These days, it seems that nearly everyone uses Facebook to check in, share content, and catch up with one another—including your selfie-posting, candy-crushing granny. So, there’s no way it could be that complicated to set up a successful Facebook business page, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Thanks to a whopping 34 algorithm changes in the (Face)books so far (see what I did there?), even the most tech-savvy of individuals may feel out of the loop.

So, what notable changes has Facebook made, and how will they impact your small business? Furthermore, how will you adapt to the new algorithms to help your page grow? Here’s what you need to know:

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“Pay to Play” is the Name of the Game

Back in the “good old days”—circa 2004—Facebook feeds were unfiltered and posts appeared in chronological order. But unfortunately for businesses, Facebook doesn’t operate that way anymore. In fact, even when you’re using your personal account, you may not see what some of your friends post—period. Why? Because Facebook now uses behavior-based algorithms to determine which posts users see in their news feeds. This helps ensure people’s feeds are comprised primarily of updates from their friends and family members. Facebook likes to think it knows what we like—a little bit creepy, if you ask me. But, I digress.

Work Strategically to Get Your Posts Seen

So, how many posts are your followers actually seeing? Facebook explains that “of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.” With odds like those, you can understand why your posts aren’t being liked left and right.

With all of those algorithm forces at play, how do you get your message in front of a broader audience? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to have to pay—to either “boost” your posts or to create targeted ads. Ick. I know; it stinks. But unfortunately, that’s the name of the game. Now, just because you can boost posts to get more traction with your audience, doesn’t mean you should pay for everything you post on Facebook. Instead, you should be strategic about your social spend. Here’s how:

  1. First, come up with a marketing budget (if you need help with that, take a look at this post), and pinpoint the exact portion of that budget that you’ll dedicate to social media.
  2. Then, identify the posts that are especially important to your business and have actionable goals associated with them. These are the posts you should boost. For example, you might want to put a little money behind a post that announces extended hours, additional wellness services, or other news that would draw previously discharged patients back into your clinic.
  3. Finally, continually measure how well your posts perform, and use the information from Facebook’s built-in analytics tool to help you decide what to boost next. More specifically, look at organic and paid reach, clicks, likes, and shares.

It might be a pain to go through these motions, but for as little as five dollars per post per day, your content can reach a wider audience.

You’ll Never Believe How Facebook is Changing Your News Feed

In addition to considering user behavior and preferences when determining what to show on each person’s feed, Facebook factors the quality of the content itself into its display formula. This is part of Facebook’s effort to cut down on bogus (or annoying) content. For example, the company is seriously cracking down on clickbait—something Facebook defines as “headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer.”

As of August 2016, the company is going one step further in its fight to end clickbait by punishing companies that post items that fall into this category. In other words, if Facebook smells clickbait, those posts will be relegated to the bottom of followers’ news feeds. Essentially, this new algorithm acts the same way a spam email filter does. So, what does that mean for your page?

Avoid Clickbait to Remain Top-of-Mind

To ensure that your posts are considered authentic and genuine—and thus, pushed to the top of your followers’ news feeds—you should only share articles featuring clearly written headlines and straightforward messaging. Your followers are more likely to engage with these kinds of articles—and to spend more time reading each post. And the more time your audience spends reading what you share without navigating away to a different web page (i.e., the lower your bounce rate), the more likely they are to see additional posts from your page within their news feeds (as this is another factor in Facebook’s algorithm).

If You Like Vague Changes, You’re Going to Love This Update

Sometimes, Facebook makes changes that aren’t exactly clear-cut. For example, as this Contently article explains, one update that happened just weeks ago—shortly after Facebook announced the clickbait crackdown—included “yet another tweak to the News Feed. This time, however, it was much more vague. Facebook said that it will begin rewarding posts that users find ‘personally informative.’” Uh, what does that even mean? Well, according to Facebook, informative posts are “anything that informs you.” Right.

Post Relevant Information Only

Obviously, that definition isn’t all that helpful, so I dug into the announcement a bit more to figure out how businesses can adjust to this new change. Essentially, Facebook will now be administering surveys to “tens of thousands of people per day” as part of an initiative the company is calling the Feed Quality Program. Facebook will then use the results of these surveys as “signals” to inform additional tweaks to your news feed. So, after Facebook picks up a signal from the Feed Quality Program, it'll then “combine this signal with how relevant the story might be to you personally—taking into account things like your relationship with the person or publisher that posted, or what you choose to click on, comment on or share—to best predict stories that you might personally find informative.” Oof.

The key takeaway from this change is simply that you should continue to post relevant information to your pages. Because Facebook has neither confirmed nor denied that this will impact organic reach, you may—or may not—see a change in traffic. I suggest keeping an eye on your reach and engagement (i.e., likes, link clicks, shares, and comments) to see whether there’s any impact on your business.

With all this in mind, remember that Facebook allows you to reach your current and prospective patients on a personal level outside of your practice. So, I would strongly advise against abandoning your Facebook ship. All you need to do is inform yourself, post engaging and relevant content, and maybe put a little bit of money into it now and again. Follow this advice, and you’ll certainly (candy) crush it in the Facebook world.

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