16 New Rules for Facebook Marketing Success

For many pages, getting organic reach in Facebook’s Newsfeed is starting to become impossible. The ever-increasing frequency of competing posts from friends and pages they like, and native ads.

Ultimately these changes are driven by the fact that Facebook is a public company, whose shareholders insist on a healthy earnings every quarter:


The News Feed is the Battleground

Every single day, businesses are creating Facebook pages to reach the same people you’re trying to reach.

And if they use Facebook ads, reaching your fans is almost guaranteed.

At the same time, you’re competing with each Facebook users friends for attention, which is next to impossible in a place where friends are always the priority.

With all these changes in mind, here are 16 new rules for Facebook marketing:

1. Focus on Your Fan’s Agenda First

If you forget every other word in this post, remember this first rule:

Focus on your fan’s agenda first. If you do this, you can’t go wrong in the long run.

After all, Facebook is all about encouraging your supporters to tell their friends about your cause.

Focusing on their agenda will get their attention (likes, comments, shares) more than promoting your next fundraising campaign, which is about you.

[Tweet “The number one question on your Facebook fan’s mind is always “what’s in it for me?””]

Check out this update from George Takei:

putting fans first

2. Boost Engagement with Timeline Contests

There are many ways to deal with declining reach on Facebook, but one way consistently works time and time again: Timeline contests.

Timeline contests boost engagement by offering a prize in a Page update. For example, you can post a question and reward a correct answer.

You can reward fans and visitors for:

  • Posting on your Page (including photos)
  • Private messaging your page
  • Liking a page post
  • Commenting on a page post (including comments with photos)
  • Accumulating likes on their posts or comments (including comments with photos)

For more on this strategy, read Facebook Timeline Contests – Everything Your Nonprofit Needs for Success.

3. Publish Link Posts to Drive Website Traffic

If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, try posting links, which can increase website better than photos or text updates.

Links to useful and interesting blogposts are the best type of link, but there are also:

  • Infographics
  • Ebooks
  • How-tos and tutorials
  • Promotional videos
  • etc.

Checkout this article by PostPlanner, titled How to Use Facebook to Get More Donors [INFOGRAPHIC].

4. Use Custom Link Post CTAs

Facebook now allows you to add various CTAs to link posts using the Power Editor. CTAs include: “Sign Up”“Book Now”“Learn More”“Shop Now” and “Download” (as shown below).
New Facebook Call To Actions for Link Posts (VIDEO TUTORIAL)

Check out this short howto video on creating custom call-to-actions in your link posts.

5. Publish Photos to Boost Engagement

Hands-down, the content that people engage with the most on Facebook is Photos. But this doesn’t mean you should only publish photos.

People like all different types of content, but they like photos the most – especially photos that have an immediate and emotional impact.

You can see which post types your fans like best, by viewing the Posts report within Facebook Insights, and selecting “Post Types” (as shown below).

photos get the most engagement

Are they mostly status updates? Are they mostly photos?

If you want more juice from your visual content, check out 10 Tips for Turning Photos Into Powerful Stories.

6. Ask Closed Questions to Increase Comments

Research shows that closed questions work better on Facebook then open questions.

That’s because closed questions take advantage of the brain’s built-in auto complete feature.

Think about it: Instead of sucking up RAM formulating an answer to an open question, your brain simply has to spit out a “yes” or “no”“true” or“false”, or some other choice between two predetermined answers.

Three Ways to Instantly Boost Engagement with Text Updates

The more specific your closed questions are, the more likely they’ll receive comments.

For more on boosting engagement with text updates, check out Three Ways to Instantly Boost Engagement with Text Updates.

7. Piggyback Trending Topics

Over the past year, Facebook has added trending topics to the righthand sidebar (as shown above).

Trending stories

Trending topics are stories that are displaying “a sharp increase in popularity”. Your personal interests are also factored into the the algorithm for trending topics.

Trending topics are listed in reverse order, starting the most trending stories at the top.

Get started with leveraging trending topics:

  • You can get more reach for your page updates by posting updates about trending topics when it makes sense.
  • Ask yourself: “How can we join these discussions? How is our cause connected – even indirectly – to this topic?”. For example, a women’s rights org, might explore the Brad Pitt story shown above.
  • Don’t force a connection. That might confuse people. Just follow your intuition about what seems like an obvious and natural connection.

Check out PostPlanner’s trending topics feature:

postplanner trending topics
For more on Facebook’s trending topics, read 5 Nonprofits that Newsjacked Facebook During the Oscars.

8. Use Hashtags Wisely

Facebook also recently added support for hashtags, that work exactly like hashtags on Twitter, but without the advanced search features.

facebook hashtags

Now before you say “no one uses hashtags”, consider this:

The potential increase in reach is worth the effort of adding a hashtag. It takes two seconds to add a couple of hashtags, after the end of your update (as shown above).

