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Facebook’s “secret sauce” for engagement unveiled

By Darby Jones

No matter how many fans you have on Facebook, you are only reaching a small fraction. According to comScore, on average, only 16% of fans are reached by branded content when a brand posts five out of seven days. However, Facebook’s “secret sauce” has been unveiled. Learn how to reach more fans simply by understanding how EdgeRank scores your content.

Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank, which grades your content and determines how many users will see it. Don’t worry; you don’t need to dig out your old algebra books. We’ve summarized the best-practice report, “EdgeRank Unveiled” by Wildfire to help you understand. Wildfire analyzed more than 60,000 brand pages and one million posts, and we will highlight the best-performing content and provide tips to increase the number of people you reach.

The EdgeRank algorithm consists of three main factors: affinity, weight and time decay (read Facebook Timeline: Explained and debunked for a better definition). Briefly, when you post content that “weighs” more (i.e. photos), your “affinity” score (based on your page’s popularity) goes up. Time decay scores continually decrease, but if people “share” your post, then it has a longer shelf life. Each “share” resets the “time decay” meter for that specific "share" and creates more engagement.

Highest-performing content is different by industry type

What type of content gets the highest engagement? It’s actually different for each industry. Wildfire analyzed all six fan page industry categories, but we will look at “Company, Organization or Institution,” which includes a sub-category for “church or religious organization.” You may have chosen “local business or place” as your page category, and those results were very similar.

Top-performing content types for “Company, Organization or Institution”

1. Photos are by far the most engaging content type because they are eye-catching and easier to consume. Users don’t have to press “play” or click through to a new website and wait to see if the content is cool. Photos are either instantly hot, or you skip over them.

2. Video is second for both "company, organization or institution" and "local business or place," but it is actually third if you look at the median across all six industries.

3. Status is a close third and popular because they are simple and instantly gratify just like photos. You need not wait on a slow mobile-phone connection.

4. Links are fourth, but can still be effective, especially if paired with other popular content types, such as photos.

Pair links with photos or graphics

Don’t confuse this with the image that Facebook auto-populates when you post a link. To get a large eye-catching image, you must upload a photo from your computer into the post. It is preferable to post a photo or graphic that you have permission to use from the website to which you’re linking.

Faithbridge Church in Texas, has a great Facebook page that encourages engagement with multi-content type messages — like this one — that pairs an exciting fourth of July banner with a link for more information. They also tagged 27 people in the photo, which helped garner more “likes” and “shares.”

Cut back on links if they are not performing, as they will lower your “affinity” score.

Provide good descriptions and calls-to-action

Posting a video without a description is actually the worst performer of all content types. A photo, video or link description gives context and a brief explanation of “why” users should look at the attached media. After the hook, reel them in with a good call-to-action. Think from the user’s perspective and write something that would make you view or click the link.

Twitter character length doesn’t vibe with EdgeRank

Coincidence? I think not. Wildfire found that, for all content types tested, the most engagement occurred when the paired description had a minimum of 141 characters (one more character than Twitter’s cutoff). The research showed that the best descriptions are 141-280 characters for photos, and 281+ characters for links, status and video. Since Twitter-length posts did not perform as well, consider creating two separate versions of the same content, one shorter line for Twitter and a longer version for Facebook.

Build community and humanize your church.

The church isn’t the building. It’s the people! Post engaging content that creates an emotional human connection to your church. Craft status updates that encourage sharing to get your members and visitors more involved. For example:

  • Share weekly stories about members who are working to change the world in your community through outreach events.
  • Post photos to accompany an inspiring Bible verse or hymn.
  • Post photos and videos from church activities or events like VBS, outdoor worship, youth group activities and outreach events.
  • Ask members to post to your page's wall photos they’ve taken during church activities or events. Go a step further and create a Facebook album with their contributed photos, making sure to give photo credit to the contributor.
  • Post updates about activities and events to encourage participation.
  • Include updates about the latest news involving the community.

Engagement is measured by “comments,” “shares” and “likes.”

The more interaction a post generates, the higher the “affinity” score. But are they all weighted the same? It’s not known for sure, but EdgeRank Checker says based on their research, “comments” are better than “likes” because it takes the user more time to type words versus clicking a button. If a user uploads an image in a comment, the EdgeRank score goes up even more because again, it takes more time to do this and reflects the overall interest level in the post.

Does third-party posting applications hurt your EdgeRank score?

Many people use third party applications to schedule social media in bulk, which can save a lot of time! These include free and paid applications like Hootsuite, Spredfast, Wildfire Messenger, and many more. At one time, EdgeRank penalized third-party posts, but Facebook has since fixed the imbalance. The bottom line is, follow best practices regarding posting content, and the vehicle for posting it won’t matter.

Four key take-aways:

  1. Photos are like sprinkles on ice cream; generously apply.
  2. Do your own research. Facebook is not one size fits all. Monitor the insights feature on your Facebook page to determine what types of content generate the most engagement among your fans, then create posts accordingly. Cut back on content types that aren’t getting any action. They negatively affect your “affinity” score.
  3. Pair media (photos, videos and links) with a written description and call-to-action.
  4. Craft different content for Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Facebooking!

Adapted from “EdgeRank Unveiled” by Wildfire Social Media Marketing.