Facebook Users: The Inconsistent Variable

There’s been a lot of talk about what Facebook’s recent Newsfeed updates mean for marketers. In short, content published by Pages is subject to scrutiny by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm before it appears in users’ Newsfeeds. If Facebook thinks your Page’s content is of interest to someone, it will appear in his or her Newsfeed. If not–well, not so much.

And so now the scramble. How do we as marketers know which content will make the cut? We know that posts with media attached (i.e. photos, videos, or links) are weighted more heavily. We also know that posts published through third-party apps are somewhat penalized. So is it enough for us to post only from Facebook.com and always attach some sort of media to our posts? No. Take this example from Stephen Hockman for instance.

This is a good question. Everything I’ve read lately tells me that Stephen’s post with links and photos should be getting a higher number of impressions. What gives?

The major inconsistent variable in the EdgeRank equation is user behavior. It’s the piece we have no control over and–if Stephen’s experience tells us anything–the piece that just might make the biggest difference. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Users who often click links or view photos are more likely to see that sort of content when you publish it.
  2. Users who frequently interact with your Page are most likely to see your posts.
  3. Users’ behavior can change over time, or even day-by-day.
  4. A Facebook’s Page audience fluxuates. The users whose engagement you monitored last month may not be the audience you have today.
One thing is clear: there is now a consequence to the set-it-and-forget-it Facebook strategy (or lack there of). Once upon a time, your Page might not have achieved its potential reach without a thoughtful approach to engagement. Today, your Page may become virtually invisible. Pretty scary stuff.
The good news is that Facebook offers a wealth of data to help inform your communication plan. My advice: Use what’s available to you, and then go further. For me, this has meant completely revamping the reporting process for the Pages I’m responsible for. I’m experimenting with content categories, tracking impressions in several ways, and even taking a look at what times of the day are most productive. What will this mean for you? How will you examine user preferences and behavior to be successful?
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