like message on keyboard button, social media concepts
This article was co-written by Jon Ostrow and Ariel Hyatt
If you are anything like the majority of people, artists, authors, entrepreneurs and beyond who have built a Facebook fan page, then I’m sure you’ve noticed something…

Facebook makes it ALMOST impossible to make any sort of real growth happen.

A recent study reported by Mashable (from Napkin Labs), showed that on average only 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook page:

On average, just 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook Page via likes, comments, polls and other means, according to a study from Napkin Labs, a Facebook app developer that works with brands and agencies. Of those fans that did, the average engagement was the equivalent of less than one like over the course of the eight weeks the study was conducted.

There are several reasons for this. Most of these, truthfully, are human error which we will discuss below. But there is no doubt that Facebook is taking strides to make it more difficult for you to achieve growth & impressions on their platform.

The problem at hand is akin to a common proverb:

Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime…

Except in Facebook’s case, it’s more like, once you teach the man to fish, you then put a thick layer of ice over the water, making it FAR more difficult.

So let’s dive into the issues at hand below:

You Don’t Pay. Period.

This is the proverbial ‘ice over the water’. No matter what you do to correct your own understanding of how Facebook works, and implement a more effective strategy, you WILL have to deal with the fact that Facebook uses an algorithm that works in the favor of advertisers. The money that advertisers spend on Facebook grants them first access through the ice to all of the fish in the sea.

A friend of Ariel’s, technologist Marcus Whitney explained the dilemma here beautifully in a recent panel they spoke on for AIMP at ASCAP in Nashville (reported by Music Row):

“Of FB’s $1.53 billion in revenue, 95% of what they earned was in advertising and 25% of that was from mobile ads. You used to be able to reach 100% of the people that liked your page on FB, but now you can at max reach 15% of them without paying.”

At the end of the day, Facebook is catering to their customers. Believe it or not, but Facebook’s customers are not you. They are advertisers. They are the people willing to spend money to be connected with others, and this algorithm was created to ensure that this happens.

Facebook has created an option for those of us who are NOT full-time advertisers, that for better or worse, gives the opportunity to ‘gain access to fish in the sea’ more quickly and effectively. This is the dreaded ‘promoted post’ function that Facebook introduced several months back.

By paying even as little as $15, you are FAR more likely to see true engagement happen on your posts, simply because Facebook is ALLOWING this to happen (because you’ve paid for it!).

As ridiculous as this seems, this option does present you with a good opportunity to jumpstart the engagement of a new page by promoting select posts that nurture strong engagement with your audience.

Ariel and I tested this over the Holiday season with one promoted post and here were our results:

Cyber PR Promoted Post
With just $15 spent, we received 46 likes, 237 comments and most importantly (for the purpose of this ‘algorithm’ conversation), the number of people who SAW the post was 4,517…

A whopping 10 TIMES the number of our average post.

But even with this great response from the one promoted post, it would have meant nothing had we not been prepared to leverage the new engagement through a strong strategy.

This strategy is the piece that so many are missing. This is the human error mentioned above. Here are 5 things that, if you don’t do, you’ll never reach the level of success you hope to achieve through Facebook:

You Don’t Post Consistent, Compelling Content (CCC)

This means that your content is not only consistent in terms of the style and theme, but in terms of frequency as well. A well run Facebook fan page should have 1 post per day (2 if you are getting great engagement) and the content should be varied enough to keep it interesting but similar enough that it helps to develop your overall brand.

Your Don’t Use Mixed Media

Facebook is not Twitter. Text isn’t the answer to success on Facebook. Facebook has acknowledged the fact that people are more likely to engage with photos, videos and links than they are simple, standard text updates.

Engaged Media on Facebook
Facebook gives these types of posts more weight in their algorithm.

3. Your Don’t Focus on Community

Facebook is a SOCIAL network. It is not a broadcast tool. If you spend your time on Facebook telling people about yourself over and over again like a broken records rather than asking, conversing and building real relationships, you’ll miss out on what Facebook actually has to offer. Find ways that your fans can not only interact with you, but can interact with each other, and you’ll really start to see some magic happen on your page as well.

4. You Don’t RE-Engage Your Community / AKA You Only Engage ONCE

It is one thing to ask questions to your fans on Facebook, or to share compelling content that warrants comments, questions, etc. – but it is entirely different for you to RE-engage your community by responding to each comment and question. It is this re-engagement of your community that will keep them coming back, helping them to build stronger loyalty to your brand. Oh… and all of this will help you to rank higher in the algorithm.

It is a snowball effect, the better you perform, the more weight your posts will hold in FB’s algorithm, and the more people will see your posts and engage with them…

5. You Don’t Pay Attention to Analytics

It is shocking how many people ignore the fact that Facebook actually GIVES you detailed analytics on your fan page. They do this for a reason! (See: the snowball effect above in #4).

Facebook’s ‘Insights’ give you a detailed look at who your fan base is, where they live, and most importantly, what content they are most willing to engage with. Your content strategy never needs to be a static thing – it should be fluid! It should shape-shift as you find out more about who your fans are and what their needs are. Using Facebook Insights is critical to a strong Facebook fan page that holds well in Facebook’s algorithm.

