Facebook Audience Optimization

On January 21, Facebook announced Audience Optimization, which consists of three features that are designed to help brand pages, like your photography business page, in two primary ways:

  • Help reach the people who are most likely to engage with your content
  • Better metrics to help understand which groups of people engage and in what ways they engage when they do so.

Facebook knows that brands have been frustrated with the lack of organic reach and engagement, and on the surface this looks like it will be helpful. When they tested the feature, they say that organic reach stayed about the same, but engagement numbers went up. I want to point that out because I want to make sure that people understand that this is not a once-size-fits-all solution to those who have been experiencing organic Facebook reach and engagement issues. Like every other tool, these new features have to be experimented with based on your unique learnings, and they have to be tweaked and tested. But I do feel hopeful that these will do big things for photography businesses who take the time to get to know them.

I am going to dive into what each of these areas mean and how they apply to your photography business further down, but here are the three different, but related, features:

  1. Preferred Audience
  2. Audience Restrictions
  3. Audience Insights

Getting Started with Audience Optimization

If you have more than 5,000 likes on your page already, then Audience Optimization has been automatically activated for you. If you have fewer than 5,000 likes, click the “Settings” link in the top right corner of your Facebook page. Facebook Audience OptimizationWhile in the “General” tab, you’ll see a row for “Audience Optimization for Posts.”  Click “Edit” and then also click the check box to activate it.

On a couple of pages I administer, two over the 5,000 likes and a couple under that amount, I didn’t see this option here like it was for my other pages. Like all the new features in Facebook, this is in the middle of a roll-out, so you might not have it on your Page right away. My Facebook rep confirmed to me that it’ll take a week or so for all pages to see the option to add the feature, so just keep your eyes peeled if it’s not there yet. Currently, it’s only available to English-language pages, as well.

Once you have it enabled, simply go to the “target/crosshair” icon on your status update and you’ll see a pop-up that shows “Preferred Audience” and “Audience Restrictions.”

Those of you have run Facebook Ads in the past will see that this feels quite familiar. You can type interests into the box

Facebook Preferred Audiences

Image courtesy of Facebook

as presented, or you can browse and look for the demographics and psychographics you are looking for. Interests include activities, the Pages that a user has liked, and their closely related topics. With Preferred Audience, you can choose up to 16 interests to target.

If you choose the “Browse” option, there are nine categories (again, similar to Ads, so this should feel fairly normal for most photographers reading this). The categories you can start with are:

  • Business and Industry
  • Entertainment
  • Family and relationships
  • Fitness and wellness
  • Food and drink
  • Hobbies and activities
  • Shopping and Fashion
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Technology

Also just like in the Ads section, Facebook will take the information you start typing in Interests and auto-suggest other potential interests that may make sense for your page.

Once you’ve added all of the interests you think most closely align with who you would like to organically reach, you click “Save.”

Using Audience Restriction

You may have used audience restriction already, as this isn’t a new feature. It’s just housed under Audience Optimization now. Before you go over to this area, make sure you have already saved your interests targeting or you’ll lose them.

Audience Restriction can be a great tactic for photographers when it comes to promoting something specific or if you’re going to be doing travel sessions. For example, I like to do sessions when I’m traveling “back home” in northern Wisconsin and the Minneapolis area. Because I have a huge extended family and lived there for so long, I have a fan base there that would be interested in knowing that I am taking bookings for that next trip. But my friends and Atlanta clients? Not so much.  So this would be an instance where I would restrict the audience to only the geographical location for which it’s relevant.

Organic Audience Insights

This part might seem confusing, because Facebook Ads already has a part called Audience Insights, but the new Preferred Audience feature comes with it, as well, and it’s different than what you are used to in the Ads interface. Once

Preferred Audience Insights

Image courtesy of Facebook

you are in Insights on your page, click on one of the posts that you made with Preferred Audience interests in play. Then, click on “Preferred Audience” to get insights into those who engaged with your post.

In the example from Facebook (I don’t have any meaningful data yet from my own tests), you can see that the JetBlue interest outperformed those who saw the post more than those from a general “Air Travel” tag. As you navigate across the top, you’ll be able to explore deeper into the actual engagement metrics, including likes, clicks, and shares.

Other Things You Should Know and Further Reading

Since the Preferred Audience feature is so new that it hasn’t been rolled out to everyone just yet, there are bound to be more questions and learnings available in the coming weeks. However, there are a few best practices shared by Facebook and some of the pre-release testers that should help photographers better utilize this feature when it becomes available.

  • Right now, this is only available through the desktop. Right now, you cannot assign interest tags by mobile device.
  • If you run a post engagement ad on a post that is interest tagged, it will be treated like a regular ad and you set up the targeting separately.
  • Again, Facebook says that their tests show that organic reach has stayed about the same, but engagement goes up. We can theorized that because the post is now reached those who are most interested are being prioritized as seeing the post over those without those interests. LOVE IT!
  • You cannot create custom interest tags.

Facebook created a list of Best Practices for using tags. It goes without saying that when Facebook is telling you the way to use new features, you should really learn them. I’m not going to get too deep into this area, because the link really does explain all of the rules for getting into tags. Those of you who have read my post about getting started with targeting ads will likely already know what kind of interest targets are working for your page. It’s the same theory.

