How to get Facebook engagement… without paying for it?

November 12, 2012

It is now a pretty well-documented fact that since Facebook tweaked its EdgeRank algorithm last September 20th, many brands have noticed a decrease in engagement on their Facebook page, less reach and less virality for most posts published since then. With the recent introduction of the “promoted post” feature, Facebook is thus forcing brands with many followers to pay in order to get the reach that could once be done simply through engaging content and dynamic community management. It used to be that on average only 16% of Facebook fans would receive a brand’s posts in their newsfeed but a recent finding by SocialBakers found this number to go as low as 5% for bigger fan pages!!

What's the average reach of your Facebook post?


Yes and no. Truth be told, there are still some tried and true tactics that allow brands to get better engagement on a consistent basis. The infographic below shows some of the ways community managers can engage and get fans to participate in the conversation, thus reactivating the relationship with the brand page, despite of EdgeRank’s inherent selectiveness.



The other tactic that is perhaps even more effective in order to get fans to receive all posts from your fan page is to ask them to manually change their settings. Let’s not kid ourselves, though: this tactic, while certainly the best one around, will work with only a minority of people, most likely the ones who were already engaged with you to begin with. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile asking your fan base, not just on Facebook but also via your newsletter, Twitter account, blog or other platforms where you connect regularly with your fans and customers.

Coca Cola on Facebook

Basically, you must ask fans to go to your page, click the down arrow at the top right of the page, and have them “add to Interest Lists” or “add to My Page’s Favorites”. This way, fans are telling Facebook your content is something they privilege and want to see shown in their newsfeed. The other little thing that may we worthy to remind fans of, is that it’s usually better to have their news sorted by “most recent” rather than the default setting of “most popular”, which again links back to what EdgeRank deems most popular, maybe not you.Sort on Facebook

Will all of this be enough in order to avoid having to pay to promote posts to reach your fans? Most likely not, but it will certainly help gaining initial traction and ensuring a secure base of loyal fans. Truth is, however, brands now don’t have much of a choice if they wish to succeed with their Facebook marketing. Facebook ads remain a great way to draw attention to your page as an acquisition tool or by driving them towards a contest. But for engagement and retention on this hugely popular platform, buying “promoted posts” will now become the new norm.

Many argue that this recent change with the Facebook business model may get more brands inclined to try Google+ or invest more time in Twitter, Pinterest or other platforms. It’s a false debate, since none of these networks have over a billion users, showcasing the level of daily activity seen on Facebook. But I certainly believe it will have more than a few rethink their online strategy in order to more appropriately invest in owned media, namely: corporate blogging, newsletters, case studies, photos and videos, FAQ, enriched web sites adapted for mobile devices, and so on. These tools remain under the control of the brand, and are sure bets for the next 3-5 years at least. Can the same be said about Facebook?

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with more than 20 years of expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at

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Dickson Payne
Dickson Payne 5pts

Great Article. I recently posted an article on our blog about how the recent changes with Facebook have affected our engagement ( It has caused us to pretty much walk away from Facebook to look at other social networking avenues. We now use twitter and blogger as our main tools of expanding our network. In a matter of two weeks, we have had a greater rate of success than we had in the last three months with Facebook. We have recently commenced using Google+ (due to it's connections to blogger) and I am finding it a lot less intimidating than I expected. In some respects it has potential to be better than Facebook.

Michele Price (@prosperitygal)
Michele Price (@prosperitygal) 5pts

I think facebook forgets we make recommendations to our clients about who, what, when and where to use social media. If they keep making it hard for us to justify the time in there for the return we can produce, they make going to G=+a no brainer.

Lauren Warner
Lauren Warner 5pts

I love this! The only thing is that I'm not sure rewarding a winner for the number of likes their inspiration quote gets is okay under Facebook's Guidelines. It's a cute idea though.

Ruth Zive
Ruth Zive 5pts

Frederic, there is no doubt that companies are feeling the impact. Facebook is becoming a less robust tool for customer engagement and outreach, which is unfortunate. My clients like LinkedIn best, and there is a lot of buzz that it's only a matter of time before Google+ trumps Facebook, since content posted there is indexed by Google (not so with Facebook, as I understand it). Time will tell...

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo 5pts

Hello Dickson and thanks for your comment. Yeah, this recent Facebook change in its EdgeRank algorithm will surely mark many departures like yours. Investing time and efforts in blogging and other social media networks will certainly work, but I guess Facebook relies heavily on the known-fact that many of us spend so much time on that platform, it's almost addictive. But for how long? Good luck with your new approach and keep it up! Google+ is a sure bet, specially in terms of SEO... Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo 5pts

Thanks for the comment, Michele. I agree we may carry some influence with brands and organizations but I am not so sure we have THAT much influence to steer 1 billion people away from Facebook towards G+ or any other social media without a series of major changes. This is certainly one, time will tell if more follow and we stray away from FB like many did from MySpace not such a long time ago... ;-) Cheers, Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo 5pts

Indeed, Lauren, these contest ideas are walking a fine line when considering Facebook guidelines. It's always best to use a dedicated application in order to comply with FB guidelines, but I guess some of these initiatives fly under the radar... ;-) Thanks for passing by and leaving a comment, by the way. Much appreciated. Frederic

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo 5pts

I agree, Ruth. I think this recent move by Facebook is going to hurt them more than the short-term benefits sure to be derived by increased revenue from the almost-mandatory promoted posts brands will be using to ensure reach and engagement. Thanks for your feedback. Frederic