Video Essentials

Hacking Facebook: Inside Facebook’s Secret Promotional Code

Gavin McGarry, president of Jumpwire Media, admitted right out of the gate that the title for his presentation yesterday morning at VidCon 2017—“Hacking the Facebook Algorithm: Inside Facebook’s Promotional Code”—wasn’t really accurate. “With AI, you can’t really hack anything,” he said, but instead presented an hour chock full of best practices and tips to maximize the reach and engagement of campaigns on Facebook and other social media platforms.

“The future of social media is community,” said McGarry, whose company’s clients include Sony, Yahoo, BBC, and Discovery. “Platforms will come and go. What are you going to do to make content that people will spend their time on?”

McGarry noted that while 61 percent of internet users are fake, only 8 to 10 percent of social media users are bots or fake. So it’s important to focus on the best possible content rather than attempting to game the system. It doesn’t matter, for instance, what time brands post content, because Facebook will make sure users see content based on their own personal history and preferences.

“Sharing is caring,” McGarry said. “This is a big shift from the 1990s. What are you giving your audience? What are you giving them what they actually want rather than trying to sell them something?”

McGarry highlighted three steps that are central to an effective brand campaign on Facebook.

Step 1. Content

Content should give users a chance to explore the brand, but don’t just focus on the brand itself. In an effective Facebook strategy, 80 percent of content is tenuously linked to the brand, while only 20 percent is brand-specific. For example, when running a page devoted to makeup and beauty tips, marketers can assume most viewers are women, so they might also post on women’s issues so viewers will identify that with the brand. “People basically want a magazine, and you should give them that,” McGarry said.

Step 2: Management

Get involved in the community, and understand that a community that loves a brand will police themselves. Show that the brand is watching and involved, and then ask the community for help. McGarry worked with a large entertainment brand that was scared to get involved with its own page. He counseled them to ban trolls and start responding to comments. “When you respond to comments, those comments go to the top,” McGarry said. “So visitors see positive comments instead of negative. Within a week, their engagement tripled.”

Step 3: Metrics

On Facebook, McGarry recommends using the 1:2 engagement metric—for example, a page with 100,000 fans should have 200,000 engagements (likes, shares, comments) every 28 days. Don’t be afraid to take risks to generate more engagement. A Canadian radio company McGarry worked with was trying to “be more American,” since most Canadians live along the border, he said. But every time it posted something about Canada, its engagement went off the charts.

McGarry closed the session with a barrage of best-practice tips. Here are a few highlights:

  • Brands need to pay Facebook to promote their posts. Brands won’t get what they want in terms of engagement without paying for it.
  • Boost “unicorn” posts—videos that are already performing unusually well. When something takes off on a brand page, boost it. Otherwise, don’t boost. This even works on older posts. Go back a few months to see what’s done well, and throw $10 to boost those videos.
  • Use emojis in copy and replies for higher organic reach and engagement. Invariably, they lead to higher engagement.
  • Think about going live. Facebook’s algorithm emphasizes video over photos, and live video over canned video. Live video is typically seen by 50 percent of the brand’s followers, as opposed to pre-recorded video, which gets seen by 25 to 30 percent.
  • Cross-posting on Facebook is a key tool for increasing reach. Share other people’s videos on the brand’s page, and get the feedback in one place, McGarry said. The Facebook algorithm pushes cross-posted videos.
  • Put a video on the brand’s cover page. Changing the cover leads to more engagement. Change cover images or videos once a week.

Gavin McGarry, president of Jumpwire Media


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