How You’re Unintentionally Ruining Your Facebook Engagement – And How to Fix It

Sometimes, it seems like Facebook is just changing its algorithm solely to negatively affect organic reach – the number of people who see your post without you paying for them to see it – especially for business pages. For instance, in October 2013, organic reach fell horrendously, worrying marketing and social media managers all over the world. Organic reach was, on average, reaching 12.05% of fans in October; by February reach had fallen to 6.15%.

Facebook claims this happened not because they were punishing business pages that weren’t using paid ads, but rather, it was the natural evolution of the site. With more users and more content being posted every day, something had to change. Facebook users are bombarded with content every time they visit the site – if Facebook actually showed users an unfiltered newsfeed, they’d see as many as 15,000 new stories every time they log in. Posts by businesses and pages would completely overshadow updates by friends and relatives, the reason that many use the site in the first place.

There’s a lot of competition for a Facebook newsfeed and that’s exactly why Facebook defaults to a ‘most popular’ feed when people log in. Getting into this popular feed is key to making Facebook work for your brand. In order to get into that feed, you need to keep your fans engaged. The more fans that share, like, and/or comment on your content, the more often your content will appear in their feeds. In other words, engagement begets more engagement.

That said, some brands aren’t doing themselves any favors. Instead, they’re doing things that aren’t necessarily promoting more engagement; in some cases they’re publishing content that almost discourages engagement. Sometimes, they’re even doing things that Facebook frowns upon and therefore punishes by not showing their posts at all.

If you’re suffering from frustratingly low traction on your Facebook posts, keep reading – you might be making some big mistakes without even realizing it.

9 Big Mistakes You’re Making on Facebook

If your organic reach is particularly low or even hovering around that 6% mark, chances are you’re doing something that isn’t encouraging engagement, like one of these big mistakes:

#1 – Posting Generic Content

Whether it’s a link posted without any commentary or a generic photo without a caption, generic content doesn’t do anything to engage the Facebook community. If what you’re posting isn’t spurring fans to take some sort of action, whether it’s hitting the like button or sharing their opinion in the comments section, then chances are your posts are being ignored. Facebook keeps track of how often your fans ignore what you’re posting, and the lack of engagement can shrink your organic reach for future posts even further.

#2 – Not Using the Link Sharing Option

Facebook offers various ways to post content. You can write straight text updates, upload a photo or video, or share a link to another website or article. One of the biggest faux pas that companies make is that they embed links in the wrong post format, instead of specifically choosing to share a link. For example, they’ll upload a photo and then put the link within the caption or even in the first comment. Facebook frowns on this trick and you’re much better off posting your link as a link.

#3 – Cheaply Inflating Your Likes

A high number of likes for your page is great, but if you’re getting those likes by questionable means, Facebook will recognize it as unnatural. You may think you’ve struck gold when you buy 2000 new Facebook likes on Fiverr; however, these purchased likes aren’t going to engage with your content. Other enterprising companies take a slightly more organic route, and buy Facebook ads targeted to countries where likes are cheaper, even though that audience won’t necessarily buy what you’re selling.

These get-likes-quick solutions might seem like a great idea at the time – after all, people are naturally more inclined to like a page that already has more fans, in a sort of snowball effect – but over time, they will ruin your organic engagement. When Facebook serves up these fake or disinterested fans with content that they don’t care about, they won’t engage. When Facebook sees that nobody is ‘liking’, sharing, or commenting on your updates, Facebook will show these updates to less and less users.

#4 – Cheaply Inflating Your User Engagement

One way pages cheaply inflate their engagement is by asking for likes outright, with status updates or useless memes that say, “Share if you agree, comment if you don’t.” This is seen as spam content by Facebook and as such, it’s usually going to hurt your organic reach. In addition, these viral and useless updates won’t win you any business if the people discovering your page via a meme aren’t going to make any purchases.

