Facebook’s ranking algorithm decides which posts get shown to each user in their News Feed. The algorithm has gone through some major changes in the past, but the most recent one has thrown a lot of social media marketers for a loop.

An Adage article based on a sales deck sent to Facebook partners pointed out that Facebook has admitted organic reach for brands will slowly decline. According to Facebook, this is unavoidable due to the growth of the network and the amount of content being produced.

On an episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast with Michael Stelzner, Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith said that that there are around 1500 stories that could be shown to a Facebook user in their News Feed at any moment. As that number continues to grow, Facebook has the tough job of choosing what to show users—and of course, the algorithm needs to prioritize content that users will enjoy and engage with, so they spend more time on the site.

All of this means that for businesses, advertising is becoming the best way to get your stories to show up in the News Feed of your fans. There are some ways you can work with the change to continue building your audience. Here are ten to get you started.

1. Don’t give up on Facebook – reap the benefits of having a Page and keep it updated

Mari warned against abandoning your Facebook Page altogether, as she’s seen some people do already. Though it might feel like Facebook is working against you, there are lots of benefits to having a Page. Without a Page for your brand, you’ll lose opportunities to run contests, integrate Facebook apps and see detailed analytics of how people are interacting with your posts.

There are some simple ways you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your Page, simply by keeping it updated. There’s a great post on Social Media Examiner that has tips on this. Here are just a few it includes:

  • Take advantage of your cover image by adding a call-to-action
  • Keep your profile image up-to-date
  • Update your short description (below your cover image)
  • Make sure your location and all of your “about” fields are filled in correctly

2. Focus more time on community building — here are some great examples

Another suggestion from Mari was to put more time and money into community building. From her own experience, she said few brands answer questions and interact with users on Facebook, which is a missed opportunity to build a strong community. Fans of your brand will help you to spread the word just like ads do, and Mari insists it’s worth putting your time and energy into this method of brand-building.

Mari does a great job of this on her own Page, jumping in to answer questions and comments to keep fans engaged:

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Another great example of this is the Social Media Examiner page:

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3. Use your profile and groups for extra reach

If you’re planning on keeping your Page but exploring other ways to reach your fans, don’t forget about your own profile. You can turn on the “following” feature to let users follow the public posts on your profile and use this in conjunction with your Page. It’ll work like this:

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From the next page, you can then also choose who is allowed to follow you (of course “everyone” will give you the best reach) and you can then also embed the follow button straight from there on your website:

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The number of people following you will show up in your main “about” section, under your profile picture:

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Profiles generally get preference in the News Feed over Pages, so this can help you reach more people.

You could also try using Facebook groups to actively reach your fans with new, regular content. Both Joel and Leo have this feature turned on for their own Facebook profiles, so we can reach even more people than those who have liked the Buffer Facebook page.

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4. Keep experimenting with Facebook’s new features

Author and marketing consultant Jay Baer also appeared on the podcast episode I mentioned earlier. According to Jay, what not everyone has cottoned onto yet is Facebook’s latest golden child—Instagram. Since Facebook wants to push users towards Instagram as it continues to grow, there seems to be slight push for Instagram posts to be prioritized.

This will change when something new takes precedence, so continually experimenting with new features or integrations can help you to keep on top of what’s working best right now.

If you’re keen to get started with Instagram, this guide should help you out.

Facebook also keeps putting out tons of new features all the time, that are certainly worth checking out, to stay ahead of the game.

5. Build your own platform — a marketing channel that you own

Both Mari and Jay agreed that any company whose marketing eggs are all in Facebook’s basket is probably in trouble. Especially for those brands that can’t afford a big Facebook marketing budget.

One of the ways to spread your marketing to other platforms is to build up one that you own. Jay used a great acronym when he talked about this:

POEM. It stands for paid, owned, earned marketing.

Jay’s advice was that every brand should have some of each type of marketing: paid ads, a platform you own, and fans that you’ve earned on social networks.

altimeter-poe-chart

Your owned platform could be a blog, a company website, a podcast or something entirely different. Remember to choose something that suits your business. If you’re building up a blog as your platform, this post offers some simple hacks to help you increase your blog subscriber rate.

To get started with more tips on building a great platform, this might be a good place to start.

A quick last note from Jay, though:

Always remember: Earned media is the most important. Anything a brand or marketer says is immediately suspect, but trusted third parties are just that – trusted third parties.

6. Move to an email list — use your Facebook Page to encourage signups

If you’re not ready to build your own platform or you just want to try a new channel, you could move your main marketing efforts over to a mailing list.

Derek Halpern suggests using your Facebook Page to encourage sign ups and sharing content straight to your customers’ inboxes. He even offered up some copy you can use on your page:

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For more tips on getting started with getting more email subscribers, you might like this guide.

7. Try building your audience on other networks as well

Lastly, you can actually take some of your eggs out of Facebook’s basket and drop them elsewhere. Jay mentioned that he thinks 2014 will see growth in Google+ company pages, as marketers look for alternatives to Facebook where they can achieve a bigger reach.

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Snapchat may all see a surge of activity as marketers try to connect with their fans in new ways.

Here are some resources to help you start building a strong community on other platforms:

For Snapchat:

For Twitter:

For Pinterest: 

For LinkedIn:

 

8. Ask your followers to help — here’s how they can choose what they see in the News Feed

If your followers are disappointed to be missing your updates, you can help them adjust their News Feed settings. Setting the News Feed to show “most recent” posts rather than “top stories” will uncover more variety in the stories shown.

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Facebook also has a friends organizer tool that makes it easy to move friends to an acquaintance list so their updates are seen less often in the News Feed—making room for your brand’s content instead.

It’s definitely a good idea to stay ahead of the game and keep up to date with all Facebook newsfeed changes.

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9. If you do advertise on Facebook, be clever about it

It’s pretty clear that Facebook expects brand to pay for reach, based on these changes. Although it can be frustrating to know that you now have to pay to reach as many users as you once could for free, you can be clever in the way you spend money on Facebook to get the most out of it.

One of the points Jay made was that it shouldn’t come as a shock that Facebook has made this move—after all, other social networks charge for advertising, and Google charges for keyword ads. As he put it, we’ve had it good for while now, being able to reach so many people on Facebook for free.

If you are going to advertise on Facebook, Jay has some suggestions for getting the most out of your efforts:

  • Try retargeting: serve up ads to users who have recently visited your website without making a purchase, since they’ve already shown interest.
  • Advertise content, rather than your company: ads that focus on content like eBooks, webinars or podcasts are more likely to receive engagement that company- or product-focused ads.
  • Use targeting aggressively: take advantage of Facebook’s demographic data to target your customers carefully, rather than wasting money on showing ads to users who probably aren’t interested in your product.
  • You can follow this guide, to get started with Facebook Ads.

Jay also mentioned on the podcast that not every brand has noticed a drop in reach, yet. In fact, many have actually seen the recent changes work in their favor, though nobody has really pinpointed why this is yet.

So don’t give up hope. Facebook has changed but it’s not useless—we just need to understand how to take advantage of the changes.

Do you have some other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Complete Guide to Getting Started with Facebook Ads and 10 Big, Recent Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Changes You Should Know for a Better Social Media strategy

Image credits: Alex E. Proimos, Jay Baer 1 and 2

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Written by Belle Beth Cooper

Belle is the first Content Crafter at Buffer and co-founder of Exist. She writes about social media, startups, lifehacking and science.