Of course, using Facebook Insights are only helpful if you know what the average metrics on Facebook are, so that you can compare your efforts to the standard.

First off, you have to understand the average number of fans on a Facebook page… this will help you establish a realistic goal to work for:


Secondly, once you have a realistic fan growth goal, you need to understand what the realistic amount of engagement of your total fan base actually is! Believe it or not, the average engagement rate of a fan page (Engagement Rate = ‘People Talking About This Page’ / Total Number of Likes) is between .5% and .99%. A GOOD engagement rate is anything over 1%.

What HAVE You Done in Order to Best the ‘Facebook Algorithm’ and Garner Stronger Results?

We’d love to hear about your own experiences overcoming Facebook’s challenges! Leave us your feedback in the form of a comment below.

  • Phil Johnson

    Very illuminating. Apparently I’m doing ok. I’m at 644 likes with an engagement rate of just over 7%. And I do veeeery little paid advertising.

    I do most of what you’ve suggested here. 1 post a day, mixing up the media. Strangely though (and I saw someone else mention the same thing the other day) I get more engagement on text rather and pics and video. They’re not far behind, but interesting text comments have been out-pulling on all the stats. Maybe a picture with that interesting text would have pulled even better? Who knows.

    Though I’ve had a terrible time getting people to interact with things I want them to do. Like listen to a song or read a blog post. Much smaller engagement on that stuff. And of course, those usually link off Facebook too, which FB ranks lower.

    One trick I’ve found though is write a status update mentioning the post and then put the actual link to the post in a comment right after. It’s doubled the exposure most times.

    • Jon Ostrow

      Hey Phil – 7% is killer! Great job! Thanks for contributing with this feedback :-)

    • Roberto ArchEyes

      That last trick seems really useful. I’m going to start using it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Spark and Echo Arts

    Very helpful, thanks for this! Best engagement for us is always pictures of our fans posted and tagged within 24 hours of an event.

    • Jon Ostrow

      Great idea!! Thanks for sharing guys :-)

  • Anonymous

    I have also found posting once a day has been helpful. I would add to that, that after trying different times of day, I’ve also found 9am to give the most consistent results. I’ve also started adding pictures to our text and that has driven up engagement – often it isn’t even about the photo, but that visual element seems to make the text pop more.

    One more little facebook hack I have discovered is that we hit a plateau in our likes and i wanted to see more significant growth quickly. I ended up doing an exchange with several of my friends where I made them admins on my page and they invited ALL of their friends to like our page. Then I did the same for them. The first week we did this, we got over 300 new likes with very little effort. :)

    • Jon Ostrow

      Thanks so much for adding this feedback! That’s great that you discovered when your fans are most engaged and ran with it. This time frame changes for everyone because every fan base is different, but if you can identify your fans (as you clearly have) then you’ll start to see the results increase in a big way!

  • Molly Nagel

    Thanks for breaking it out Jon & Ariel. These are easy to follow tips. Points 1 & 2 are underlined for me by the fact that I get 10x engagement on a lazy Spinal Tap video post than I do my ‘engaging, fact-filled’ text posts. Clearly need to turn more posts up to 11.

    • Jon Ostrow

      Glad it was helpful Molly! Yes indeed, turn it up to 11! (But wait… couldn’t you just make 10 louder 😉

  • jennselke

    I would say when adding a YouTube or non-facebook video, post an image that looks like the video and then put a link to the video in the image description. Luke Davids has been testing this on his music page and those posts perform better than posting a YouTube link along. Posted an example below from the timeline and newsfeed so you can see how it appears in both.

  • Andy Kunz

    This is REALLY great information. I have exercised all of these on my own companies page. I must say, it has been a slow, steady climb. Key word there is STEADY. It would be interesting to see this same article only showcasing other social networks (twitter, youtube, myspace, etc.) Thanks for the info guys!

  • Jon Watson

    As I was reading over this, I was also on Facebook, and it occurred to me that a reason for little or no engagement might be that there’s no reason to engage. If you post gig information, and you are clear about it, such as including the date, venue, time and ticket price, people may read it, but have no reason to engage. There aren’t any questions for them to ask or answer. Maybe adding a question, even something simple like who is coming, or what covers people would like to hear would help engagement ?

  • Jean Paul

    Hmm…. good post, however…

    The results could have been skewed by the post itself. Considering the self-centeredness of human nature, most people would gladly jump on the opportunity to be followed by you.

  • City Chattr

    I promote other peoples posts. My engagement rate goes up and theirs do too

  • L to the Amp

    I get “Your Page’s post is performing better than 95% other posts on that page. Promote it to get even better results” nearly every day. This is false advertising on facbooks behalf. It is a fraudulent statement that they spam me with. It is because of this message that I have 0 faith in facebook. I used to reach all my fans and for a small business that was great.

    I would also mention that while facebook admits to having about 6% fake profiles in its system I would believe the number is closer to 50%. I at one time had 8 profiles for a game and as a group owner of 5 groups with over 10k members each at least if not more then half of all people wanting to join are fake. Because of this facebook will not get my money.

    Everything facebook does is seedy