There’s been a lot of talk about the demise of Facebook. When Snapchat came along, “social media experts” remarked at how teens and young adults flocked to that app, and away from Facebook.

Marketing on Facebook is useless, they exclaimed. Invest your dollars elsewhere, they suggested.

But here’s the truth: Facebook isn’t dead. It’s actually killing the competition.

Last year, alone, it grew yet another 18%, solidifying it as, without question, a company in a class of its own. Couple its revenue success with that fact that people still devote up to an hour each day – if not more – on the platform, and you’d think that it should be easy to engage your followers, grow your audience, and build your customer base.

But it’s not.

Here’s the problem: As Facebook continues to grow in popularity, so too is the volume of content that’s published. And, as more content gets added to the fray, Facebook is stepping up its game to filter out irrelevant content and deliver the best possible user experience.

That, in turn, means your ability to reach your followers is becoming harder and harder. In fact, one day, you might never reach them.

However, until that day comes, there are still steps you can take to connect with the fans you worked so hard to attract and retain. Before we get into these steps, let’s look at why your Facebook engagement is likely declining to begin with.

Too much is just too much

Some estimates claim that there are around 1 billion people on Facebook. That is a ton of people. Yet, the amount of content that’s produced each day hovers around four billion. In other words, right now Facebook users are inundated with content, at roughly a 4:1 ratio.

It hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when you could post messages and reach the majority of people who had liked your page. But even as far back as 2012, Facebook released data suggesting that on average only 16% of your fans could see your posts.

Last year, the outlook for organic reach seemed even bleaker. From Jan. 2016 through mid-July 2016, publishers’ Facebook Pages experienced a 52% decline in organic reach.

The issue here is that Facebook has made algorithmic changes that are good for its users, and not so good for brands. They’re looking to filter posts so that users only see good, and relevant stuff, and not, for example, glorified ads that a business page might post.

This ad below, for example, isn’t really a post most users would care about.

Facebook has changed the algorithm, so you can reach audience with either a relevant content or paid ads

As such, Facebook does its best to hide that type of post from folks’ news feeds. Of course, the image above is a sponsored post (or ad), which helps it reach targeted audiences. But as an organic post, it almost surely would fail.

And as we referenced earlier, all signs point to things getting even worse for organic posting. Facebook has even admitted that your organic reach might hit zero sometime in the future.

We can go on and on about whether this is fair or not; but the reality is there’s very little we can do about it. Facebook has built an ecosystem that many businesses have rented space on. Now that the landlords are changing the rules, we can either move (which isn’t logical) or get better at playing by the rules.

We’re all for the second option because, in the end, your customers and prospects are on Facebook, which means you need to be, too.

In order to play the game like a pro, you need to know the rules. In Facebook-speak, that means understanding the algorithm.

Years ago, this algorithm was called EdgeRank, and it would assign point values to different types of posts based on a variety of criteria.

One quick example would be a post with an image would be worth more than one without an image. A more recent post, as well, would have more value than an older one.

Facebook would tally up the points and determine which posts were worth showing to your followers (or not).

The simplicity of this algorithm was its downfall: it was pretty easy to cheat the system. To combat this, Facebook, in 2011, began to introduce artificial intelligence and machine learning into their algorithm. In other words, their formula could teach itself new tricks to keep up with new trends.

It also made it easy for you to see more posts from brands that you engaged with.

Makes logical sense, right?

Today’s algorithm has gotten even bigger, and more robust; but it still operates on this same machine-learning premise, which means that the solution to keep up with it is the same:

Engagement.

How to increase engagement and win the Facebook game

The more people you can get to interact with your Facebook content, the more likely they’ll see your posts and come back for more.

Here are a few tips to increase your chances of better engagement.

1. Remind your audiences to watch out for your content

As painful as this might be to hear, no one cares about you or your brand. They only care about themselves. They’re too busy to worry about going to your Facebook page or visiting your blog.

You have to remind them to look out for your content and to keep up to date with your activity.

You can do this by asking your followers to change the way they view your content. If they navigate to your page and head to the “Following” drop-down option, they can change their view to “See First.

You can run repeating short-term giveaways and promotions in order to make your targeting audience put your feed on the top of everything else

By doing this, your posts will now show up above everyone else’s. But this begs the question: why would anyone do that?

Well, to be honest, they won’t. At least, not unless you give them a reason to change your priority level.

So, let’s see … what could you do to make it worth their while to see your posts first? Well, for starters, you could run short-term giveaways and promotions that reward the first few people who respond to your posts.

Ah, now there’s a reason for folks to change your priority level. And, since these folks will be engaging with your posts to enter your contests, Facebook will continue to make your content visible to the masses.

2. Add videos to your mix

Video has always gotten an extra boost from Facebook’s algorithm. Apparently, nothing has changed. Facebook users watch more than 100 million hours of video every single day, which is why 2/3rds of marketers are making video a major part of their strategies moving forward.

