While there are many choices in today’s social media world, Facebook remains one of the most popular social media platforms within the U.S. So, it makes sense that many HIV organizations, including HIV.gov, continue to use it as an important outreach tool. However, many of us often wonder if the individuals and partners we’re trying to reach are actually seeing our content.
Understanding the state of Facebook today and the recent algorithm changes (which determine how a page’s content is shown to its fans or followers) is key to answering this question. In summary, some tips for how to increase the reach of your content are to:
- Post content your audience will want to share with their friends and family
- Engage with your audience via two-way communication
- Include images, especially videos
- Consider live-streaming events
- Consider boosting posts or using paid ads
State of Facebook
Based on current data from the Pew Research Center:
- 68% of Americans report being active Facebook users.
- 74% of US Facebook users reporting using it at least once a day.
- Facebook is popular with all demographic users:
- Nearly three-quarters of women in the U.S. (74%) use the platform, compared with 62% of men.
- People in urban areas are more likely than those in suburban or rural areas to use Facebook, as are those with a college degree when compared with people who have lower levels of education.
- Around eight-in-ten (81%) of those ages 18 to 29 use Facebook; that’s about double the share among those 65 and older (41%).
- The share of older Americans who use the platform has doubled since August 2012, when just 20% of those 65 and older said they used it.
How Facebook Displays Your Content (today)
If you feel like Facebook is changing its platform daily, you’re not alone. The site is continually rolling out changes, updates, and new features aimed to please both users and advertisers. Earlier this year, Facebook made some significant updates to the algorithm that determines how a page’s content is shown to its fans or followers. To explain these changes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
These changes have likely had a significant impact on how your Facebook content is shown to your followers, as most organizations have seen an overall decrease the reach of their posts. The new algorithm prioritizes “active interactions” like commenting and sharing over “passive interactions” such as likes and click-throughs.
Specifically, the new algorithm prioritizes active interactions such as:
- Comment replies
- Sharing links over Messenger
- Engagement on shares
What Do These Changes Mean for You?
The best way to increase the reach of your organic posts (content you post on your page) is to focus on creating great content and using the channel for engagement. Some specific tips are to:
- Include videos, especially live streamed video content;
- Use comments to engage in two-way dialogue with your audience;
- Focus on content that can be shared by your followers (especially posts that users can share via Messenger); and
- Consider using Messenger to engage with your audience (for more on this tip, check out our recent blog on the HIV.gov chatbot pilot).
To understand how our colleagues are using Facebook effectively, we asked Jessica Schindelar, CDC Social Media Team Lead, to share her perspective:
“People are primarily using Facebook to connect with friends and family, so we focus on delivering content our audience needs to help them –and their friends and family members – make health decisions. We look to our data to ensure we’re giving the audience what they need. We know, for example, that 95% of our Facebook audience is using a mobile device, so we ensure that all of our Facebook content is fully optimized for viewing on a phone. This means making sure text is legible in graphics and videos, and we’re pointing people to mobile-friendly web pages. We also look at the data to see the types of content people interact with most – and repost that content, and create similar types of content. We have found that quick, easy-to-share charts are really popular on our page, so we have created more content in chart format.”
Many organizations are using boosted or paid advertising (even with very small budgets) to effectively reach their audience and increase the visibility of their posts and overall page. Both paid advertising options allow you to target the content, so it’s more likely to be seen by your primary audiences. When considering advertising:
- Look for content that is performing well and “boost” it (i.e., pay to increase the reach of the post). Some organizations have found success with budgets from $20 - $50 per post.
- Select high-priority posts (e.g., event announcements and reminders, registration links, organization news) to post as “paid ads” (i.e., enter the content through Facebook’s Ad Manager system).
For more on Facebook’s paid advertising, watch for our upcoming blog with more details, tips, and recommendations. As always, you can also make an appointment for HIV.gov's Virtual Office Hours for free, personalized technical assistance on using Facebook and other social media.