Algorithm, what’s an algorithm? I can’t keep up with all of these changes!

It’s no secret that Facebook is constantly changing. It’s changed drastically since its debut in 2004. I remember being a senior in high school and patiently waiting to get my college e-mail. Was I in a hurry to get an early start on my college studies? No…I wanted to create a Facebook account! One of the requirements in the early years of Facebook was a college e-mail address. Back then Facebook was simple. You added your classmates, friends from high school, and maybe even folks you had just met. A common phrase at college house parties was, “are you on Facebook?”

Fast forward to 2019. Everyone is on Facebook! I’m still friends with several people I met at college house parties, but now I’m friends with my supervisors, and even my grandma! Needless to say, the way I use Facebook is a little different now. The majority of my time on Facebook is spent sharing stories about my family, building my business, or connecting with co-workers and close friends. Oh, and I spend a lot of time managing my department’s page, too.

Since Facebook has changed so drastically, it only makes sense that the algorithms would change with it. In the beginning if you posted something, it was safe to guess that all of your active friends would see it. Now? Not so much. Sometimes a friend pops up on my timeline after years of being MIA. It’s all about the algorithm! Obviously, Facebook shows you people that you care about, or people that care about you. More specifically, those who like, comment, or otherwise interact with you.

This raises the question of what will get your content more visibility? The rules are even more complicated when it comes to your agency’s page. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced major algorithm changes in early 2018. They put an emphasis on interaction between friends and family. They phrased it as an emphasis on “meaningful conversations.” What does that mean for your agency? It means that your posts have gone down in organic (unpaid) views. Zuckerberg’s 2018 statement said, “Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” That means you! Essentially, people are tired of seeing junk on their newsfeed.

Unfortunately, we’re lumped in with the junk! This was scary to many of us. When this announcement was released, we were teaching a class to public safety social administrators. I remember a hint of panic in the room. What would we do? Was this the end? I’m happy to report that it wasn’t.

The solution is pretty simple. Yes, it’s important to stay up to date on Facebook’s algorithms. It’s important to know tips and tricks to make your posts more successful. Like when to post. Or that a post with an image will perform 2-3x better than the same post with no image. But, even for someone who enjoys social media as much as I do, it’s overwhelming to try to keep up on the algorithms. If you don’t have time to read and stay up-to-date on the algorithms then what can you do? Give up? Tell your Chief or Sheriff that someone else has to take over? Of course not! My suggestion? Trial and error, baby! Get out there and try new things. Post on different days, at different times, and even in different ways! Maybe going Facebook Live works great for your agency. Maybe it’s a funny picture of your officers. Learn about your community and find out what is received well – then keep doing it! Follow other agencies’ pages. Don’t be afraid to copy other agencies. There’s a good chance that if something is working for them, it might work for you! If something doesn’t work, then tweak it and try again. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying just because it didn’t work once. It just means you need to regroup and try it a different way.

Chase Winkle
Co-founder Police Social Media Academy
Patrolman City of Muncie