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Upping your Facebook Reach: 2.3 million with less than 90,000 Likes

(This article may be longer than some of the ones you’re used to reading. Why? Because explaining how you get a reach (number of people that see a post) of 2.3 million people from less than 90,000 page likes isn’t easy. But if you’re here with me until the end of this article, you’ll know more than you know now.)

Even though the metric known as “reach” has a seat at the table, let’s face it: it’s not the best seat. Reach doesn’t have the best reputation on the social media streets.

Some say:

  • it’s a number you shouldn’t pay much attention to
  • it only distracts you from the ones that really matter, like engagement
  • its values can often scatter from the highest high to the lowest low, with few clear explanations as to why
  • it doesn’t reflect the quality of a post

This is all true. But I like to look at and focus on reach, especially on my Heelbook project, for a very good reason. Think about it like this: by definition, the higher our reach, the more people have seen a post we created.

The more people have seen our post, the more people will find it compelling (be it entertaining, educating or motivational) and… more of those people will want to see more of what we publish so they can find more good content. And, to get that, they like our page.

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A good post, shared by our fans, is the best Facebook Ad you can ever get on your page: it’s free and comes in the form of one of your best pieces of content, delivered by someone who enjoys what you do, directly to their friends – an endorsement on one of your best works.

That said… yes, your priority should be engagement (likes, comments and shares), because it truly is the best way to measure the quality of your post.

However, if you want your page to grow faster, planning your posts to maximize your page’s reach is a solid bet (and often a free one, as I mentioned above). So let’s take a look at some actionable ways to work on getting your stellar content to more of your target audience, with examples and numbers.

With the following 5 tactics, I managed a 2.3 million reach on a Facebook page about wrestling humor that sells its own shirts, that had slightly less than 90,000 page likes at the time:

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#1 Join the Big Conversations

There are moments when an event or occasion (Superbowl, Academy Awards, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) is so global and encompassing, that most people are not only aware of its existence, but they’re thinking and talking about it.

These moments era like a big conversation where everyone’s taking part. And where people’s attention is already focused – half your work (getting that attention) is already done. So, no shame in going full Office Space and taking a moment:

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We can always tell a good joke, write an educating blog or create a motivational video, but if we do it while discussing a subject someone’s already thinking about, their reaction will be bigger, better and way more positive.

(Picture this in real life: your reaction tends to be greater if someone starts talking to you about something you’re already thinking about. It’s like that person guessed what was on your mind. “Wow, really? I was just going over that in my head!”)

In the case of my project Heelbook, one of these popular topics of conversation happens every January, when one of the biggest events of the year takes place, entitled “The Royal Rumble“, and produced by industry juggernaut, WWE:

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In this particular case, not only was the event itself important, but there were rumors swirling that WWE had hired a major star that had eluded them for years: a technical prodigy by the name of AJ Styles.

So, here we were: one of the biggest events of the year. One of the biggest stars about to possibly debut. This is the kind of big conversation one has to pounce on.

Therefore, I created 2 videos, relating to the event and Mr. Styles’s exciting debut. One was about the anticipation of his debut, and the other came in its aftermath. Both with the signature humor that fans came to expect from my project.

The first was launched a few days before the event. Using a scene from the movie “Signs”, I simulated the fan reaction to Styles’s debut. Basically, the countdown clock winds down and Joaquin Phoenix flips:

Once his debut was confirmed (and received very positively at the event and on social media), I thought it was worth celebrating. I took the infamous“Interstellar” crying meme (from a scene where Matthew “Alright, Alright, Alright” McConaughey sheds a fountain of tears from missing his daughter) and added a little AJ Styles to it. This way, the video reflects a wrestling fan’s reaction:

 

RESULTS:

  • “Signs” drew 300,000 views, over 5,000 likes, 4.500 shares and around 1,000 comments – putting its reach at 1,450,000 people.
  • “Interstellar” drew over 350.000 views, 6,000 likes, 4,600 shares and over 1,000 comments – with a reach of over 770,000 people.
  • So you can grasp the effectiveness of getting into these big conversations, the average reach in the next 30 days was 81,000 people.
  • Oh, and page likes grew by 3,182 in the month of January, 2,049 (64%) of which came between the 22nd and the 26th of January, when the videos were published.

