…with the latest studies, stats and facts for what works and why + inspiration from 20 real examples from local and global brands kicking ass on Facebook
With predictions that Facebook reach is on the way to zero, and the latest 2017 figures reporting average organic reach of 8.9% and engagement at a low 4.3%, it’s no surprise marketers and business owners are pretty pissed off.
What does that mean though? If you have 10,000 fans and you’re coasting on average reach of 8.9% that means only 890 of your thousands of fans will see your updates *sad face emoji*
But this is nothing new.
Average reach was 16% in 2012. Marketers have been bemoaning the unfairness of it all for years. They’re YOUR fans right? They ‘opted in’ by liking YOUR page. So you should have a right to have your content seen by all your fans, surely?
If you’re going to rely on someone else’s channel to reach people, you’ve got to play by their rules. You’re on leased land people. Make the most of it while you can. And Facebook is not a channel you can ignore.
If your solution is to not be on Facebook – and you sell to the public (either direct or through resellers) – that’s probably a dummy move.
Don’t think I didn’t see that eye-roll. Hey, feel free to challenge me in the comments if that describes your company but you reckon you can’t possibly make Facebook work. I’m up for a challenge so will reply with what type of content will get you results.
Remember Facebook is not YOUR website, it’s not YOUR email database (you do have one right? and you do email them at the very least every two months, right?).
Speaking of email – ie: the second most effective way to get new customers after Google, and WAY ahead of social media – you might want to have a read of these after:
But I digress, back to Facebook….
If you create crap content (can we pause a moment to enjoy that accidental alliteration?), then you’re part of the problem. Create great content and reap the rewards.
Sounds simpler than it is, I know (hence this article).
The answer is NOT to pay
Many marketers like to point out that you pay to reach masses of people on pretty much every other channel, so make sure to budget aside for Facebook advertising too. Content not doing so well? Boost that baby.
Sure, there is a time and place to boost the occasional update and for Facebook ads – especially for competitions, offers, remarketing and the like – but for your regular content, that stuff you share once or twice a week? Nuh-uh.
You do NOT have to boost every post, and you ab-so-bloody-lutely can reach FAR more than a measly 8.9% for free, easy.
TIP: By the way, if you are going to boost a post, best practice has changed.
It used to be worth boosting a post quite soon after posting. Now it’s recommended to post just organically at first, wait 24 hours for organic reach to accumulate, then use some of your budget to boost your post. Wait for a further 24 hours for reach to accumulate again from the promotion, then apply the rest of your budget, giving it a second boost.
But if you’re reliant on boosting for reach, and your content isn’t getting you big reach organically for free, your content is the problem, not Facebook.
And if you’re one of those misguided companies who leave running their Facebook page to the intern just because they’re 20-something… Seriously people? Come on now.
Just because someone’s young and a ‘digital native’ means diddly-squat for them understanding what works and what doesn’t on Facebook for business returns – and (most importantly) WHY.
So, rant over (for now), and without further ado, let’s dive in to the 10 proven ways to dramatically boost your organic reach on Facebook for FREE.
1 – DIY, don’t copy
Yep, sharing content already shared by other companies on Facebook may tick the budget box, but the same as re-publishing other people’s content on your website or blog, it isn’t going to do you as many favours as creating your own.
A bit like Google does, Facebook’s algorithm ‘punishes’ sharing the same content by hiding your update below the original, or just not showing it at all.
Spotted great content that’s getting masses of engagement for someone else? Great. Don’t be a copycat. Be inspired. Put your own spin on it!
2 – Trending topics
Yes, I know sponsorship and copyright means you can’t use the name of whatever big sporting moment is the topic de jour, but you should keep in mind what upcoming trending topics are going to be and create content to tap into this algorithm booster (yep, one of many things Facebook’s algorithm boosts is when you share content on the topic everyone else is going nuts about).
So if your fans are likely to be talking about a topic, get in on that action!
Maybe it’s a big rugby or cricket game, or Mother’s Day or Christmas, or even a particularly crazy weather event (yes, I just recommended you talk about the weather).
If you talk about it too, Facebook’s algorithm is more likely to show your content to more people.
See, no mention of the teams or sponsor branding to be seen here, but Skittles nailed this one below, and you can bet their fans comments will mention the teams playing, tapping beautifully into trending topics:
You can have fun with this too by creating content around the many weird and wonderful National Days, like Sharpie did here by creating a stop-motion video for National Watermelon Day:
And this GIF they created for American Independence Day:
And another clever one for Father’s Day (yep, Sharpie’s Facebook page is well worth checking for creative ideas):
3 – Use Facebook’s favoured formats
Is it just me, or is your Facebook feed packed full of videos and GIFs too? Yes, that was rhetorical 😉
Keep up with the latest Facebook bells and whistles and be an early adopter. When Facebook first releases something new, they favour it in the newsfeed for what they show people. It’s in their own best interest to thoroughly test new things this way.