#5 – Forgetting a Call-to-Action

Fans tend to engage with content when you’re asking something of them. Call-to-actions are imperative no matter what content you post. For a status update, consider posing trivia questions. Words like “learn more” can also function as call-to-actions and it just takes a few clicks of your keyboard.

#6 – Veering Off Topic

Social media for businesses is about building brand recognition. That’s why talking about video games won’t help you one little bit, if you’re a restaurant. The only exception to this is, perhaps, holidays. Always feel free to wish your fans happy holidays; it’s even better if you can somehow relate those holiday wishes to your industry and brand.

#7 – Focusing too Much on Self-Promotion

While you’re using social media to build your brand, you don’t want to turn off fans by only talking about your company and products. Focus on the 80/20 rule. 20% of your posts can be about your products and services, but the remaining 80% should cover other industry-related content.

The exception is in cases where your company and products are highly engaging in and of themselves – restaurants are a great example of this. After all, if you own a restaurant, your fans probably followed you entirely because of your food, so they won’t bat an eye if your updates are all about you. My favorite local noodle shop, Issei Noodle, only posts about their specials, holiday closings, and their new second location – and still manages to get a great amount of engagement for an independent restaurant in a small town.

#8 – Posting Too Little or at the Wrong Time

If you want your fans to engage, you need to provide content that they can engage with. Posting just once or twice a week won’t cut it and posting when everyone else is – such as in the early afternoon on weekdays – will only make it more difficult for you to end up in the ‘most popular’ feed.

#9 – Failing to Monitor Analytics

Analytics matter, because they show you what works and what doesn’t. By monitoring your Facebook analytics, you can see what kind of content acquires the most engagement. Emulate the content that gets you likes, comments, or shares, and stay away from content that gets a negative reaction—in other words, no reaction at all.

How to Get Real Engagement on Your Facebook Page (9 Ways)

Now that you know what you’re doing wrong, it’s time to create a better social media marketing strategy to do what’s right.

#1 – Make It Easy for the Right People to Like Your Page

While you should forget about asking uninterested parties for likes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easy for people to easily like your page. Every time you send out an email blast, provide a link to your Facebook page. Your company website should also have a link to all your social media sites. That way, your current customers can easily find you on Facebook. Those are the people who are truly interested in what you have to share. They’re also more likely to engage with your page.

#2 – Post Stuff That Interests Your Fans

Once you have a solid fan base of people who like your page because of the products you offer, populate your feed with stuff that’s highly relevant to them. George Takei is a great example of this. He may be an actor/director, as his page says, but he is selling his book Oh Myyy! – There Goes the Internet, and his page is popular for its humor. He posts everything from humorous memes to videos. When he posts links, he adds his own commentary. Absolutely every one of his posts has enormous engagement quotient.

How can you bring George Takei kind of humor to your page? Well, it’s unlikely that popular memes and funny photos are going to help you sell products, but there’s definitely some popular angle or humorous slant you can give to your industry.


How can you get people talking? What will make them hit the share button? This is the kind of interesting content with which you should fill your feed.

#3 – Update Frequently

Give yourself every possible chance to show up in your fans’ newsfeeds by posting frequently— at least two or three times a day. You don’t want to spam, but on a site like Facebook, it’s hard to post too much as long as your content is still relevant and interesting. Once you start posting a variety of content, it’s extra important to keep an eye out on analytics so you can figure out which content not only organically reaches most people, but also gets the most engagement.

#4 – Post on Saturday

Speaking of when your content will get the most engagement, studies like this one by Buffer have repeatedly found that weekends have some of the highest engagement there is – and yet, many brands still haven’t broken out of the posting Monday through Friday between 9 and 5 mindset.

You’ll reach a lot more people – and experience less competition – if you schedule posts ahead for the weekend.

