I’m a Capricorn, so apparently that means I’m very strategic. Regardless of my thoughts on astrology, it makes perfect sense to me. When I was younger, I loved to play chess. As I spent more time on computers, I moved into strategy games like the Civilization franchise. It’s no wonder I love the concept of the scientific method, something I learned back in my chemistry days.
In my chemistry classes, we learned about the scientific method. It has six basic steps:
- Ask a Question
- Do Background Research
- Construct a Hypothesis
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
- Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
- Communicate Your Results
I love the scientific method because it’s like a strategy game. The scientific method does not lie. It also works beautifully with online marketing.
Ask A Question
I am bombarded lately with people posting on their Facebook Pages some BS about how Facebook is limiting views unless you pay and to add Pages to interest lists. So the scientist in me, instead of reacting with emotion like most of these Page administrators, decided to run experiments. I had to come up with a hypothesis and test it.
Based on this example, I had several questions:
- Is Facebook limiting views?
- Do you have to pay to increase views?
- Does being added to an interest list increase views?
Do Background Research
Since my job is in social media and my Google-Fu is strong, this is pretty easy for me, but I’ll outline the steps I took:
- Investigate EdgeRank changes. Google searches found me plenty of people experiencing decreased organic impressions all starting roughly around Facebook’s IPO. Looking at Page Insights for Pages I manage, I was able to confirm similar findings. So it looks like something changed in regards to the EdgeRank algorithm. However, Pages that had strong engagement numbers saw much smaller decreases in impressions compared to Pages with weak engagement numbers.
- Investigate Promoted Posts. Promoted posts started getting more exposure from Facebook right around the IPO as well. Obviously you don’t have to pay per post, so the statement that you have to pay to get exposure is a bit off the mark, but has a little merit.
- Investigate Interest Lists. Interest Lists actually came on the scene a few months before the IPO and based on many analysis appears to just be a revised Friend’s List feature (without the privacy options).
So since some changes definitely happened around the IPO, I put on my finance degree hat and think about the stock market and what the goal of a business is.
Facebook’s only responsibility is to return profit to their shareholders.
Since their stock didn’t perform well out of the gate, they need to show it’s a viable business. So it makes sense they would want to increase revenue. The way they increase revenue is by promoting paid advertising on their platform.
So what do we do with this?
We’d all love to continue getting exposure without paying for it while also not looking like whiners for blaming Facebook for trying to build their business, right?
Construct a Hypothesis
Since we have three questions, I had three hypotheses:
- If I increase interactions with certain posts, EdgeRank will improve and all posts will receive greater visibility.
- If I pay to Promote a post, EdgeRank will improve and all posts will receive greater visibility.
- If my Page is added to more interests lists, EdgeRank will improve and all posts will receive greater visibility.
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
Here’s where things get fun. To do an experiment, you have to have a control group to compare against. I have three hypotheses, so that means I need at least four sample groups, in this case four Facebook Pages.
Luckily, I have this since I’m constantly experimenting to see what works, what doesn’t and what provides the best ROI. I have over 30 different Pages that I use to test various methods and techniques. I do this because if I do something damaging, I don’t want to do it on my employers Page. Just like my SEO work, it’s best not to try new concepts on your main site.
Variables I can’t control and must identify however include the following:
- Not all of the Pages are in the same industry. Since I saw the complaints from people in all forms of business, I still consider this a constant.
- Not all of the Pages have the same number of Likes. Again, looking at the sampling of people complaining, number of likes didn’t seem to matter. Since we’ll be testing Promoted Posts, each Page needs to have at least 400 Like’s.
- Not all of the Pages have the same demographics. Since we are trying to determine if this is a system-wide issue, this also shouldn’t matter.
Here’s what I did:
I switched to posting only photos and videos once a day. I used pandering lead in copy such as “Click Like if you blah blah blah” or “My favorite beer is _____ (tell us in the comments!)”
Twice a week, I paid to promote to people who liked the Page. Every other day I posted a variety of content with no more than one post per day. I didn’t expand paid promotions to friends of fans because during my research, many people were claiming the friends of fans were mostly spam accounts. I always used the suggested bid amount since Facebook should know best how to optimize my posts on their platform.
Daily I posted reminders to have people add the Page to their Interest Lists. Since there’s no trackable metric for this, I also asked close friends to add the Page to an Interest List as well as like and share each of the posts. I also posted one additional piece of content daily.
I didn’t focus on one type of content, I didn’t pander with lead in copy, I didn’t run ads, and I never mentioned Interest Lists. I posted once per day.
I ran each experiment for 60 days, then moved all three experiment sites back to the methods of the control Page for 30 days.
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Steady increase over the 60 day period for both engagement and impressions. Fell back down to control Page stats by the end of the 30 day cool-off period.
Conclusion: Posting content that is visually appealing and has guiding lead in copy improves EdgeRank, but must be maintained for lasting results.