Plus, a big aspect of the Facebook algorithm that decides who sees what, is format.
If your fans watch a lot of video (doh), and you share a video, Facebook takes that into account if it’s a user’s preferred content type. So when a page your video-loving fan likes, shares a video, they’re more likely to be shown it.
Another benefit of GIFs, videos, 360’s, slideshows – anything that moves basically – is it stands out in the newsfeed.
Lewis Road Creamery’s one of many doing a great job with trying different formats, like this 360 photo where you have to look around and count the number of bottles to enter:
One even closer to home is this clever DIY GIF by Marley, where fans had to stop the GIF at the perfect moment to install the downpipe (yep, you read right – guttering, spouting, downpipes – on Facebook):
Like I said, just because you sell to other businesses doesn’t mean you can’t make Facebook work for you (for those not familiar with Marley, they sell to stockists like plumbing stores, Bunnings etc, not direct to the general public).
Another favourite brand I follow for creative ideas is Bellroy. They make beautiful use of eye-catching stop-motion GIFs and video to sell their premium wallets (well worth a watch on their Facebook page):
4 – Ask questions
I know, I know. There’s nothing more heart breaking for a marketer than asking your fans a question and getting no answers. *crickets*
You know what though? Put your big girl panties on and be brave, because questions work. In fact, posts with questions topped the charts in a huge study last year, coming out on top for the content type that got the most likes (more results from that study coming up).
Have a look back at what you’ve shared recently. What could you have rephrased to ask your fans what they think?
Oh, and don’t forget the good ‘ole ‘fill in the blank’ – an oldie but such a goodie.
Ahem… ‘My company’s biggest Facebook problem is __________’ (and yes, feel free add a comment below on LinkedIn with your answer if you like).
TIP: Another clever way to do this is encourage fans to answer a question by voting with reactions.
News media in particular have jumped on this one in a big way to gauge public opinion and boost engagement, like this one below from Stuff after the recent upset over the All Blacks vs Lions draw.
And using the same technique, below, went great guns for Marley:
As did this one asking a simple question, which organically reached over 70% of their fanbase!
5 – Learn from the best… (brands, format, day, time, length…)
Follow brands that are in the same industry as you, or who have an audience with interests similar to yours, and see what works for them.
Or just learn from the biggies like some of the brands featured in this article, and check out what some of most engaging companies on Facebook are up to.
I make it a monthly habit to check what big brands in the same industry overseas are sharing that is kicking ass when coming up with ideas for a client’s Facebook content for the month ahead.
Like this goodie below that gets reach through engagement by asking fans to zoom in on the image, then follow the clues to enter the competition – also from Lewis Road Creamery.
Although this is nothing new, plus Dennys did an almost identical post not long before these guys did (hey, like I said, be inspired by other big brands and put your own spin on it – it works!)
But why does engagement matter when you want reach? Because they go hand-in-hand.
If the Facebook algorithm picks up that one of your posts is getting lots of engagement (things like reactions, likes, comments, watches and shares), then they’ll show it not only to more of your fans, but to the friends of the fans who engaged. Win win!
Thanks to clever clogs with access to big data – like BuzzSumo’s 2016 study into the most engaging, shared, liked and commented posts using data from over 800 million posts – we know a lot of data-backed insights about the best types of posts:
- Best format for engagement? Questions, images, and videos. Videos get the most shares and questions get the most likes.
- Go off-peak. The best day for engagement was Sundays, but the secret to this is posting when there is less content being created by other users, meaning less competition in the newsfeed. For most brands this means weekends could be a sweet spot for you.
- Best length? Short. Very short in fact. Less than 50 characters!
- Share directly: Posts shared directly to Facebook outperform posts shared via a linked Instagram account. Same with video shared natively versus embedded from YouTube.
- Looong articles: If you do want to entice fans to leave Facebook, make it worth their while. Linking to longer articles (1,000 to 3,000 words according to the studies), outperforms links to short-form articles. Right now, this one is up to 1,780 words.
In general the best day is Sunday, but the best days and times isn’t a hard-and-fast rule as it depends on your audience. Try the end of the week (Thursday through Sunday), early afternoon (between 1pm and 3pm) and early evening (before 8pm).
6 – Be Human, Give Back
Some of the biggest brands in the world still take the time to put a human face to their brand, sharing photos of their team, connecting personally with their fans, and tapping into the feel good factor through supporting charities and the local community.
Zappos – a shoes and clothing retailer – is one of many who do this really well.
The brand’s aligned themselves with supporting animals and rescue shelters, like their cleverly named Friends With Benefits road-show travelling the US to support adopting rescue pets, and their Zappos For Good speaker series fundraising for animal shelters.
Posts with cute animals also happen to be like-bait on Facebook, win win!
7 – DIY
The rise and rise of YouTube is driven heavily by demand for DIY, from beauty bloggers to game play.
Want to know how to do something? Can’t get something to work? Do you call a tradie? Call IT? Nope, we Google it.