#5 – Tell Your Followers to ‘Get Notifications’

While Facebook frowns upon directly asking for likes simply for the sake of upping your like count, there’s nothing wrong with telling your followers how to get all of your updates. A simple text update will do. Just tell your followers to hover over the “Like” button and then click “Get Notifications.” This ensures every single one of your updates shows up in you fans’ feed.

Alilelly Baby Bean Bags does a great job of this every time they run a contest. They’ve discovered a good workaround to outright asking for likes. To enter the contest, you must like their page as well as share the comment. They then suggest choosing “Get Notifications” so that winners will see when they won the prize. Because of this clever request, many of their fans are getting every single notification, no matter what.

#6 – Use Hashtags

Hashtags are no longer just the purview of Twitter. On Facebook, hashtags can work in a variety of ways. For starters, they can help fans know what to expect on a given day. Just look at Havahart, which has more than 68,000 fans and uses unique hashtags like #MidweekMischief.

That way, fans know that every week, sometime in the middle of the week, Havahart will post an amusing – but brand relevant – post about an animal getting into a silly situation. Using unique hashtags are also a great way to track who is talking about your brand. Simply click on the hashtag link and see who else is using it!

#7 – Feature Your Clients

Make your Facebook business page even more personal by focusing on your fans and sharing their stories. ModCloth does an amazing job of this. They consistently post photos of their customers showing off their personal style while wearing their clothes. But, they don’t stop there. When they post these photos, they also caption them and often ask their fans questions like, “What’s the most fabulously funky piece you like to rock to make your day a little brighter?” This way, they’re encouraging even more engagement with their customers.

#8 – Link Instagram to Facebook

Since Facebook bought Instagram, they have a vested interest in getting more people to use Instagram. That’s why you can easily beat the engagement cap on Facebook by sharing your Instagram photos to your Facebook feed, like 12 Keys Rehab does. Their fans love the motivational messages and relaxing photos of their Florida setting, and consistently like and share these images.

Your organic reach will typically be much higher when you link Instagram and Facebook. In fact, Instagram photos shared on Facebook tend to get a 20% exposure rate compared to the typical 6% most other content pieces are currently getting.

Many businesses have shied away from getting on Instagram because it takes time to set up. Instagram is easiest to use right when you take a photo, but it’s something that’s not possible for many companies, where social postings have to go through levels of approval. But with a 20% exposure rate on Facebook, it’s well worth the investment and time, even if it means editing the photo on a computer and then sending it to an iPhone for uploading.

#9 – Buy Facebook Ads

Last but most definitely not the least, you can always buy engagement through Facebook ads if you are really eager to try and expand your reach. While Facebook ads are changing all the time, you can typically focus your ad campaigns to achieve desired results such as, page post engagement or page likes.

Ads can work because you can specifically target people who you know are a good market for your products and services. You can target people in a specific location, age, gender, or any number of demographic slices. You can show your ads to friends of fans, or even target your fans to make sure a greater percentage of your existing fan base sees an update. Facebook ads typically do a good job at accomplishing what you ask, as long as you target them correctly.


With the way Facebook’s algorithm is constantly changing, it’s not the easiest place to build up a social presence for your brand, especially if you are starting from scratch. Despite that, it’s a site worthy of the time investment, because it can still be a great way to interact and engage with your customers. Just make sure you are doing the right things to promote the right kind of engagement.

Ultimately, your goal is to build up a fan base that cares about your brand, plain and simple. How you make it happen is up to you – but there are definitely ways to get a decent level of engagement without paying a dime.

How have you worked to overcome Facebook’s organic engagement cap? Would love to hear about your strategies in the comments below!

(Image Credits – Organic Reach Graph, Facebook Spam, Issei Noodle, George Takei, Facebook Shares Graph, Havahart, ModCloth, 12 Keys Rehab)

  • Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer obsessed with social media and the internet. She loves analyzing social campaigns to see how they tick – and what she can do better. To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog, Design Roast. When she’s not working, you might find her cooking, practicing French, or planning her next roadtrip.