Paid posts saw incredible visibility, interactions and click-throughs immediately. Fell back down to control Page stats by the end of the 30 day cool-off period.
Conclusion: Paying to promote posts increases EdgeRank for all content, but must be maintained for lasting results.
No noticeable improvement to impressions or interactions. Increase in people un-Liking the Page.
Conclusion: At this time, being added to an Interest List has no impact on EdgeRank, but can have a negative impact on Page Like count.
Page Likes steadily increased, impressions steadily increased, comments steadily increased and click-throughs steadily increased. Not by huge amounts, but there was no pandering, no paying and no begging.
Communicate Your Results
I just did 🙂
Nothing really has changed. Some of your posts will be seen, other items won’t. Facebook is still growing rapidly, so that means there’s more information flowing into a users news feed and Facebook has to prioritize it somehow.
- Facebook is not here for you. It’s their toy and you’re just borrowing it and they can tell you to stop playing with it that way at any point in time. That’s why it’s terribly ignorant to focus on Facebook as your primary presence. A good blog with good search engine optimization enhanced with social media is the best long-term strategy.
- Don’t worry about views. People viewing your content don’t translate into business, at least not directly. Just because someone liked your pretty picture of a cenote or nudibranch doesn’t mean they’re going to take a class from you, it just means they took the half second to click Like below your picture.
- Don’t worry about total Likes. Likes and views can be easily purchased, but that traffic is short-term.
- Go for steady increases. If you’re doing it right, you should see all of your metrics steadily increasing over time. That could be 5 new Page Likes per week or 50 depending on your audience. But 50 this week and 5 for all of next month doesn’t make for a good long term strategy.
- Post multiple types of content at least once per day. People are lazy and will gladly Like and Share a picture or comment on a post that tells them to, but your goal should be to get them to click on the call to action link that directs them to their business where they buy your product or service. Page Likes and post interactions are meaningless if there isn’t a business on the end that is generating direct revenue.
The bottom line is Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all of the social media platforms out there are just trying to make a buck. You are the product. They sell you to advertisers. You can pay them to see quick gains or you can work hard to get there gradually, but there are no free quick gains.
Also, stop comparing yourself to others. If you’re going to compare, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Comparing the Page I manage to PADI wouldn’t make sense because we’re in different parts of the SCUBA niche. There are Pages within the industry that have multiples of Likes more than the Page I manage, but they also do a fraction of the business the company I work for does.
If you are a SCUBA gear manufacturer that specializes in rebreathers, it doesn’t make sense to compare your numbers to a company that just makes dive computers. Compare yourself to the other companies that manufacture rebreathers. Likewise, compare your dive center Facebook Page to the dive shop across town, not to the one in the major dive destination.
Ultimately, Page Likes and post impressions really mean nothing if they aren’t driving a legitimate business.
So I’ve been writing this post for a few weeks now, compiling data, trying to make it useful to people and making sure my calculations are correct. Then today Facebook announced this:
We are currently rolling out the ability for people to receive notifications from specific pages, friends, or public figures that they are connected to. This feature will help people keep up with the people and things that they care about most.
So soon your customers will be able to see this (click to enlarge):
So we’ll soon be seeing posts from Pages telling their fans to sign up for notifications, it’ll be interesting to see what impact on impressions and clickthroughs it has.
This article just entertains me because I’m 90-100% of each of these “jobs”. I don’t make the budget calls (but I do make the occasional budget recommendation) and I don’t do the super complex graphics (but most of the day-to-day social stuff), but otherwise I’m five-in-one 🙂 Depending on the scale, and for most dive centers, instructors or manufacturers, if you find the right person, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have one person handling the majority of responsibilities from these described jobs. I do it with a part time assistant for a very large organization, so you can do it too.
Email notifications for guest posts were turned off during a plugin upgrade, so I didn’t know there were a few waiting for me! Unfortunately, not one will get published. Why?
- Press releases aren’t a guest post. If you are promoting an event or a product, that’s awesome! But that’s not what this site is about.
- Spun content isn’t a guest post. Part of my search engine optimization research and experiments has involved spun content. I can see it a mile away. Plus, if you’re trying to link to sites that have nothing to do with diving, I can tell you’re just trying to get a backlink for SEO purposes.
- Promoting yourself isn’t a guest post. Sure, if you want to use yourself as an example, please do. But when the submission is obviously an attempt to build exposure for your business and not to actually teach the New SCUBA Marketing audience, it won’t get through.
- Crappy content isn’t a guest post. If it’s boring, has no insightful content and is misleading, it doesn’t belong here. I had multiple submissions about Facebook Pages for SCUBA from people whose posts always show up with “Sponsored” next to it, yet in their promotion suggestions, paying for a post was never mentioned.
If you want to guest post here, please do. I have no problem with it. If you have an idea, but want some help developing it, please reach out. But read this site first to get an idea of the types of content we provide before submitting something that stands no chance of being published.