We already know video is the format de jour on Facebook right now, and DIY content is all over your newsfeed, from cooking and baking, to make-up and face masks, upcycling homewares, gardening, fitness… the list goes on.
Combine DIY and video, and voila! You’ve got Facebook gold.
Like Zappo’s clever combo here of celebrating National Chocolate Day (trending topic alert), with a short and sweet video (hehe, see what I did there?), for a DIY chocolate face mask:
Closer to home again, even Marley can take advantage of the love for DIY content, like this awesome make it yourself sprinkler for the kids using downpipes which they shared during summer…
Plus there goes that cute factor again, this time with kids 🙂
8 – Be inspirational
Okay, full disclosure time: If you’re one of my many friends who share endless quotes on Facebook, I’ve probably unfollowed you already, but unfortunately for me, this is a big thing for brands too.
Inspirational content, especially a beautiful image with a heart-felt or motivational quote, really does work for getting likes and shares, and therefore reach.
TIP: Don’t brand the image itself as this gets you more shares (remember your brand name and logo gets shared anyway).
Like this lovely example from Sharpie which cleverly shows off their product:
A fun twist (that’s more to my liking) that you’ll see everywhere as well are funny quotes, puns and memes.
TIP: Need some inspiration? Hang out over on Reddit “the front page of the internet” for ideas (and a few giggles).
Like this video from women’s clothing retailer Showpo:
9 – Educate
A combination of the trend for all-things DIY and inspiration, is educational content.
What can you share that adds value? That upskills your fans? Teaches them something helpful they didn’t know? Makes them think?
What’s extra clever about this type of content is how easily it can apply to a multitude of brands.
For example, a ‘how to pack smarter’ tips article or video could be shared by a travel agent or airline, a stylist, a luggage manufacturer or a clothing retailer, like this one shared by Who What Wear, a fashion and style blog:
And styling tips which are a solid-gold go-to on Facebook…
How about ‘how to plan your new bathroom’? That could be shared by a paint brand, a maker of bathroom furniture, a tap manufacturer, a makeup brand, a towel supplier, an architect, a building company and many more.
An easy way to come up with this powerful content is to ask your customer service and sales team what your new customers and potential customers FAQ’s and shared interests are.
- What do most people ask that you can create content on that gets them thinking about your products?
- What interests do you want them to associate with your products and services?
- What other products and services do they buy when they’re in the market for what you sell?
TIP: Get your team in one room, or just send out an email, and wait for the idea gold to roll in.
BONUS TIP: Check out your In-Market and Affinity audience insights in Google Analytics for more topic ideas.
Those two insights will tell you what else people who have visited your website are currently looking to buy (In-Market Segment), and what their hobbies and interests are in general (Affinity).
Like these examples below. You can see in this client’s In-Market Segments, that most people who are looking at their products are also buying and selling residential property, and spending on doing up their home and garden:
Then when you look at their Affinity data (their website visitors’ general interests), you get even more handy content ideas from their high interest in travelling, DIY, cooking, health and fitness:
DIY: Log in to your Google Analytics and open to the Interests area on the left, then go to Overview, or get more detail by going straight into Affinity Categories or In-Market Segments here:
Elite Daily is a content site that caters to generation y, and regularly share this type of content:
10 – Use your fans to create content
Last, but by no means least, is content you don’t have to lift a finger for that is hugely powerful.
Yep, you’d be surprised what fans will share with you if you just ask, and no, it’s not cheating. This is another win-win for you and your fans.
It’s real content from real people, and has the most power of all for building trust and credibility. It taps into social proof because it’s from ‘people like me’.
2 easy ways to get user generated content:
- Don’t be chicken – ask! Just ask your fans for their photos and tips. Try posing a question for fans to answer and encourage them to ‘add a comment’ or ‘share a photo’.
- Run a competition. Entry can be as simple as adding a photo of how they use your product. You’ll build up a nice library of content to use over time, such as the popular ‘fan of the week’ feature.
TIP: Remember to make sure you put in your T&C’s that sharing gives you permission to use their content. Alternatively, you can pick your favourites and just private message the fan to ask at the time you want to share it.
BONUS TIP: Don’t force people to leave Facebook to enter. Remember you can always get in touch with them direct afterwards to get a bigger photo or ‘interview’ them to write a full article if you need more. Taking people off Facebook to enter or participate greatly drops engagement and reach.
Sharpie does this particularly well, sharing fan content regularly, like this fan art they cleverly combined with the trending topic of Mother’s Day:
Well there you go!
I could go on, and on (oi, I saw that eye roll! Yes, I know I always write LONG articles), but I hope these 10 starter ideas for Facebook content that are proven to improve your organic reach for free have got you inspired.
Before you go, please take a moment to share this with your colleagues or network, or just email it to yourself at work to get those ideas humming for your next Facebook post! Thank you 🙂
PS: If you need a little helping hand with your company Facebook page, hit me up