As Facebook has evolved, so have the publishers that rely on it for traffic. Instead of building one company page and amassing millions of likes, views, and shares, major publishers have increasingly sliced their audience into separate Facebook pages to boost engagement.
In addition to dividing its readership into verticals on the BuzzFeed website (BuzzFeed Video, BuzzFeed Food, BuzzFeed Quiz, BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed LGBT, etc.), BuzzFeed runs 90 different Facebook pages. The Huffington Post has 79 Facebook pages. Even The New York Times maintains more than 20.
According to Ethan Klapper, The Huffington Post’s global social media editor, when you segment Facebook in narrow audiences, “You’re going to reach more people who are going to have an interest in what that page is about.”
The question is whether this strategy can help publishers and brands please the Facebook algorithm gods. For John Maver, a social media marketer at ThoughtLab, the answer is a clear yes.
“This narrowing of focus allows [publishers] to take advantage of the News Feed algorithms,” he writes, “which rewards content that is highly engaging with its audience by increasing reach.”
Media companies are also using targeted Facebook pages as an opportunity to gather more refined data. BuzzFeed’s 90 Facebook pages, for example, have led to deeper insights. “We can look at traditional things, like when is the best time to post? And how does using video for certain Facebook pages affect fan growth?” BuzzFeed’s publisher, Dao Nguyen, told Fast Company in February 2016. “We can use that to optimize what pages we post videos on.”
Such insights have spurred BuzzFeed to further invest in sections like Tasty, an incredibly successful foodie page, which has more than 60 million fans. When splitting up that audience even more granularly, the benefits amplified. In its first month, Proper Tasty (for British audiences), became BuzzFeed’s fastest-growing Facebook page, with 3.7 million followers and 190 million views.
Unique challenges for brands
Publishers aren’t the only ones adjusting to Facebook’s newest algorithm change. According to Socialbakers, a social media analytics company, the number of brands using Facebook for paid promotion has skyrocketed by 120 percent in just three years. Yet organic audience reach has declined from 7 percent to 2 percent during this same time.
One explanation for the increase in paid promotion (and simultaneous decrease in audience reach) is Facebook’s changing algorithm, which appears to favor media publishers over brands. When social media marketing company Sotrender analyzed over 3,000 media and brand Facebook pages, it found that as brands increase the frequency of their posts, organic reach steeply drops off after just a few posts. Media pages only see a moderate drop-off when they post more often.
Brands such as Coca-Cola have always segmented their audiences by product lines and interest groups—think Coca-Cola Zero, Bottling Company, and Coke Light—yet there’s now an increased incentive for companies create content for specialized audiences. Other global brands, like Nike and Anheuser-Busch, are adopting this same strategy.
For the 2015 Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch took its segmentation approach a step further to respond to live events during the game. The brewing company created different content for fans of the winning and losing teams, as well as for fans of Bud and Bud Light.
Yet marketers haven’t always been on board with Facebook page segmentation. Last year, HubSpot wrote that having multiple Facebook pages was one of the “13 Facebook Mistakes To Avoid.” The marketing and sales platform argued that having too many Facebook pages was a waste of a company’s resources when it could use Facebook’s organic targeting features instead to segment the audience of one large brand page, serving different posts to different demographic segments.
The separate page strategy, however, appears to be winning out. And when you find something that works on Facebook, it’s best to hold on for dear life.