Conversely, don’t go crazy with hashtags, or you risk appearing too eager. One or two hashtags is enough.

Sidenote: #hashtag search results also include updates related to the hashtag. For example, #cancer will include updates about cancer – even if they dodn’t contain the #cancer hashtag.

For more tips on using Facebook hashtags, check out Seven Ways Nonprofits Can Benefit from Facebook Hashtags

9. Share Posts from Pages Your Fans Like

A quick and easy way to increase engagement on your page is sharing posts from other pages.

This only works if you share posts that already have a high level of engagement, AND are relevant to your Facebook fan base.

For example, a breast cancer foundation sharing posts about breast cancer friendly clothing from a local retailer who supports the foundation.

To share posts from another page, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Select top-performing posts from pages that most of your fans like, and sharing posts that your fans might like.
  • After you’ve shared a few posts from other pages, you’ll have enough Facebook Insights data to see how effective this tactic is.

How to Hack Facebook Interests Lists for Content Marketing

For a more in-depth look at sharing content from other pages, check out How to Hack Facebook Interests Lists for Content Marketing.

10. Mention Pages to Boost Reach

Another recent shift in Facebook newsfeed algorithm is how it treats mentions in page updates.

tagged pages
When you mention another page in update (like in the example above), you your update might be seen by fans of that page.

As with many of the previously mentioned strategies, don’t force a connection.

Only mention pages in updates that are highly relevant to that page’s community. For example, the update from the breast cancer foundation (shown in #12) could also mention the name of the retailer.

If the two pages have a considerable overlap among the fan bases, fans from both pages might see this update.

11. Reply to Commenters

There’s a setting in your Facebook page that allows you to reply to comments within your Facebook posts.

threaded replies

Selecting this option makes comment threads easier to understand, and more engaging (Facebook users often return to an update after you’ve replied to their comments).

[Tweet “Never forget that your Facebook fans are people who love having conversations with nonprofits they care about!”]

Commenting regularly takes very little effort compared to the long-term payoff.

12. Tag Commenters

While you’re replying to a comment, why not tag them as well?

reply to facebook comments

Pages are able to tag people who comment on their updates. And when a Facebook user is tagged, they usually get a notification about it – prompting them to revisit the update.

To tag a Facebook user, simply type “@“ followed by the user’s name until you can select their name from a list of suggested users.

13. Recycle Previous High-Performing Posts

The biggest obstacle to Facebook marketing success is lack of time. Most of us are busier than we’d like to be, so shortcuts are often welcomed!

A quick but effective approach to boosting engagement is recycling high-performing posts from your Page.

Briefly, you select 10-15 posts from among the top performing posts published months ago. Then, you simply repost (schedule) these updates on your page for a future date.

In one experiment, 6 recycled posts made it into the top 10 posts (out of 155) for an entire month.

[Tweet “Recycling Facebook Page updates works because you’re simple re-posting content your fans love!”]

For more on recycling, checkout Recycling Facebook Page Content Works – And Here’s Proof.

14. Boost Only High-Performing Posts

There’s no way to escape it. If you’re serious about Facebook marketing, you have to use ads.

What I will say is this: Only promote awesome.

Investing in posts that already have a high engagement rate is more likely to give you the biggest bang for your buck — more Likes, Comments and Shares, which translates into more engagement and reach in the long run.

Promote your best Facebook content easily right from Insights (as shown below).

18 Ways to Beat Facebooks News Feed Algorithm

15. Always Target Boosted Posts

A simple but powerful way to increase your Facebook ad effectiveness is to target wisely.

Facebook recently added the option to target updates in boosted posts.

To target a Boosted Post, select the “People you choose though targeting” option (shown below), and add the specific interests you’d like to include.

refine targeting for promoted posts

The next time you Boost a post on Facebook, your targeting selection will be saved, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

16. Build Your Email List with Sweepstakes, Photo Contests and Social Actions

I’ve heard some say that email marketing is dead.

This is so far from true, it makes me want to scream!

Email is still the most dependable way to send highly personalized messages to your supporters!

Email also converts donors better than most digital channels. In fact, it’s often more effective to focus on acquiring e-mails with Facebook instead of asking directly for donations.

Get started with Facebook email acquisition campaigns:

The foundation for success exists in creating campaigns that offer value in exchange joining your list.

For example, check out this birthday pledge app from charity:water (below). The value is they offer turning your birthday into a celebration to do good!


You can take this a step further by conducting a photo contest with ShortStack,  surveys with AgoraPulse, or doing newsfeed acquisition campaigns with ActionSprout.

For very little money, you can use these apps to create powerful list-building campaigns, which is more important than just getting more Facebook fans.

What else would you add?

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John Haydon