Forcing Facebook Page Engagement: An Experiment

With Facebook Page reach ever on the decline, I wanted to see if I could boost engagement without paying Facebook.

As an experiment, I changed all of the URLs in my weekly newsletter to redirect through my Facebook Page. The point of the experiment wasn’t to annoy my readers, of course, but to see if doing so changed the stats of the Facebook Page posts in any meaningful way. The premise was simple: get all of the clicks and views from the newsletter flowing through my Facebook Page to boost impressions and subsequent traffic-based metrics.

Let’s take a look at the data.

Average Facebook Page engagement numbers prior to the experiment

  • The average post impressions was 432 overall.
  • Of the posts that were subsequently featured in the newsletter, they averaged 439 views.
  • Of the posts that were not featured (the control group), they averaged 409 views.

So far, so good!

Microsoft Excel

Average Facebook Page engagement numbers after the experiment

  • For the exact same posts the week after being featured (forced through my newsletter), the overall average post impressions was 444, an increase on average of 11 more impressions the week after.
  • Of the posts that were featured in the newsletter, they averaged 451 impressions, an increase of 12.
  • Of the posts that were not featured in the newsletter, they averaged 419 impressions, an increase of 10.

The difference between number of impressions week over week for posts featured vs. not featured? 3.00% for featured posts, and 3.03% for non-featured posts. As a popular TV show would say, this hypothesis is busted. Making everyone jump through an additional hoop of clicking through a Facebook post did nothing for the numbers on Facebook and annoyed my readers. We can officially call this experiment a failure for my audience.

Does that mean you shouldn’t do it? It means that if you’re thinking about it, you need to run the test for yourself. Your audience may behave differently than mine, but be prepared for potentially lackluster results.

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In case you missed it, the Facebook algorithm

Facebook recently detailed an algorithm change to its News Feed, aiming at resurfacing older updates that it thinks are relevant, even if they’re not as fresh. It’s based on something simple: if Facebook registered that you never saw the item and it’d be an item that you’re statistically likely to engage with, it’ll bubble the item back into your “current” news.

Image source: Facebook

They specified 4 signals that indicate a News Feed item is important to you:

  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

Take note of the fact that the behavior of hiding a post is specifically called out, and it’s one of the metrics that’s now included in Facebook Insights for Pages. This is critical to the success of your Facebook Page! Go into your Page Insights, switch to Post view, and choose Post Hides, Hides of All Posts, Reports of Spam, Unlikes of Page by post.

(1) Christopher S. Penn

If you see anything other than zeroes, you need to retune your Facebook content strategy immediately because what any one Facebook fan does impacts what their friends see. Facebook clearly stated that what one person likes impacts what their friends in particular see bubbled up in their News Feeds. A hide is likely to not only impact the user that hides but also reduce the impact of that post among all of their friends.

This, by the way, is the answer to whether you’re posting too much on Facebook or posting the wrong kind of content. Anything that triggers a hide – cadence, content, etc. – is bad news and calls for an immediate reassessment of what you’re doing.

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The FESPAR model for learning martial and marketing techniques

At the dojo

When I teach the white belt class at the Boston Martial Arts Center, one of the models I use for ensuring that a class runs smoothly is called FESPAR, which stands for:

  • Form: learn the way the technique is supposed to look and work
  • Endurance: practice the technique with rapidity to condition muscles and nerves to move that way rapidly
  • Structure: put the form of the technique under duress to fix structural issues
  • Precision: practice the technique against a wide variety of targets to learn effective distances and timing
  • Agility: practice executing the technique with very narrow windows of opportunity
  • Reaction: practice the technique along with rapid decision making under pressure

For example, last night’s class looked at a basic step-through punch.

We started off doing the exercise in the air, ensuring that we understood the basic form.

We did speed drills to do as many as possible for endurance.

We used soft padded targets to apply pressure to the finishing form of the punch to figure out where our bones were out of alignment.

We hit padded targets being held in different positions, different heights, even in motion to improve precision.

We hit moving targets that were only available for two seconds in order to learn agility.

Finally, we learned to hit a target that was approaching us while our training partners shouted at us and walked towards us threateningly, to apply the basic technique under pressure.

What this model of learning does is showcase how a technique functions under all kinds of different conditions and gives a student the ability to prove that the technique works without the associated boredom that often accompanies spending 45 minutes on just one technique. The goal at the end of the class is to have a student who has increased skill and confidence in that particular technique.

When you’re learning any skill, having this kind of deep investigation into the skill is essential. For non-physical skills like learning web analytics or social media, the exercises would look different, but you can still see powerful parallels between the martial arts and your business and marketing skills. For example, let’s say you wanted to get better at using Facebook to drive business.

  • Form: learn the basic best practices for an effective Facebook post
  • Endurance: get good at crafting posts at high volume, generating content
  • Structure: A/B test the daylights out of your posts until you find the 4 or 5 recipes that work best with your audience
  • Precision: post on Facebook against a wide variety of personas to learn what resonates with them
  • Agility: learn to post in real-time, crafting messages that resonate in the moment
  • Reaction: learn to post and handle negative feedback and social media PR crises

The framework gives you a chance to learn how to use a simple Facebook post under a variety of contexts so that you gain proficiency at it.

The next time you have to teach yourself or someone else how to use a technique in such a way that they learn it and get practical value from it right away, try the FESPAR framework.

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