For your Facebook Page, stop thinking News Feed. Start thinking search engine.

magnifying glass on the Facebook News FeedIt wasn’t that long ago that when you posted something to your Facebook Page, you had a pretty decent shot of winding up in your followers’ News Feeds — that stream of stories a user sees on the Facebook home page.

How times have changed. These days, you’re competing against literally thousands of other pieces of content for a precious slot in a user’s News Feed. No wonder one study showed a typical Facebook Page post reaches only six per cent of its followers.

There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth over this among brands and organizations. Facebook is very consciously reducing the organic reach of Page posts, and holding up paid promotion as a way to close the gap. And while it’s hard not to resent that, Facebook is a commercial enterprise, and a lot of commercial Pages have had a good, long free ride. It would be awfully nice if Facebook gave non-profits and civic organizations more unpaid profile… but don’t hold your breath.

So the days when you had a pipeline to your Facebook followers are gone. How do you adjust?

By recognizing that the News “Feed” has fundamentally changed. We’ve been thinking of it as a firehose, a newswire. But really, it’s something much different.

It isn’t a news feed. It’s a search query.

The News Feed is Facebook’s response to the user’s unspoken question, “What will I find interesting on Facebook today?”

Just like the way Google returns web search results, Facebook uses a complex, proprietary algorithm to decide what content answers that question. That algorithm (formerly known as EdgeRank, a term you’ll still see sometimes) uses thousands of factors to score how interesting a particular piece of content is likely to be to a particular user — and it’s shrouded in the mystery of all that is proprietary.

But we do know some important things about it. For example, a particular news item of yours will have a higher score if a lot of the user’s friends have liked it; if the user has interacted with your Page a lot in the past; how the user has interacted with ads in the past; and if it’s the kind of content (e.g. an image, video or link) the user tends to interact with. And newer content has a much higher score than the older stuff. (For more on what works, have a look at these terrific posts by Mari Smith and Buffer.)

So if you want to show up in users’ News Feeds, you need to post content that gets users to interact with it — clicking on links, Liking it, sharing it and commenting on it. You need to generate the proof now that your content tends to be interesting, so that Facebook is more likely to show your future posts to users.

At least in the short term, that can mean using Facebook Ads to put your content in front of more people and (if they like it) increase engagement. It can mean using other channels, such as email, to point people to posts on your Facebook Page — or embedding a post on your own web site, to expose your site’s audience to your Facebook presence.

And it definitely means keeping an eye on your analytics, to see what kinds of content, media, language and calls to action generate the most engagement, and what posting times work better than others.

It’s not that much different from what we’ve done for years to optimize our websites for search engine traffic: running experiments, watching the metrics, and using paid placement in tandem with organic tactics.

It all serves Facebook’s corporate interests, of course: more user engagement and more ad revenue. But to some degree at least, it also serves users when the content that wins is the content that’s most likely to be interesting to them — the same way that a good search engine gives you the results you’re most likely to click on in response to a query.

Facebook’s asking you if your content will be compelling to your audience. Your job is to make sure the answer is yes.

It’s not all about you

Man adjusting his tie in a mirrorWe’ve all been there: in that slightly hazy moment of listening to others blather on, while we wonder if they’ll ever stop talking about themselves.

People like this are annoying. So are the people who communicate like this.

No matter who your audience is – members, voters or the general public – they’re more likely to listen if you avoid talking about yourself all the time. And that means talking less about policy and process, and more about people and values. Read the rest of this entry »

When it comes to your message, the words you choose can make all the difference

global-warming-language-reportPeople who’ve worked with us know we spend a lot of time tinkering with words.

We test relentlessly: do the people you’re talking to relate to “pay”, “wages” or “salary”? “Unions,” “labour unions” or “organized labour”? Do they prefer “children” or “kids” — and when? We advise you on the language that works when you discuss the issues that matter to you most, and coach you so it becomes second nature.

Some people wonder, though: does all that work really pay off? What does it matter if you say “working people” or “families like yours,” as long as the basic idea is the same?

Turns out that sometimes, it can matter a great deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Why NOW uses ACTRA talent… and you should, too

ACTRA logoWe’re lucky to work with clients and campaigns with great stories. And when you have great stories, you want to be sure the storyteller is every bit as compelling.

