Facebook Reach and UU Themed Pages: We need you!

For those who didn’t realize, Facebook makes choices for you, based on your behavior on the site. Rather on anything you intentionally tell them, they go by what you click on. The goal for them is to make sure that the things you see are things that you interact with, in order to try to make Facebook more interesting and keep you looking at it for even one minute longer than you would have otherwise. They record every click on every page of Facebook, both to content inside of Facebook and links leading to outside sites. This is all fed into program ominously called “the algorithm” which chooses what Facebook will show you the next time you log in.

Edited to add: Facebook has added one option that you can take, proactively, to see the posts from a page or friend in your newsfeed, at the top each time you log in. It is called “See First” and we have instructions for adding pages to your “See First” list here!

We want to tell you what we’ve learned about this process so that you can use it to guide Facebook to the content you really care about, and so that you can help make sure that your favorite UU-themed pages are getting noticed!

The Skinny: The algorithm is a program running on Facebook’s computers that chooses what you seen in your newsfeed. It bases this choice on complex system that looks at every click you make on Facebook and tries to guess what you are interested in by how you interact with and how much time you spend with a post or page.

Most of us like a lot of pages. We like bands, and friends’ businesses, and businesses we spend money with, and our church former church and district… According to the sparse information Facebook releases for marketing folks to analyze, the average Facebook user in the US currently likes 70 different Facebook pages. Pages post an average of 36 posts, links, and images a month, leaving around 1,440 items a month that could be in your newsfeed, not including what your friends post. There are several hundred posts a day to pick from between friends of and pages liked by the average user. Since most people spend less than an hour looking at the newsfeed, Facebook is trying to filter that for you based on what kinds of posts for each source you interact with. The details are a trade secret, but a lot of people have been working on trying to figure it out, and here is what we think matches what happens on the I Am UU page:

The average post on the I Am UU page is only seen by between 10% and 20% of our fans, and that is actually a really good exposure rate on Facebook these days. For a quote that doesn’t generate comments and doesn’t have a link of any sort (including “see more”), the number of people who see it is roughly 10 times the number of people who like it. Shares seem to be a little more effective, especially if the person sharing spends time putting a description on their share, even if it is just copying what we said about it.

If the post has a “see more” link, it seems that people click on it if it is about Unitarian Universalism, but much less often if it is about the I Am UU project. When people click that link, it seems to matter a lot. Posts with images almost generally receive more attention, and, sadly, we seem unable to predict which pictures will be most popular.=. Posts with off-Facebook links are hit-or-miss, depending on whether they evoke strong feelings and if they have a catchy headline or a good preview. So, clicking on a link within a post seems to be a strong positive indicator for Facebook.

Comments seem to be another strong indicator, in that a post that generates comments in the first hour or so tends to be seen by significantly more people than one that does not. Comments invite more comments, and that leads to people clicking links. It seem that people clicking to read comment threads might also have a very strong effect on how the algorithm sees the post and the connection to the user.

The Skinny: The more time something takes, the more it matters to the algorithm.
Comments and link clicks seem to matter most, followed by shares and mentions, followed by post likes.

In short, it seems that the more time you spend interacting with a post, the better. Comments and “see more” or other link clicks seem to have the strongest effect, while “likes” tend to be diluted, since a lot of us click “like” on dozens of posts a day. Likes are very easy, and don’t seem to be a good indicator for engagement. In fact, some studies seem to show that clicking “like” too often dilutes your newsfeed further by prompting Facebook to put pages in front of you that have paid for your attention because your “like” shows up as confirmation that the ad was being seen.

So, more comments, clicking on links, and (based on research done by others) mentioning a page by typing the @ and the page name ( eg. “@I Am UU” or “@IAmUUPage”) in posts you make seems to help. That means it is a good idea to post about your weekend and mention that you went to @MyChurch on Sunday, to improve the way Facebook views that relationship. It also helps your friends find the pages that are important to you, which is a pleasant side effect.

If there is a page that you are worried about seeing all the posts from,such as your congregation’s Facebook page, here are some tips for making sure you see everything.

  1. Turn on the “See First”option for the page. This is the only proactive way to ensure that its posts are put in your newsfeed.
  2. Bookmark the page, and visit it directly every few days. This is the only way to make sure you see everything a page posts.
  3. Turn on notifications. Do this only for a page or select group of pages to ensure that you aren’t overwhelmed by notifications.
  4. Create an interest list of pages in a category, then view that list to see all the content from those pages.

Finally, know that the more you interact with a page, the more you show Facebook that the content is important to you and people like you, that means that it will be shown to more people who like the page, and maybe to your friends with similar interests to the other fans of the page. So, when you comment on something on the I Am UU page, not only will Facebook show that post to more of our fans, but it might mention that you commented to friends of yours who don’t like the page, yet, but do like other, similar pages or pages that a lot of the I Am UU community has in common.

You now know what we know. Share it with your friends and your congregations. Unitarian Universalist themed pages need you to be aware of how you can help us stay visible and relevant on Facebook. We are proud to be able to say that several people this year have chosen to seek out a local UU congregation because they found our page through a friend. That couldn’t happen without the support and interaction of the amazing community we’ve built up. The changes to Facebook mean that it might happen less often unless we can convince you to spend more time with us when we do pop up, so remember that we read every comment and even public shares of our posts and really do respond to the feedback we get to better fulfill our mission.

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