CONCLUSION: getting into the big topics of conversation made Heelbook reach 10 times as many people as an average post. I hope that conveys the importance of this tactic.

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Because the videos were seen by a lot of people who normally don’t see my page’s content (non-fans), they ended up being a great teaser about what Heelbook had to offer: the videos convinced over 2,000 fans to like the page.

To hammer this home: with a good piece of content, tied into a popular topic, more reach means more likes.

However, for things to go like clockwork, we also need tactics #2 and #3…

#2 Insert your Brand into the Conversation

It’s one thing to know “Okay, I want in on this conversation”.

It’s a whole other ballgame to understand how you can connect your brand with a popular topic in an organic, natural way.

Sometimes, it’s easy: the conversation is happening inside your domain (your specific business or medium), just like we talked about above in #1. If that’s the case, connecting isn’t hard. It couldn’t be more direct.

Sometimes, it’s not so simple, because the conversation isn’t directly tied to the normal topics of our brand. Imagine we have a page about electric trains and the Oscars are upon us… can we connect the two in a convincing, engaging way? 

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The answer is “Maybe”. It’s up to our own creativity and good sense to unlock the ways we can make a relevant approach to a trending subject.

One example I love of two subjects that couldn’t be more apart if they tried – but that creativity brought together – famously came from Oreo’s Twitter, which connect its product to the SuperBowl.

Yup, a cookie company had the best SuperBowl tweet. And left more people talking about its brand that many others who had paid millions to show their blockbusting ad during the halftime.

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How did Oreo manage this? Here’s a quick recap of the story, should you not know it.

It turns out that, in 2013, for 34 minutes, the game was stopped because the lights were out. No electricity, no game. The moment was awkward and quickly became a topic onto itself.

So Oreo seized the opportunity to remind everyone:

 

 

In the first hour, the tweet was retweeted 10,000 times. The collective applause of the digital marketing community came just after.

Notwithstanding this great piece of content creation let us remove thy heads from the clouds. Not all my efforts, or yours, or of Oreo’s will be consistently earth-shattering.  But… if we focus on:

  • Creating a good piece of content, be it text, video, image, infographic,..
  • Connecting it to the big, popular, trending conversation currently flowing
  • In a way that is not just compelling but also coherent with both our brand and the topic of the conversation…

… fans and potential fans alike will react. Here’s an example from my own project, with numbers to boot.

On Heelbook, I did the following for the Oscars. Yes, wrestling AND the Academy Awards. I connected a popular wrestling meme with the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio had never won a (well-deserved) Oscar. Here’s the result:

(I explain the joke here - should you want to explore it for 3 paragraphs - it's in the button at the beginning of this sentence. If not, let's go right to the...)
In WWE, there’s a prop called “Money In The Bank”, a suitcase that symbolizes a World Title opportunity at the challenger’s absolute discretion. Meaning, the holder of the briefcase can lay in the wait and challenge the champion when the latter’s already wrestled and is exhausted. 

All one has to do is wait for the right moment. Here’s one of the most dramatic cash-ins of the “Money In The Bank” briefcase:

So I thought… what if Leo finally gets his Oscar… finally gets his moment… only to have it taken away by the man holding the “Money In The Bank” briefcase.

RESULTS:

  • 8,100 likes (the “embed” shows less, but the correct value is around the 8,100 mark…), 5,540 shares, 700 comments, which helped the post reach 1 million and 33 thousand people.
  • In February 2016, Oscars month, the average post reach was 73,000 people.
  • What about new likes? On the day of the post, there were 584 new likes. In one day, the page amassed 30% of the month’s total likes. Leo for the win.

CONCLUSION: if one can “marry” brand and trending topic, it’s possible to reach an audience 14 times greater than your average.

