Facebook Algorithm and Organic Reach: Everything You Need to Know

The January Facebook News Feed overhaul sent social media marketers into a panic. The update, which is set to prioritize content from personal network and only those posts from brands and publishers that spark meaningful engagement, left many thinking the days of organic reach on Facebook may be over. But while it might be a bit more challenging now to organically surface in the News Feed, it's surely not impossible - you just need to know how to start a relevant conversation with your audience.

In an attempt to improve user experience, Facebook decided to cut down on branded and global media content in the News Feed. This move had a huge impact on businesses and publishers who experienced a major drop in engagement just four days after the News Feed algorithm tweak was announced:


A lower number of interactions is a serious problem for Facebook marketers. This is mainly because of the decisive role Facebook assigned to comments in determining whether a post will make it to the News Feed. Those whose content doesn’t spark enough conversations simply won't be able to reach their audiences in an organic way.

The dependence of organic reach on engagement has a long history on Facebook. Prior to the January algorithm update, marketers have been going out of their way to maximize their interactions, which would push their content to the top of the News Feed. This time, however, it's no longer about likes or shares, but about a very specific type of engagement - meaningful comments.

How do brands encourage their audience to post more Facebook comments?

Surprisingly, a significant number (28% of the top 500) of the most engaging companies on Facebook rely on so-called "engagement baits" - spammy posts containing Call-to-action taglines, such as "Vote with reactions" or "Comment YES if you agree."

There's a reason why companies resort to engagement baits. First of all, they're really effective. While only around 5% of posts published by the most engaging brands on Facebook were engagement baits, they generated 27% of brands' total comments. Second, using different CTAs helps to direct users' responses and receive more diversified engagement.


Using engagement baits can be a risky business. Last year, Facebook addressed the problem of spammy content flooding the platform and took steps to demote it. This means that the most engaging businesses whose posts are still urging users to "tag their friends" might soon lose a quarter of their comments and stop appearing in the News Feed altogether.

To prevent that from happening, Facebook marketers need to tackle one of their biggest challenges and learn how to ignite relevant conversations on the platform.

How to get more Facebook comments and show up in the News Feed

Earning Facebook comments is far from easy, and data confirms that.


Even the most engaging brands on Facebook struggle with getting their audiences to talk. Their posts with the highest number of comments make up for merely 0.033% of all the content they publish. Still, these sparse posts received as much as 10% of brands' comments.

So how can Facebook marketers break through this trend? How can they get more Facebook comments that would be more evenly distributed across posts? The answer lies in getting to know your audience on a detailed personal level.

How to better understand your Facebook audience

One of the most common mistakes Facebook advertisers make is ignoring their audience data. There are plenty of businesses who never learn about their community and, as a result, end up publishing generic content with no personality that gets zero engagement.

It goes without saying that such strategy is useless. If you want to start a meaningful discussion on Facebook, you first have to invest time in getting to know your audience. Here's what you need to know about your followers:

  • What are their demographics?
  • What are their interests? 
  • How can I accurately define my audience personas?
  • Which topics resonate best with my audience?
  • Which Facebook pages does my audience like?
How to find the answers to these questions and get a better understanding of your target audience? Start with combining your social and digital data to map your audience personas across channels. This way, you'll get a granular insight into the types of users following you on social media.

This information is a roadmap detailing the type of posts your community is most likely to respond to. You can use it to craft relevant and personalized content that will grasp your followers' attention, encourage them to add more comments, and spark discussion.

What else can you do to spark Facebook conversations?

Knowing your audience is key, but surely not the only thing you can do to start conversations on Facebook. Here are some other tactics that will help you break the silence in your posts' comment section:

  • Be a thought leader - publish fresh, trendsetting content that will encourage your audiences to share their own views on the topic.
  • Be bold and thought-provoking - taking a strong stance and having clear opinions is a proven way to start a dynamic discussion.
  • Be timely and join the popular conversations - join the bigger conversations that are generating a lot of buzz and steal some of it for yourself.
  • Appeal to emotions - emotional posts allow users to relate to your content and express their own feelings in the comments. 
  • Ask for your audience's opinion - it's perfectly fine to ask your audience to say what they think - just make sure you don't sound spammy! 
  • Interact with your audience in the comment section - don't leave the commenters hanging! Replying to your audience will show them that their opinions are heard and valued. 
  • Publish regularly - publishing regularly means putting more content out. More content, in turn, equals more comments and a higher chance of appearing in the News Feed organically.

The Takeaway

The recent Facebook News Update has changed the way we look at engagement on the platform. A high volume of meaningful comments, which was once classified as a "vanity metric," is now a free pass to organic reach in the News Feed. That's why marketers need to put an end to using engagement baits and learn to engage their audience in relevant and meaningful conversations - something that should be a critical element of any company's social media strategy in 2018.

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