Find your voice and get your story straight
Facebook the brutal brand psychologist.

Facebook the brutal brand psychologist.

Agency folk, have you ever talked about “educating” clients?

Client folk, how do you feel about the idea of being “educated” by an agency?

That kind of language always sounds really patronising to me, especially when, in my experience, the average client has a more structured approach to training and invests proportionately more in it than the average agency.

Patronising attitude aside, what agencies are usually referring to when they talk about educating clients is the need to better understand how ideas and creativity work.

In my experience that kind of understanding can only be taught to a limited degree. On both sides of the fence, client and agency, there are people who just innately get it and there are people who don’t.

Facebook wants advertisers to get it too.

But I don’t think it cares much for the idea of “educating” either.

It prefers training to education.

The kind of training that is education without the explanation.

The kind of training I give my dogs to be more precise.

In many ways Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, combined with the “insights” that it makes available to page administrators, have a lot in common with house-training a puppy.

Good behaviour is not explained but it is taught.

You learn to recognise and repeat good behaviour via a simple system of punishments and rewards.


Aversion therapy n. – psychotherapy designed to cause a patient to reduce or avoid an undesirable behaviour pattern by conditioning the person to associate the behaviour with an aversive stimulus.

“In most cases therapy attempts to find out what causes the problem, but aversion therapy tries only to fix it.”

Positive reinforcement n. – psychotherapy that uses an appetitive stimulus to reward and therefore increase desired behaviour.

“Positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioural modification.”


Facebook’s definition of good behaviour is “engaging” content served at an appropriate frequency.

Pages are rewarded for good behaviour (content) with boosted organic reach.

Pages are punished for bad behaviour (content) by restricted organic reach.

The admins of Facebook pages have access to a range of insights about the people who have liked the page and the performance of content served from the page.

For the time being some of the most useful insights still lag three or four days behind real time, but we are told that Facebook is working on this.

For each status update that you post you (eventually) get data on the reach achieved by that update, how many people “talked about” it, and how inherently “viral” it was.

Facebook gives you a handy, side-by-side comparison so that you can see at a glance which content has been rewarded and which content has been punished.

And it doesn’t take long for various patterns to emerge.

Facebook makes it easy for you to draw what it considers to be the right conclusions from the data.

In much the same way that I make it easy for my dog to draw the right conclusion about what “sit!” means.

And to be fair, and in my humble opinion based on what I’ve seen across a range of large scale pages, Edgerank tends to get it right in terms of how it dispenses its favours.

We’d all like a greater level of organic reach for rewarded posts, but at least there is rhyme and reason to the way that rewards are allocated.

At its recent marketing conference, Facebook quoted a figure of 16% for the average organic reach of a status update as a proportion of the total number of people who have liked the page.

In other words, on average, a status update from a page that is liked by 100,000 people will be organically served into the news feeds of 16,000.


But, by responding to Facebook’s “training regime” (and with a modicum of innate social nouse and creative talent) it is possible (at the time of writing) to consistently outperform this average.

A 20% to 25% batting average is definitely achievable.

It obviously suits Facebook’s purposes to restrict organic reach as a means to incentivise investment in additional paid reach (i.e. advertising).

And, if you are serious about Facebook, a judicious blend of paid and earned reach is almost certainly the way to go.

Even then, in a paid advertising environment, the reward/punishment system comes into play.

A whole range of ad formats were unveiled at the Facebook conference in February. Some of these are “eligible” to appear not just in the usual advertising positions, but also in status update format in the news feeds of people who could have received the same update organically (but didn’t).


Based on recent experience on client campaigns, you can’t buy your way into news feeds with some of these formats, but you can opt in to allowing Facebook to, wait for it, “reward” those paid updates that gain early traction (likes, comments, shares) with a presence in the news feeds of “eligible” people.

(You can also opt out of this “reward scheme” if you don’t like the idea of paid updates in news feeds.)

If Facebook reach, organic (earned) and/or paid, is important to you, you need to find ways of bringing your brand to life that correspond to Facebook’s definition of good behaviour.

If you do you’ll be treated.

If you don’t Facebook will rub your nose in your own stool.


Hyperbole n. – deliberate exaggeration for effect.


Related post : Advertising is to Facebook as alcohol is to yeast.

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