Facebook Algorithms Explained: How to Post Better, Get More Engagement & Improve Your Reach

  • Algorithms are rules that social media platforms use to determine who sees your posts.
  • Facebook serves up content to you based on other posts you “like”, share, comment on, etc.
  • These days, only 1-2% of your Facebook Page’s followers will see your posts.
  • Engagement is key to “beating” Facebook’s algorithms!
  • Facebook wants to see conversations! Think about how you can get people to comment on your posts.
  • For Facebook, you only need to post once a day—at most! Two or three posts a week is a great amount.
  • The one thing that breaks through the algorithm every time—live video!
  • If you go live, you will get better reach and more engagement.

As users of social media, we are bombarded with content. Every day, hundreds of thousands of posts are vying for our attention. Facebook uses its algorithms to determine how to show you the content that you enjoy the most; it culls through all the noise to deliver what it thinks you would want to see. Take smart steps to build conversation and community to feed into Facebook’s latest algorithm updates.

  • What does “algorithm” mean, anyway? – 01:28
  • What Facebook does with the information it gets through its algorithms – 05:12
  • Facebook algorithms and advertising – 06:04
  • Why you need to care about Facebook’s algorithms – 06:20
  • How the algorithm can affect your posts – 08:20
  • Facebook’s focus on conversation – 11:28
  • Less is more! – 12:35
  • Steps you can take to break through the algorithm – 13:28
Links to Resources Mentioned in Today’s Episode
Transcript below


Hello, and a super warm welcome to this week's episode of the Social Media Marketing Made Simple Podcast. I hope you are having a really lovely week wherever you are in the world, and that the sun is shining, because it always makes me feel better when the sun is shining. This week I am going to be talking about Facebook algorithm. I know what you're thinking, “Teresa, why do you want to bore us with stories about Facebook algorithm,” a word that in itself sounds boring, and dull, and confusing. I know, I really do, but I promise you this episode is going to be a good one. I find the subject, personally, really fascinating. Maybe I need to go out more, but I really do find it fascinating and, actually, it's something that people think they know about, and then they find out what it means to them and their Social Media, and they realise that, actually, they didn't realise they knew all that there was to know about the algorithm, and it's going to help you.

It's going to help you post better, get more engagement, and know what you can do to help improve your reach of your Social Media, so please stick with me, because I really think this is going to be a good one.


What does “algorithm” mean, anyway?


Let's start by telling you what the word algorithm means. In very layman's terms, it's just basically a word that explains a set of rules that Social Media platforms use that determines who gets to see your post, or not. Let me break that down a bit. So, pretty much every Social Media platform has an algorithm of some sort or other. Obviously, Facebook owns Instagram, so you imagine theirs is a fairly similar algorithm that they have. Now, it's made up by some very, very smart people, and they set up some rules, and the rules dictate the content that you see. So, let me explain, and I'll use Facebook as the example.

Let's say my husband and I followed exactly the same pages on Facebook and we had exactly the same friends. We could come to our timeline, so the feed, the thing that you see that has the posts on it, and we could literally have our phones next to each other, and we could see entirely different content, even though we have the same friends and we follow the same pages. The reason for this is Facebook will look at how you use your specific profile. They will look at the types of things that you engage with i.e. do you like posts that are videos, or posts that get you to click somewhere, what pages, or what people do you interact with mostly?

For instance, there are some friends that I have on my profile that I like lots of their things, because either it makes me laugh, or I particularly engage with it, or whatever the reason is, but what that is going to mean is that Facebook will keep showing me their content, because by me affirming that I like it by either watching it, engaging with it, giving it a like, commenting on it, sharing the post, that's how Facebook knows that I like that post. What they will do, or what the algorithm does is it will say, “Okay, so if you like those sorts of posts we're going to show you more of those sorts of posts.

Like I said, let's go back to the example, husband and I exactly the same friends, exactly the same pages, but we can see entirely different content, because of the way we interact with our page. So, why do the Social Media platforms put so much time and effort into an algorithm. Why do they even bother. Well, this has changed over the last few years, and it is constantly changing. The algorithm never stops changing, or so it seems. But, one of the reasons they've done this is as users of Social Media we are now getting absolutely bombarded with content. Every single day hundreds and thousands of posts are trying to get into our timeline, trying to get put in front of us. Again, think back just a few years ago as to how many Facebook friends you had.

