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5 Tips for Creating Conversations on Facebook without Engagement Baiting

In January, Facebook announced major changes to its News Feed. Organic reach from brand and publisher pages was going to be significantly reduced.

Based on data from our analytics (thanks Chase!), the numbers match Facebook’s announcement. Our reach and engagement were way down.

Facebook reach stats

The changes are intended to make Facebook a place for a place for meaningful conversation for its users. I think that is a worthy mission. But it will be a struggle for brands. It will be a struggle for us.

The algorithm now gives preferences to comments over shares. Facebook wants people to be talking. The challenge is getting people to talk without baiting them to talk. Facebook is penalizing what they are calling Engagement Bait. According to Facebook’s News Feed Guidelines (a highly recommended read), “Engagement bait is a tactic to create Facebook posts that goad people into interacting through likes, shares, comments, and other actions in order to artificially boost engagement and get greater reach on News Feed. Posts and Pages that use this tactic will be demoted.”

Tactics such as, “LIKE if you’re XYZ,” “Comment below,” “Share if you agree,” or “Tag a friend” are considered engagement bait. Don’t use them. Facebook will push your already low organic reach even lower.

Facebook is stressing the importance of publishers focusing on sharing meaningful, informative, accurate and authentic stories that interest their audience. As Facebook sees it, this type of content will create conversations.

#CSUSocial is focusing on sharing our very best content (which is a continuation of our core Facebook strategy) but is also working on creative ways to get people talking without explicitly asking them to. It’s harder than you’d think. We’ve spent the last month experimenting with text by applying different techniques to our Facebook posts. Here are a few that performed fairly well.

Fill in the _________

This is an oldie but a goodie. And it did get people talking! People interacted with one another when they shared a favorite teacher. They reminisced. They waxed poetic. I loved it when fans tagged their favorite teachers and then those people responded. #Chills. IMHO, this is social at its best. It also checked Facebook’s boxes for meaningful content and conversation.

Trending Topics

If a topic is trending or is relevant to your audience, try and tap into it from your brand perspective. For us, a snowy day on campus gets people talking. Images of a snowy campus tend to spark a digital conversation no matter if fans are on campus or in another state or country.

Another example is the recent lunar eclipse. Seemed as though the nation was talking about it. We captured our piece of the pie by featuring this photo of the eclipse as seen from campus through the lens of a CSU student.

Camera Roll 📸

We’ve learned that our Facebook audience enjoys photos of sunrises and sunsets. These photos ignite a sense of awe and nostalgia. Rather than just posting this beautiful photo of an iconic spot in Fort Collins, we invited our audience to engage with us. Our camera roll wording was very deliberate so that we wouldn’t fall in the engagement bait trap of “Show us your favorite sunset photo.” I suspect that if we used this technique too much, Facebook would catch on, but for now it worked well for us.

Name that Foal

Who doesn’t love seeing a photo of a baby animal? Who doesn’t like to cast their suggestion to name something (cue Boaty McBoatface)? This foal was born at CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory (CSU is a leader in equine science). Upon seeing this photo, we knew we needed to share on social because it was something our fans would appreciate. Asking for name suggestions for the foal was GOLD. We were able to showcase one of CSU’s premier labs and expertise while engaging with our audience in a fun, authentic way.

Facebook Live

Finally, we know that we need to up our Facebook Live game as the News Feed algorithm favors live video. On a snowy morning, we used Facebook Live to stroll through the iconic heart of campus, the Oval. We’re also experimenting with some new tools to bring our Facebook Live game to the next level. Be sure to check out Ashley’s post this month on Stepping up Your Facebook Live through Third-Party Apps/Software.

Do you have any tips that have worked on your Pages? I want to know. Hit me up on Twitter @KimberlyLStern.