With a Facebook fanbase of over 70M+, you’d think McDonald’s would have a lively Facebook presence. Yesterday they posted a quick lifestyle video to their timeline. Care to guess how many newsfeed engagements they saw from that post? Well, as of this writing, 693. That includes likes, comments and shares. So how does a brand with such a large fanbase see such little engagement?

To understand the answer to that question, you need to consider how Facebook prioritizes content for its users.

For every 10 posts that get served to a Facebook user’s newsfeed, only 1 will be brand-related. Now if you’re thinking, ‘OK, I can live with being in a user’s newsfeed 10% of the time,’ not so fast. The remaining 10% of a user’s newsfeed (or in this case, a single post) is a battleground amongst all brands targeting that same user. As you can see, this becomes a real-time, all out street fight for newsfeed placement.

So if you want to increase the odds of successfully delivering your content to your audience’s newsfeed, what’s a brand to do? The key is to understand how Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes and rewards content. Newsflash, oftentimes this has very little to do with the content itself and more to do with your Page’s very own behavior.

Facebook used to be so much simpler, right? Build a fanbase. Post good content. Watch engagement spike. Repeat. So what happened?

The short answer is that Facebook decided to grow up and turn itself into a profitable business. In turn, this impacted the 1.18 Billion daily users and brands on Facebook.

Up until around 2011, Edgerank was the name of Facebook’s algorithm. To simplify it, Edgerank used 3 criteria to determine whether your brand’s content was worthy of distributing to fans:

1.    How relevant was it to the audience?

2.    How engaging was it?

3.    How long had the post been live?

Today, Edgerank has been replaced with an artificial intelligence process that learns as it goes…and instead of 3 criteria to determine the importance of your content, it now takes more than 100,000 factors into consideration. Think Facebook doesn’t want to get into the AI business? Think again.

Interestingly, a similar content prioritization process has been applied to your personal Facebook profile, albeit not as complex. For example, you may have 500 friends on your personal Facebook but have you ever wondered why you often see the same people in your news feed? Well, Facebook decided which friend’s content to show you based on your own user behavior. If you interact with a friend by liking or commenting on their content, or if you recently browsed a friend’s timeline, photo album, etc…Facebook puts a higher level of importance on that friend over others and prioritizes them in your news feed. If you haven’t seen one of your ‘other’ friend’s post in your news feed for a while, it’s not necessarily because they’re not posting. Rather, it’s likely because you haven’t visited their timeline or interacted with their posts. If you want to see more of that friends’ posts, it will require you to be more ‘active’ with them on Facebook. Get it?

It’s all about the algorithm.

To have success on Facebook, you must understand how to make the algorithm happy. A happy algorithm serves your brand content. So how do you make the algorithm happy? Here are 8 ways to begin the process:

#1) Seek to generate Reactions, Shares, Comments and Likes from your content. In that order. Facebook weights engagement like this favorably and rewards it with increased reach.

#2) Give fans a reason to make you a “See First” brand. There are likes. There are follows. And there are See Firsts. These are the different levels of a Fan relationship with your brand. Encourage your fans, especially the most engaged ones, to click ‘See First’ on your profile so that your content is guaranteed to appear in their newsfeed whenever you post.

#3) Daypart Strategies Matter. 75% of a post’s organic reach happens within the first 5 hours. Make sure that engagement in hour 1 is STRONG in order to convince the algorithm to aggressively serve that post for the remaining 4 hours. Bottom line, know when your audience is on Facebook.

#4) Check your creative. Facebook squashes reach on creative that doesn’t meet its guidelines. For example, it kills reach if you use text on graphics. If you’re using headlines, CTA’s, etc on creative, you’re limiting potential reach. Let your post copy do the talking. Keep the creative as clean as possible.

#5) Prioritize Video. It’s no secret, Facebook wants to unseat Youtube. It continues to prioritize video (including LIVE) over all other forms of content. Turn as much of your content into video as possible.

#6) Be an active Facebook Page admin. If all you’re doing is scheduling posts and engaging with fans on those posts, Facebook sees you as a lame duck. Conversely, Facebook rewards Brands with increased reach when they see the Page is active across the Facebook universe, interacting with other brands and users outside of your own timeline.

#7) Pay to Play. Using McDonald’s example, it’s obvious that relying on organic reach is not a strategy. If you’re a brand with 100,000 – 1M fans, you’re lucky to be getting 1% reach. If you’re a brand like McDonalds, you should probably be seeing .1-.25 reach of your fanbase (which in their case would be sizable). Either way, paid advertising on Facebook is not just a must, but extremely efficient when compared with other forms of advertising. In addition, the metrics available from Facebook are extremely rich and valuable. The other benefit to paid advertising on Facebook is that strong engagement will also help drive your organic reach numbers.

#8) It’s time to invest in content. If you don’t have a robust content strategy in place, create one now. Spontaneous content creation is great for events but most everything else should be planned in advance with a clear purpose. Whether video, stills, written content, infographics or creative, plan ahead.

Moral of the story. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Equip your Facebook strategy with the right tools and tactics to beat out the competition and secure your place in your audience’s newsfeed.

BJ Birtwell, President @ The Armory Agency