10 Ways to Boost Facebook Engagement Without Ads

Facebook’s latest algorithm change enhances the user experience by emphasizing content from family and friends at the detriment of brands and marketers while also conveniently giving the social giant an excuse to solicit paid advertising.

It’s hardly an update that sent shockwaves through the marketing community, but it will nevertheless impact brand content and in all likelihood boost Facebook’s ad revenue.

Further, according to Beth Carter, chief strategist at inbound marketing agency Clariant Creative Agency, advertisers may face additional pricing pressure as more publishers compete for sponsored posts.

“Marketers will need to be prepared to spend a little bit more to compete with the bigger publishers that have deeper pockets,” she said.

So beyond simply paying for visibility to make up this shortfall, here’s a quick primer on how to boost shares – and organic reach – the cheap and easy way.

1. Analyze and Plan

First and foremost, Josiane Lang, social media consultant at Slovak-based agency DataConcept, said brands must perform audits to determine what content has yielded the best engagement rates.

“If a fan shared an update from your company page and his friends interacted with it, bingo! Over time, your posts will rank higher organically,” Lang said. “Hence, going back to your page’s history will be a good exercise to recognize what is working and what isn’t.”

From there, marketers should develop an ad calendar and boost the posts with the content they identified during the audit, she said.

2. Take Advantage of Facebook Live

Marketers looking for a low-cost fix can turn to Facebook Live or 360-degree video content.

Richard Kelleher, who calls himself the “world’s first marketing sociologist,” noted Live videos in particular still go straight to the top of a user’s feed, yielding a golden opportunity.

What’s more, Adam Cohen-Aslatei, senior director of marketing at advertising company Jun Group, said users are more likely to engage and share video and other rich media.

“Video has already demonstrated its value as an engagement driver on and off Facebook, but now that the social platform is prioritizing video, posts that feature video are getting much more engagement,” added Jason Harris, director of customer success at automated video creation platform Wochit. “Social analytics company NewsWhip has reported some incredibly compelling results from publishers who have seen video share rates far exceed those of things like links and images. And every time a user interacts with a piece of content, the chances they’ll receive other content from that publisher increases. Basically, engagement begets engagement.”

3. Consider Bots

For his part, Cohen-Aslatei said new technology like chatbots enable publishers to facilitate opt-in and native experiences, which are more appealing to consumers.

“Publishers should fight to win back their audiences by providing decluttered experiences and monetize through native and opt-in formats instead of intrusive and interruptive ads,” he added.

4. Incorporate More User-Generated Content

Per Jeev Trika, CEO of software and services review site CrowdReviews.com, marketers looking for shares should focus more on content from users themselves.

“Consumers today appreciate original, unsolicited commentary and are more likely to make a purchase decision based on social chatter and peer reviews than they are based on content created by the marketers themselves,” Trika said. “Facebook and other social media outlets will remain essential and good content and engaging posts will always be part of the marketing mix. But with Facebook’s updates emphasizing family and friends over brands, marketers will need to focus more on getting those family and friends talking.”

Melissa Fears, social media specialist for marketing agency Anvil Media, agreed user-generated content is more important than ever to reach eyeballs organically.

“Friends like sharing with friends — it’s that simple,” she said. “Even better when that content is a friend or family member.”

5. Work with More Influencers

On a related note, Jason Parks, president of digital marketing agency The Media Captain, said the change should yield more influencer campaigns.

“If friends and family posts will appear above brands, brands will start collaborating more closely with these influencers to entice the Facebook user with thousands of friends to post a picture where they endorse their product or service,” he added.

And perhaps not surprisingly, Maria Sipka, president of influencer marketing platform Linqia, noted content from influencers is perceived to be more authentic, which, in turn, makes consumers more inclined to take action.

6. Offer More Experiential Content

For Dan Fuoco, interactive marketing manager at the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, the recent update is an opportunity to gain more qualified leads by offering more experiential content.

“We have noticed that when we tell a story or share something that will provide an experience for the user, our Facebook shares increase. When our shares increase, according to this new algorithm change, we should obtain even more activity from ‘friends of friends’ or people who have not already ‘liked’ our page,” Fuoco said. “This gives us the potential to reach new users and spread the word about America’s great comeback city.”

7. Emphasize Interactive Content

According to Jennifer Blackburn, senior account manager at PR agency ARPR, the change simply means brands have to get more creative by including eye-popping features like GIFs, quizzes, polls and emojis, as well as finding relevant ways to talk about newsworthy topics.

“GIFs are great due to the nature of auto play, so the message is guaranteed to be seen, rather than someone having to click to watch,” Fears added.

8. Consider Contests

Mike Stratta, CEO of search marketing firm Arcalea, also pointed to good old-fashioned contests – with results tied to engagement – as a means of growing audiences and shares.

Harris agreed.

“People like to win, to be recognized and, of course, to get free stuff,” Harris said. “Offering rewards for interaction is an extremely effective way to motivate the community to engage with your content.”

9. Engage More

This particular update is also a sign marketers should use social as less of a broadcast platform and more as a means of interaction with consumers.

“Look for ways to communicate with — not at — your audiences,” Harris said. “A comment or a like on a follower’s post or sharing the content they’ve created sends a strong signal that you’re interested in what they have to say. It provides positive reinforcement that brings them back to your content and ultimately drives brand loyalty.”

10. Encourage Fans to Interact via Other Channels

Brands can also use social media to encourage interaction via other more direct avenues like email.

“This newsfeed change is cause for publishers to stop building their greatest asset on borrowed land,” said Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at email marketing firm PostUp. “Publishers and brands must figure out how to stop being reliant on social platforms for developing their audience. There is great reward in organically nurturing and growing audience relationships.”

About Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a freelance writer covering digital and search marketing. She's also a contributor to Search Engine Journal and Smart Brief and previously covered the industry for ClickZ, SEW and Momentology. She is a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.