But, to totally dominate the art of joining a big conversation, we still need #3…

#3 Be There In Real Time

Does the phrase “strike while the iron is hot” ring a bell?

If this big event everyone’s talking about is happening right now, it’s probably best we don’t begin discussing it 2 weeks from now.

It would be like keeping a magnificent Christmas post on the shelf until Easter. You know, when the iron is no longer hot.

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You want to get into the conversation when it’s alive and well, while people have that particular subject high up on their mind.

Sure, you can anticipate, you can report and analyze it afterwards, just like we discussed in #1. But it’s equally (and often better) to join the party L-I-V-E. Not before, not after… but during.

What made Oreo’s tweet special – beside the whole marrying of cookies and SuperBowl thing – was its impeccable timing. The tweet was made while the game was dark: people where living and experiencing that very moment.

A moment of tediousness and anxiety, as the lights were yet to come back and allow the biggest game of the season to continue. Oreo tweeted to, in its own unique way, “cure” people of this boredom with its own simple, elegant, smart brand of humor.

Imagine this you see a vain supermodel strutting her stuff down the street, and she has this arrogant “I look better than all of you put together” demeanor. Suddenly, she trips. Epically. Completely devoid of the typical supermodel grace. And everyone on the street sees it. The best time to throw in your comment, your contribution to this “event”, is right there and then.

30 minutes after “The Fall of the Supermodel”, it’s not as funny. 2 hours later, the moment has passed. A day later, some will struggle to even remember it happened. So, if I may be permitted the use of the blackboard, do it:

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This should be how you post. If the goal is to join the big conversation going around the web, the window of opportunity is limited. But entirely seizable.

On my project Heelbook, this was my contribution to a big news item that came 10 minutes before I created my post: WWE had just unveiled a new Women’s Title Belt and abolished the term “Diva” to refer to its roster of women athletes, a very welcomed change and one fans had longed for for years.

Heelbook’s reaction came quickly. 10 minutes after news broke, I went with:

RESULTS:

  • 9,200 likes (again, the embedded version is under-reporting the actual numbers on the post), 2,200 shares e 300 comments, for a total reach of total 418,000 people.
  • In April 2016, the average reach was 103,000.

CONCLUSION: Being there as it happens gave us a reach 4 times bigger than the average.

Now imagine if you took all this and applied it to some serious Facebook Live ideas… just saying.

Now that you know the art of joining the conversation, let’s bring it home with two more big tactics, which are just as important.

#4 Mix Short and Long-Form Posts

I’m pretty sure the term precedes him, but in 2014, I heard Greg Hickman call posts that are consumed in mere seconds “snacks”.

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The best example of these “snacks” are images. They’re the “finger food” of social media, perfect for a user on the go, looking at his smartphone as he waits for his turn at the post office, restaurant (or, if he’s unlucky, at the IRS).

“Snacks” are great for quick interactions with our fans. With an image, a short video, a snap, a GIF, we can relay a simple message to our fans, which they will, in turn, have time to consume, understand and interact with in a very short amount of time.

However, there’s a downside. Since they’re “snacks” – content for immediate consumption, of the moment – they usually don’t generate the same amount of reach as the longer, more elaborate pieces of content. If quality isn’t an issue, the “meal” tends to spread itself through our audience better than the “snack”.

This is where a perennial FAQ comes in:

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Facebook, just like any well-organized social media platform, wants us to stay on it for the longest possible amount of time, which means it has to give us the best possible experience as we swipe, scroll and tap.

This is why 2 of Zuck’s priorities are:

  • Making sure it selects the best posts from all the possible ones we can see (each of us has a personalized experience, with Facebook prioritizing the posts we’re more likely to find compelling)
  • Not just finding the best posts, but also the best medium to long-form posts (the “meals”)

But why does Facebook tend to attribute a bigger reach to “meals”?

