Facebook is powered by a complex algorithm, commonly known as EdgeRank, though that term specifically refers to the old version upon which the current version is based. Unfortunately for marketers looking for an easy route to success, there’s no way to game the algorithm. There’s no “perfect post” that works 100% of the time. Instead, you need to consider numerous factors and design the best post for your page, in your situation, with your audience.
Thankfully, that’s easier than it sounds. Even if there’s no one sure route to success, there are a number of tips and tricks you can use to make your posts better.
Before you dig in, though, you need to know about Insights and analytics. You can do all the theory-crafting you want, but until you actually post and measure the results, you’ll never know which posts are better than which others. Always track your posts, your audience and your growth. When you find a formula that works, adopt it into your core strategy. Avoid resting on your laurels once you’ve found them, however; stagnation decreases reach and kills user engagement.
Understanding EdgeRank and Engagement
Facebook’s algorithm creates a calculation between you and every individual fan. You don’t have one rank; you have one rank for every person following your page. This algorithm calculates three primary factors for each person, according to their behaviors and their interaction with you. These three factors are:
Sounds complex, right? It’s actually easier than it looks.
Affinity is the most complex of the three. It’s a measurement of how much the user has engaged with your page. When they see a post and ignore it, affinity goes down. When they see a post and click the link, affinity goes up. Clicking links, sharing posts, commenting, liking the post, it all increases affinity.
Affinity is also an ongoing measurement. If the user engages heavily with one post, but ignores the next seven, that one bout of engagement isn’t gong to outweigh the lower affinity levels they have with your brand. You need a consistent engagement level, not a variable burst of engagement. This is why posting on a consistent schedule is important; it gives users a constant chance to engage and keep their affinity up.
Weight is a relatively fixed factor assigned to each type of post. Some posts have more weight than others, meaning they are shown more often in news feeds. Videos and pictures hosted on Facebook are the highest, with links coming in second. External video and images dip a little lower, and text posts are lower still. You also have a modifier; a post will have a higher weight if it is frequently shared, for example. Any activity on a post boosts its weight. Yet another reason why more engagement is good.
Finally, time decay is a factor of how old a post is. The older a post is, the less its going to be circulated. Facebook understands that users want new content, and provides them with newer content by weighting new content higher on the list. To a certain extent, engagement can counteract decay, but only for a short time.
There’s a lot more to EdgeRank on a small scale, of course. The interactions of a user’s friends can influence that user’s ability to see your posts, for example. Don’t think these three major factors are everything at play.
Creating the Perfect Facebook Post
With all of that in mind, how might you create the ideal Facebook post? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not always posting images and videos directly to Facebook. You should use those types of content occasionally, but it’s not going to be your bread and butter. For that, we turn to links.
That’s right. The ideal Facebook post is a link leading outside of Facebook. There are a few reasons for this. For one, links have several means of customization, including the preview image, snippet and URL, if you include the URL itself. Links are also more potent than pure text posts and give you an opportunity to direct users where you want them to go.
To ensure that third parties posting your link have it appear the way you want it, you should use meta og elements – open graph elements – on the page itself. These allow you to customize the image, title and snippet for every page on your site, to make them appear exactly how you want them to appear. If you want it to look a little different when you share it yourself, you can always edit the post.
The perfect post is also short. Twitter may have a hard limit at 140 characters, but that’s nothing compared to Facebook’s soft cap. Posts with more than 40-50 characters tend to be too long for the average user to want to dig into. One short, compelling sentence is all you need. Longer posts tend to be truncated by Facebook’s space limits, requiring a click on a “read more” button that most people just skip.
The perfect post is also posted just before the peak hours for your audience. You’re going to need to measure your audience for this. Essentially, you’re trying to make sure your post is visible when the user logs on, instead of trying to capture their attention once they’ve been browsing for a while.
Another aspect of the perfect post is its place within your other posts. Think of using Facebook as an endless train. The first post you make is the engine, starting the train rolling. Every subsequent post is a car attached to the first, keeping the train going. If you miss a day, it’s like skipping a car, breaking the link between your motive force and your end result. Okay, so the train analogy is a little forced, but the point is you need to post every day. Some businesses post multiple times every day for even better effect. You might try posting once per day about your own content, sharing 1-2 links to other sites each day, and peppering images and videos throughout the week.
What else goes into the perfect post? Typically, you’re going to want to pick a subject that is immediately important. If a user sees your post and thinks “oh I can read that later,” they’ll put it off and forget to come back. Your goal is to make them want to check the post right now. It’s, again, up to your audience and your business interests to decide what this means.
So, to recap, the perfect post is:
- Newsworthy or relevant in an immediate temporal sense.
- Part of an ongoing posting schedule.
- Posted before the majority of your users show up for the day.
- Kept short, ideally under 50 characters.
- Centered around a link leading off-site, with a customized preview.