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Believe it or not, you can expand your Facebook reach now, in a few simple steps.
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According to a 2011 comScore report, brands that post an average of five to seven times per week only reach about 16% of the fan base they have worked so hard to establish. While Facebook has never officially divulged exactly how to gain greater reach -- though it did release an ad product, Reach Generator -- there are several tactics known to work.
First, let’s review the EdgeRank trifecta. EdgeRank is the algorithm used by Facebook to determine the most screen-worthy content. Three factors, multiplied together, determine your content’s value: affinity, weight and time. The affinity score is based on how often a fan has engaged with your brand content in the past, including page visits. Weight, or popularity, is determined by the type and quantity of engagement your post receives (e.g. Likes, comments). Lastly, time and the decay of your post matters; as your content ages and engagement wanes, it becomes less relevant and therefore less likely to appear in a user’s news feed.
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Understanding the EdgeRank algorithm is the first step for brands to improve their content strategy. Here are five free ways to help you expand your brand's reach on Facebook.
1. Know Your Audience
Study your fans to know what content they want, when they want it and the form in which they want it. Chad Wittman, founder of EdgeRank Checker, a site that helps brands better understand EdgeRank, suggests that brands should evaluate their fans’ historical consumption patterns. “Dive into Facebook Insights as much as possible,” says Wittman. “Are your fans consuming content at work, on a mobile device or only responding to video? Do they prefer one or two posts per day?”
Catering specifically to your audience will result in more engagement and increase your chance of appearing in a fan's News Feed.
2. Practice Brevity, Be Topical and Don’t Play Hard to Get
Elisabeth Diana, of Facebook, stresses the effectiveness of succinct posts. Studies show that lengthy Facebook content goes unread and discourages action on the part of the user. Brief, easily digestible posts make it easier for users to consume and interact.
Diana and Wittman agree that timely posts increase fan excitement, generate spikes in engagement and allow for further reach. Keep an eye out for relevant current events and don't forget to post about holidays if they're consistent with your brand voice. Fans want to engage -- sometimes they just need an invitation.
Don’t be coy with your call-to-action. Be clear and blatantly tell your fans to “like,” comment or share your post. You’ll be surprised what can you get if you just ask. These actions generate reach, since they'll end up in their friends' news feeds.
3. Mind Your Content
It’s still true that no matter what you try, quality content is the most important factor to expand Facebook reach. Provide your fans with valuable content to properly enable your posts to go further. When it comes to format, photos are the most engaging form of content that brands can post. Eye-catching and easy-to-consume photos are also weighed more heavily by Facebook when determining EdgeRank.
Asking questions of your fans is a great way to encourage comments and keep your post visible. Research by Buddy Media shows that employing the words “where,” “when,” “would” and “should” increases engagement. Posts that include “would” consistently yield the greatest interaction because they allow fans to agree through a simple “like” rather than writing a comment.
Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of Wildfire, notes that some of the most sharable content are “personality” apps, including quizzes, trivia and “pick your favorites.”
"All these applications serve to shine a spotlight on a user’s persona," Ransom says. "These apps allow the user to broadcast to his friend’s elements of his personality, his trendsetter nature, his style and aptitude. And it turns out, users really enjoy doing that!”
4. Engage the Engagement
Fans love to know their favorite brands are listening, and many social media managers often overlook this. Answer questions asked in the comments section or simply say, “Thanks!” Be sure to tag the fan in your response so he's notified of the special attention. The fan will often “like” your comment, thus continuing the conversation and further boosting your visibility.
5. Turn Your Fans’ Friends into Fans
Facebook Insights provides administrators with the "Friends of Fans" metric, telling admins just how many people they can potentially reach organically. Friends of fans are extremely important -- they are more likely to visit a brand’s Facebook Page or website, purchase a brand’s products and become fans themselves. Organically, these Facebook fans can easily be reached through the Facebook Ticker, which tracks all user activity. Keep your fans interacting with your brand, and their friends will see all "liking" activity, comments and posts in the top right of their news feed.
Now, for a not-so-organic tactic: Facebook Ads. With Facebook Ads, you can specifically target just your fans’ friends and leverage their relationship. Facebook Ads are not just a way to reach your fans’ friends, but also your competitor’s fans and your own fans.
General Motors recently pulled $10 million dollars in Facebook Ads, and EdgeRankChecker’s Wittman notes that Facebook Ads are to be used to amplify your free content and should be a complementary, not primary, way to communicate with more of your fans. Ransom agrees, “In order to significantly extend reach and watch your messaging and branded content spread to 90% of your fan base and beyond it, an investment in Facebook advertising is necessary.”
The Bottom Line
Despite the various theories, studies and tactics, Wittman nicely wraps it up with one main point: “The bottom line is that Facebook wants people consuming content, so its algorithm rewards the brands that create the coolest content.”
Follow these guidelines to help disseminate your posts and allow Facebook’s algorithm to work for you.
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This story originally published on Mashable here.