Because a social media image takes us 3 seconds to go over. But a good video takes us 3, 5, 10 minutes, in which we’ll feel much more emotionally involved and invested in the content. George Constanza here to ilustrate:

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Let’s make this simples? Would you rather have a cool, positive experience of 3 seconds… or 5 minutes? This is why Facebook often favors items like  videos and links to blogs, over images.

This means that, if it makes sense for your brand/project, you should try bringing some longer-form content ideas to life.

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It so happens that on Heelbook, images are the lifeblood. But video and shared links have their place. And rightfully so. Here’s some numbers.

RESULTS:

Let’s take November and December 2014, which had a good mix between short and medium/long-form content:

  • The 98 images I published had an average reach of 42,000 people.
  • The 33 links to heelbook.com reached an average of 56,000 people, 34% more than the images.

In January 2016, a month that has already come up in this article:

  • 22 images had an average reach of 110,000
  • 3 links I posted reached an average reach of 155,000, 41% more than the images
  • 3 videos got, on average, a reach of 686,000, 624% more than the images.

CONCLUSION: If it’s true “snacks” (like images) are easy to create  and reach a substantial number of people, it’s also true you can reach more people – fans and potential fans – with “meals”.

The caveat here is to remember that writing a good blog, producing a good video can take hours, days or weeks. But it’s undeniable that they’ll have an effect on your page that short-form content will not produce. With videos, blogs and other elaborate forms of content, you’ll have a better chance of getting in touch with the big crowds, just like “The Boss”:

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In our next (and final) step, we’re gonna go over the most common – and yet most important – idea to keep in mind.

#5 Quality is NOT Negotiable

No matter if it’s an image, a live video, a link to a blog on your website, a GIF, an infographic, an instant article… Facebook won’t be spreading the message if it’s not good.

Or, and let’s be a bit more scientific here: Facebook will only grow the reach of your post, show it to more people, if it has evidence of its quality, namely in the post’s engagement (likes, comments, shares, clicks, time on site).

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Imagine Facebook has tasters. But, unlike Cleopatra’s, they aren’t tasting food, they’re tasting posts.

Facebook starts by showing your post to a relatively small group of fans (the “tasters”) from your page. The better the reaction to your post (with likes, comments, shares, etc), the more the taster will let Cleopatra (the rest of your fans) get her hands on the post.

So, if nothing else varies, Facebook would rather show its users:

  • An image with 100 likes, over one with 20
  • 5-minute video where most people watch it completely, over a 5-minute video where most people call it quits within 30 seconds
  • A link to a blog, with a reading time of 5-7 minutes, where people stay for 5 minutes, over an article with similar reading time but that people close and abandon after a minute.

CONCLUSION: based on my Facebook adventures: reach is important, but engagement really is the most important metric. Because without likes, comments, clicks, views, time spent on a linked website, the God of Reach will never smile upon us. Bad posts will should leave us wondering:

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Joining the party of the big conversation, in real time, with long-form content, means NOTHING if we spent most of our time thinking about these “tricks” and no time at all thinking up and creating relevant, well-made posts, that meet our fans’ questions and expectations.

In actuality, a content creator’s biggest goal is consistency because, if the quality is there, it’s only a matter of time until the opportunities (the big conversations) present themselves. When they do, our quality and our tactics will get us in the good graces of the God of Reach.

How about you? Was reach high up on your priorities? Let us know what’s on your mind.

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Afonso Malheiro escreve, fala e faz formação/consultoria de marketing digital. Fundou o Heelbook, elegido pela AgoraPulse como uma das Páginas de Facebook do Ano em 2014.

Obteve uma licenciatura pré-Bolonha em Gestão no Universidade Católica e uma pós-graduação em Marketing Digital no IPAM. E, aparentemente, fala sobre si próprio na terceira pessoa.

Copyright © 2016 Afonso Malheiro. Todos os infractores serão perseguidos por pitbulls, dobermans e rottweilers esfomeados que foram obrigados a ver o "Frozen" 100 vezes seguidas.

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Upping your Facebook Reach: 2.3 million with less than 90,000 Likes

Tempo de Leitura: 16 min
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