I remember, I did a cull quite a few years back, I decided to get rid of a load of people's profiles that, actually, if I didn't know them or if I wasn't really good friends with them then I just didn't need them as friends on my Facebook account, and I got down to something like 40 people that I decided to keep on there. And now, gosh, I can't even remember the last time I looked, but I pretty much accept friend requests from most people, because it's changed, it's changed the way you are. It's more about having those connections, that actually you don't mind so much connecting with more people. But, of course, more people means more content. More people posting every single day; therefore, more things in your timeline, and there's just too much.


What Facebook does with the information it gets through its algorithms


So, Facebook wants to decide what it wants to show you. It wants to know what do you like, and it wants to show you more of it. So, it's now just down to there's too much stuff to show and, therefore, they've got to reduce it. It's also down to your enjoyment of the platform. Social Media platforms are super aware that we are being bombarded and our time is being sucked up everywhere we go. Every single Social Media platform, and at any point we could go, “Do you know what, I haven't got time for this. I haven't got time to scroll through loads of content that I'm not interested in,” and that's why they put the algorithm in place. They want you to love what you see. They want you to enjoy taking in that content, for you to find it engaging, and also find it appropriate.

That's where kind of the advertising bit slips in, as well.


Facebook algorithms and advertising


The algorithm will help them place adverts in your feed that are much more appropriate to you and what you like to do, or what you like to engage with, so when you see an advert it should be something that you're interested in.


Why you need to care about Facebook’s algorithms


You might be sitting there thinking, “Well, why should I care what people see in their feeds, or what the algorithm does?” It's obviously something that we can't control, it's there whether we like it or not.

But, the reason we should care is because it controls whether people see your posts from your business page or not. Now, years ago before, I suppose, social media got as popular as it was now, or maybe before there was as much advertising as there is now, the organic reach, which is the reach that you get on a post that you haven't paid for. So, if I put up a post today, the organic reach would show me how many people had seen that post without me putting any money behind it. Years ago the organic reach used to be really, really, good, and people loved social media for that reason. Over the years it's got worse, and worse, and worse and, basically, not that this is ever publicly come out and been proved by someone like Facebook. If we take Facebook as an example, if you put a post out today roughly between 1% and 2% of people who follow your page are going to see that post.

Let me say that again, if you have a Facebook page with 100 people on it and you put a post out today, the chances are Facebook are going to show that post to only one to two people who follow that page, which is a huge impact on how much interaction and engagement you could get from that post. Often people think that if you have 100 people that like your page, every time you do a post every one of those hundred are going to see it, and that's just not the case. That's why the algorithm is important.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Well, I'm doomed. No one's ever going to see a post again. I promise that's not the case and, although you can't beat the algorithm, there are certainly some things that you can do to help improve it.


How the algorithm can affect your posts


But, before I share that let me just give you a couple more pointers as to how the algorithm can affect your posts. Now, one of the first things that you want to know is that the algorithm is, and isn't, affected by time. Confusing I know. Let's start with the time of day you post. The algorithm doesn't really care what time of day you post, because the way it works is on engagement, so if you put out a post today and someone likes it, or shares it, or comments on it, and that could be you from your own personal page, then Facebook are going to think, “Oh, okay, this is a good post because someone's interacted with it,” because they take interaction as a sign of a good post or some good content. Obviously, if it's terrible no one will interact with that.

Let's say someone interacts with that, Facebook will then go, “Okay, if this person likes it then maybe we might show a couple more people,” and they will start extending that reach. The more people that like the post the more people will see it. When I say it's not affected by time, the example I've got is, I put a picture out on my personal page of me when I got married and someone came and saw my profile that, obviously, hadn't been for some time, even though this picture had been on there for at least a year, and they liked the picture and commented on it, and that kind of kick started that post again, because then suddenly a couple of other people started liking and commenting on it, and then a couple more. This post just picked itself back up because of the fact of the engagement. It doesn't matter whether the post was done yesterday, within the last couple of hours, or within the last sort of 12 months, if people start interacting with it Facebook will start sharing it more and more and more.

