If engagement is your goal, you shouldn’t act like a TV station that delivers the news and doesn’t need input from the viewers. Actually, even TV stations occasionally take comments from the public or create surveys, so there’s really no excuse for your online presence to look more obsolete than a TV show.

Here are a few things you can do to get the ball rolling:

  • Ask for your fans’ opinion – “Red or black — which one do you prefer for X car model?”
  • Tap into current events – “Who’s watching the Super Bowl with us tonight?”
  • Show genuine interest by asking questions that show you know your audience – “What’s your #1 marketing struggle right now?”

4. Interact and engage in a meaningful way

Drawing on the point above, remember to always answer comments. Whether it’s a conversational post or a “regular” post, you should always make the most of user-generated content.

It’s not just that your fans expect and answer (in four hours or less!). It’s also that posts with more user-generated content get a better organic reach.

The Facebook algorithm sees that a certain post has sparked interest and will show it to more people who might also like it. 

You can get the ball rolling by adding the first comment yourself – it can be a link that’s relevant to the topic of your post, a funny GIF or a few extra photos.

5. Go live

Your fans will receive a notification every time you go live on your business page. This is the safest way to reach almost everyone at the same time.

Of course, not all of them will watch or interact with your live video. Still, if you have something important to communicate this is the way to do it and reach more people.

One caveat, though: don’t abuse this feature. You shouldn’t go live more than once a week. And when you do, make sure that your video is interesting to your audience. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing fans.

6. Hold competitions and giveaways

Yes, everyone loves free stuff. A contest is bound to ramp up the engagement levels on your page.

Keep in mind, though, that contests and giveaways can be quite tricky on both Facebook and Instagram. Here’s how to make sure yours will help you meet your goals:

  • Always follow the Facebook rules for contests and giveaways. Ignoring them can result in having your page shut down. Permanently.
  • Deliver what you promise. Under no circumstances should you hold sham giveaways just to boost your numbers and engagement. Again, this could get your page shut down. Or, at the very least, the target of a lot of internet hate.
  • Show who won. Don’t leave people hanging. Let them know who won and even follow up with a post about the winner receiving their prize (if possible).

Bottom line: treat Facebook giveaways like separate projects from your day-to-day social media activity. And make sure you manage these projects accordingly.

7. Share curated content

You don’t always have to write about your own brand. In fact, you shouldn’t. 

At least 20% of your content should be curated from other sources. This shows that you are not just trying to sell your products or services but that you genuinely care about keeping your audience informed or entertained.

Pay extra attention to the sources you use. Inc.com, The Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Quartz, TechCrunch – all these are reliable sources of information. Stay away from shady websites with little authority in their field.

How to boost engagement on your Facebook business page without paying for ads – Conclusion

If you don’t want to pay for Facebook ads, then pay attention to what your audience wants and needs. It ultimately boils down to this: when you offer relevant content, people will engage with it.

Take a page from the BuzzFeed manual – people aren’t shy about commenting on branded posts. But they only do it when they care about it enough, when the post sparks enough interest.

Not sure how to achieve this for your Facebook page? We can help! My agency offers affordable social media marketing services for companies that need help monetizing their Facebook presence. 

Take a look at our social media marketing and management services and let’s talk!


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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.

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