3. Go one step further with Facebook Live (and get 3x more views)

Videos are killing it on Facebook, but it’s still being outperformed by Facebook Live. AdWeek recently commented that there is 3x more engagement of Live videos than typical videos. Part of the reason for this phenomenon comes down to scarcity. If users know that content has a time limit, they’re more likely to engage with it.

You see it all the time with ads – when you add a countdown (for when the promotion expires), that ad is going perform better than if that countdown timer didn’t exist.

You also see it with Snapchat and Instagram – there’s tremendous engagement with these Stories, because they’re only available for 24 hours.

Facebook Live streams only happen once, and then they can disappear forever. That, alone, is enough to get people to stop what they’re doing and watch.

#4. Incorporate competitions

Up to now we’ve been talking about organic Facebook strategies, but if you really want to engage your audiences, you’ll eventually have to pay to play in order to even reach your fans.

Of course, once you do reach them with some quality targeting, how can you make sure your ads and organic posts deliver quality results?

Try to focus on some competitive-based content. Take a look, for example, at a Hubspot Facebook post:

Increase audience engagement with making a focus on some competitive-based content

This post garnered 42,000 reactions and 5,000 shares. Sure, they’re offering $100,000, but their other prizes don’t really cost them all that much. That’s the key with competitions. If you invest money in Facebook advertising, you don’t really want to have to invest even more money in a competition. As Hubspot demonstrated above, there are ways to run a competition that’s attractive to your followers but doesn’t cost you an arm or a leg.

5. Set up your preferred page audience

Your Preferred Page Audience is a lot like signing up for Google Search Console and sharing your preferred site information and sitemap to Google. Preferred Page Audience allows you to tell Facebook who your audience is and what their interests are. This, in turn, will help Facebook better reach these audiences.

To set up your Preferred Page Audience, look under your Business Page settings:

Set up your preferred page audience

There, on the left-hand side, you’ll see the Preferred Page Audience option. Click on that and if you don’t have an audience set up yet, you’ll see this:

Specify demographics, language, location, interest of your audience

Once you get started, you’ll be able to specify the location, demographics, interest, and language. If you’ve done any Facebook ad targeting, then you’ll recognize that it’s similar to how you select interest-based audiences.

You can’t just rely on organic strategies

In its infancy, Facebook was a place where businesses could go to get their message out to their followers without much cost or effort.

But its popularity has forced the social network to shift how it operates, in order to continue to give its users a good experience, and not inundate them with spam and ads.

In the end, that means brands can’t rely solely on organic strategies to reach their audiences. The tips listed above will help boost your organic reach, but if you really want to see a return on your investment (the time, money and effort you commit), you have to turn to paid social media campaigns.

Of course, just making an ad and launching it on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re going to increase your engagement. You have to put some considerable thought into your ad strategies before you launch them.

That’s because Facebook will monitor key engagement metrics for your ad (like clicks, complaints, and audience relevance). A well-designed ad that targets a specific audience will generally do well on Facebook.

If, however, your ad’s performance drops too low, your ad might get canceled.

Tips to improve the performance of your Facebook ads

  • Target people similar to your list contacts–You can target a lookalike audience to find Facebook viewers that are similar in behavior and action to the customers on your existing contact list.
  • Refine your audiences by interests – If you decide to target a unique audience rather than a lookalike audience, make sure your audience isn’t too broad in scope. You can refine your audience based by interests. The narrower you are with your focus, the better your ad will perform.
  • Reduce ad frequency – Ads that frequently appear to the same people have a higher rate of negative feedback. There are a couple of ways to avoid this from happening. Either you can schedule your ad to run for a short amount of time (like two days) or you can keep your budget the same and extend your ad’s schedule to two weeks or longer. For example, if you were going to spend $100 on an ad for two days, keep the budget the same and run it for three weeks. This way, the ad won’t appear in people’s News Feed too much.
  • Refine your ad content – Make sure to use high-quality images, particularly images of people using your product or service. Also, make sure that your messaging is clear with an obvious call to action.
  • Test your ads – It’s important to know that your ads will rarely be “perfect.” Don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep trying new ads and variations. Show different ads to the same audience, and the same ad to different audiences. Look for patterns to determine what ads have the best engagement. Use these results to develop future marketing strategies.

Remember why folks go onto Facebook

Whether you focus on organic posting, paid ads, or a combination of both, it’s important to remember that Facebook audiences are different than Google audiences.

When someone goes to Google, they are actively searching for something. On Facebook, however, they’re more likely looking to be entertained and to be caught up in their world events (be it a friend’s post or an update from their local news channel).

In other words, standard ads and blatant marketing aren’t all that effective. You want to come across as conversational, informational, and entertaining, if you ever hope to boost engagement and build your audience.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year (Rising Star), and the 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).