The reason I said that the algorithm is, and isn't, affected by time is because the other element of this is, if you post something the quicker and sooner people interact with it the better, the more people it will show. So, for instance on Instagram if I put up a post and suddenly 10, 15 people, even more, jump straight on that post and like it within the first minute or so, then I am gonna get a much better reach on that post than if those same 10 or 15 people liked it but over a certain length of time. Even though it's not affected by when you post it, if you know you get better interaction quicker at certain times of the day, then make sure you post at those times.

For instance, for me I find that in the morning around 9 and 10 Instagram works quite well for me, and I tend to get more people liking the photo straight away, whereas if I left it sort of 8 or 9 in the evening I don't tend to get as much interaction as I would if I did it in the morning. Following on from this, hopefully you can see that engagement is really key to beating that algorithm. If people engage with the post, then you are going to have that post shown to more people than you would have previously.


Facebook’s focus on conversation


One of the things that Facebook really talked about in their latest algorithm changes is that they like the sense of conversation. They want people to have full-on conversations on your post. So, now you want to start thinking about how can you actually get people to have a conversation, and one of the ways that you can do that is, obviously, by posting questions, asking people's opinion, and it kind of all comes back to this community thing, which funnily enough I talked about last week on my episode on Facebook Groups versus Facebook pages, but it does come back to that community thing. It comes back to the conversation and that people are interested in what you're posting because they're having a conversation.

Now, one of the things that I've done on my posts is if I put up a post and I think there are particular people that will be interested in it, or that they will have an opinion on it, I have then gone in as myself, as my personal profile and I have said a question on the comments like, “What do you think?” And then I will tag in those people, and that really helps to get the conversation going, and that's what you want that will definitely help your reach and help slightly beat the algorithm.


Less is more!


The last point is that less is more. Hurray. I couldn't be more happy with this one. There used to be a time where people thought you had to post several times a day on something like Facebook or Instagram but, actually, it turns out that less is more, so for Facebook and Instagram I would post roughly once a day. On Facebook I actually post far less than that. Now, part of that is due to the fact that I don't get organised enough to do my own Social Media because we're doing so much other Social Media, but if I was organised I would still only do probably two or three posts a week on Facebook. I wouldn't do more than that, but each post would be really well thought out. It would probably have a fairly sizable amount of text in it, and it would be really trying to encourage that conversation element.


Steps you can take to break through the algorithm


What can you do to help improve that all important organic reach, that will help not break the algorithm but certainly try and push through it a little bit? Well, I've put together a freebie for you, so if you go to then you are going to find a freebie that talks you through the five things that you can do to help improve your organic reach. So, please head along to there and download it, but I'm not going to make you wait. I'm going to share with you one of those things now, and that's something that you're probably not going to want to hear, because whenever I talk about it, it fills the world with dread, and that is live video.

I am so sorry, because I know you don't like doing them, and if I'm totally honest I don't always like doing them either. It's one of those things that I say to myself every single week, “You must do a live video this week, Teresa,” and then for whatever reason I get distracted, or hair doesn't look quite right, or I can't quite think of the things to say, I don't do it, but I promise you the one thing that breaks through the algorithm is live video. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, they all do it. So, if you go live you are going to get a much better reach, more engagement, and more people seeing that post than anything else, so I really would encourage you to do live video. For the foreseeable future I think that's still gonna be the thing that you're gonna have to do. Luckily for you, that was the very first podcast that I recorded. So, please go and check out episode number one How To Use and Leverage Live Video for Your Business for some tips and advice on how to do it.

As always, it's been an absolute pleasure, and I really, really do appreciate you listening. If you're enjoying the podcast then could I ask a massive favour? Could you either go to iTunes and give me a review, five stars would be lovely, thanks very much, or would you happily share the podcast on Social Media so that I can get the reach out even further. I really do appreciate you listening and I appreciate your help on this. Thank you so much and until next time, have a great week and take care.