Being perfectly honest, I see Audience Optimization as a play to help big publishers like the New York Times or television networks. Facebook has been trying to lure many of them away from YouTube, and the social channel has also been trying to pacify some of them after they released Instant Articles last year.

Here is a closing example from the New York Times. They used Audience Optimization on a story about the State of the Union earlier this month and used tags like “Barack Obama,” “Republican Party,” “Democratic Party,” and “United

NY Times Optimized Audience

Image courtesy of Facebook

States Congress.” With general interests like the two major parties, and specific interests like Congress and President Obama, they were helping the story reach different people who were interested in the piece for different reasons. And similarly, they were able to make sure those audiences were prioritized over, per se, the audience that is there to read the theatre and restaurant reviews.

In the case of using these Preferred Audiences for photography marketing, here’s what I’m testing:

Using a combination of others’ content (Buzzfeed, popular trendy pieces) and prioritizing that to the client base I think will enjoy it a lot, and then I’ll post something relevant to my business to those  same groups. That should help me establish some base patterns.

Also, I’m going to serve up senior sneak peeks specifically to those in the senior age range, and then I’ll serve up the ones I think parents will like to the parental group and see which resonates most. I’m going to guess that the parents, being more active on Facebook, will have the better engagement rates.

So, how do you think you’ll use the new Facebook Preferred Audiences?


Photography Blogging Tips

Understanding the Facebook Algorithm

One of the biggest areas of confusion I witness throughout photography communities surrounds Facebook and the way its algorithm works. At least three times a week, I read assertions that Facebook “is just trying to get you to pay.”  Well, yes and no.

First, remember that Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, free. In other words, YOU are the product that keeps it in business. For years, businesses have used it as an almost-free way to promote and grow their own businesses. Secondly, has Facebook had 1.1 billion active daily users. When you take into account that the average American has 350 Facebook “friends” (that number in the age group of 18-24 jumps to 649!), and “likes” close to 80 pages (not to mention groups!), there is a LOT of content to prioritize.

In 2015, Facebook took even more steps to help its users filter and find the content they actually care about. In the early part of the year, they started penalizing sites that were overly-promoting clickbait and spammy posts. Later, they introduced a “Notifications” options so fans could opt-in to receiving notifications any time their favorite pages posted specific types of content. Ultimately? User behavior is what determines the News Feed results.

Affinity – Weight – Time

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep it simple. Facebook’s algorithm has always been centered around user behavior, and there are three cornerstone components to that behavior – affinity, weight, and time.

Affinity is the relationship between the user and other users, pages, groups, events, and so forth. For example, if my sister (whom I interact with often on Facebook) and three of my best friends (whom I also interact with often on Facebook), all like a Page, the affinity score between me and that Page is higher than if I was the only person in my circle who likes the Page.

Weight is factored in two ways. The first is the “weight” given to the type of post. Video is Facebook’s priority right now, so the weight given to videos posted on Facebook is higher than other types of posts, like a photo album or a link share. Actions on Facebook – likes, shares, comments, invites – are also weighted. A “share” is worth more than a “comment”, and a “comment” is worth more than a “like.” I’ve said this a million times before, and I’ll say it again – Someone “liking” a post on Facebook is like you glancing at a magazine cover while standing in line at the grocery store. Pretty much worthless – you didn’t pick it up, you didn’t flip through and see ads, you didn’t buy a copy, and you probably won’t think about it again once you look away.

Time decay is another factor. If a post garners a lot of social interaction up front, but stops after an hour, the post isn’t going to keep resurfacing to your fans. If that same post continues to garner likes over a few hours, and then perhaps a whole day? Then it’s going to continue to resurface for a longer period of time.

I’ve over-simplified those components, but even understanding those basics – nay, accepting those basics, is crucial to understanding why or why not your content performs well.

Some other factors include how long you spend looking at a post in your feed. This is relatively new to the Facebook algorithm, but it really does impact what is shown next. Before, when clickbait was running even more rampant, a user would have to click-through to a site (and therefore off of Facebook) to get the whole scoop. But with this new addition, if a fan sees your post in the News Feed, and stops to read the whole post right then and there, they’re more likely to have another post surface in their feed the next time they go to Facebook.

Another important piece of the algorithm to understand is its sophistication. If you want to see continual organic engagement with your Page, you have to consistently post engaging and interesting content. You can’t post one great thing and expect it to be your silver bullet. It has to be an ongoing, strategic effort on your part.

Facebook Does Not Penalize Non-advertisers

One thing that doesn’t affect your organic performance on Facebook, however, is whether or not you pay. I’ve been advertising on Facebook since 2006. Never in that time has my organic performance on – literally – dozens of the accounts I’ve managed, been impacted by paid results. That isn’t to say that there is no organic effect (there is, and I discuss that elsewhere), but businesses which choose to only use Facebook for organic marketing are in no way penalized by the social network for not purchasing ads.

With 1.01 billion daily users who share as many as 30 things per day, figuring out how to keep Facebook a personal experience is not an easy task.  When it comes to organic Facebook marketing, consistency is your best friend. Be thoughtful in what you post. Think about your best clients – to what do they respond most? What posts drove the most interaction? What patterns are you seeing in the Insights? The answers to those questions are where you should start.