That’s why we work so closely with ACTRA members to make our radio, TV and online video content. And for unions who want to get the word out, it’s the most natural fit around. Read the rest of this entry »

Rupinder: running – and speaking out – for the cure

Rupinder KangYou may know Rupinder Kang as our Director of Client Services; the woman pulling together all the threads for your ad shoot; the organizer for your communications/coaching session; or the voice on the phone calling to check in on how your campaign is going.

We know Rupinder as our coworker, our friend… and as a breast cancer survivor and fighter.

Now a lot more Canadians are going to get to know Rupinder.

Because a few weeks ago, she stepped onto the other side of the camera in an ad for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and their Run for the Cure: Read the rest of this entry »

Vampire-proof your writing

Garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.You probably check your copy for typos and errors. But do you check it for… (dramatic chord) vampires?

Not literal vampires. Those are easy to deal with: a little sunlight and garlic, and Vlad’s your uncle.

The kind of vampires I’m talking about are a lot more insidious. They’re the words and phrases that can take a piece of vibrant writing, and suck the lifeforce out of it. Oh, the meaning’s still there… if anyone bothers reading it. But the emotional energy and power are gone, and with them, most of the impact it could have had.

But take heart, Van Helsing: these vampires may be impervious to daylight, but they don’t stand a chance against your Delete key. Here are five of the worst vampires we’ve encountered; the moment you see them in your own work, seek out and destroy. Read the rest of this entry »

New faces, new roles… and a new Toronto office!

If you thought you heard an even-louder-than usual buzz of activity at the NOW offices the last time you called us, you aren’t wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Making a joke? Remember the audience you can’t see from the stage

Photo of a mic and crowd“Open with a joke,” people often tell public speakers. “Warm the crowd up. Get ‘em on your side.”

It can work. But mishandled, it can also be incredibly risky — and I’m not talking about not getting guffaws. The price for a lukewarm laugh from the folks in the room may be some decidedly unfunny blowback from your other audience: the one outside.

These days, you’re never just speaking to the people sitting in front of you. Whether your speech is being covered by the CBC or live-tweeted by an audience member, there’s a good chance you have others listening in. And the joke that just kills with the partisan, supportive folks in attendance can sink your reputation out in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »

On a national day of mourning, let’s look abroad as well

One day is not enough. One death is too many. April 28: Day of MourningToday we mourn the many workers killed or injured on the job. For 30 years now, Canadians have set aside April 28 to look beyond the sheer statistics — the workplace deaths that top 1,000 every year in Canada, the thousands of injuries ranging from painful to permanently debilitating — and to commit ourselves to action.

Better enforcement of laws and regulations that look good on paper, but mean little if employers can shrug them off. More resources for workplace health and safety. More stringent contract language.

And a stronger, broader labour movement, so nobody feels they’re alone when they tell their boss a task is too dangerous or a risk is too great.

The situation is even worse in many other countries. As horrible as it is to think that more than a thousand Canadians die on the job every year, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh on April 23, 2013 claimed as many lives in a single day.

Paul Dewar, foreign affairs critic for Canada’s NDP, has helped lead a drive to ensure Canadian companies disclose far more information about their supply chain: the global assembly line that brings products to our store shelves. As he points out,

On April 24, 2013, Canadians across the country were wearing clothes made by workers in Rana Plaza and equally unsafe factories worldwide. In the wake of the catastrophe, many of us have sought to learn more about the conditions in which our clothes are made.

We all want to know what we can do — individually and collectively — to prevent a future tragedy. [...]

Ultimately, social responsibility is grounded in a simple premise: no one should leave for work in the morning and not make it home because basic labour standards were not met. The strong response to the Rana Plaza tragedy showed that Canadians feel it is our responsibility to demand responsible, sustainable, and equitable economic and social engagement with people in developing countries.

It certainly is. And it’s our responsibility as well to recognize that one workplace death — in Canada, Bangladesh or anywhere else — is one too many, and to combine remembrance with action. We need fewer reasons to mourn, and more reasons to hope.

A loving farewell to Ian Reid

Ian Reid, 1955 - 2014

A mighty heart has stopped.

Ian Reid, beloved husband to Paul Degenstein and our dear, sweet friend, died peacefully late Saturday afternoon. And with him goes one of Canada’s smartest and most compassionate voices for a better, fairer world.

Read the rest of this entry »