Social Media

How the Fb algorithm will work in 2021 and the way it will be just right for you


Good morning everyone except Brian, who just asked the corporate Slack channel, "Wow, why are our organic Facebook numbers so bad?" Well Brian, the short answer is the Facebook algorithm. Read on and we'll explain it to you.

First, let's take a look at some benchmarks.

Organic reach is still declining until the end of 2020. The average reach of an organic Facebook post is 5.2%. (At the end of 2019 it was 5.5% and the previous year 7.7%).

The average engagement rate for an organic Facebook post was 0.25% in 2020. That number drops to 0.08% for those of you with more than 100,000 followers.

These numbers should make everyone feel a little better (everyone except Brian, who should be sorry for being rude). The algorithm can be quite tricky for branded organic Facebook content.

But any Facebook marketing strategy needs both organic and paid content. That said, it's time to buckle up and find out what this complex, mysterious galaxy brain expects from us social media managers.

Fortunately, Facebook has just released a bunch of new information about the algorithm so we'll keep you informed of the latest details.

Bonus: Download a free guide Here's how to use Hootsuite to convert Facebook traffic into revenue in four easy steps.

What is the Facebook algorithm?

The Facebook algorithm decides which posts are displayed each time they check their Facebook feed and in what order these posts are displayed. For its part, Facebook would like to remind us that there is no single algorithm, but rather "multiple levels of machine learning models and rankings" designed to predict which posts will be "most valuable and meaningful" to a person over the long term. ”

In other words, instead of presenting each available Facebook post in chronological order, the Facebook algorithm evaluates each post, rates it, and then ranks it in descending order of interest for each individual user. This process happens every time a user – and there are 2.7 billion of them – updates their news feed.

While we don't know all the details about how the Facebook algorithm decides what to show people (and what not), we do know that – as with all social media recommendation algorithms – one of its goals is to keep users scrolling that they see more ads.

What does this mean for brands? When it comes to getting more organic reach, Facebook's algorithm rewards you for posting content that people engage with.

A brief history of the Facebook algorithm

The Facebook algorithm is not static. Engineers are constantly tinkering with it.

To make its predictions, the algorithm uses thousands of data points, a.k.a. Ranking signals. Over the years, ranking signals have been added, removed and their meaning adjusted based on what users think Facebook wants to see.

Here are some of the more notable changes.


First things first, we all know that Facebook was born in 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg was fired for his conceit (or at least I learned that when I finally got to watch The Social Network).

However, non-fictional accounts of Facebook's history confirm the following:

  • The Facebook news feed was published in 2006.
  • The "Like" button appeared in 2007.
  • In 2009, Facebook introduced a sort order that showed the posts with the most likes at the top of the feed.


Fast forward a few years to 2015, when Facebook was worried enough about the user experience to downgrade pages with a high volume of overly promotional content. (i.e. organic posts with identical content to ads.)

Also in 2015, Facebook gave users the opportunity to control the algorithm directly: With the "Display first" function, users can indicate that the posts on a page should be prioritized in their feed.


In 2016, Facebook added a ranking signal for “time spent”. In other words, the value of a post was measured by the amount of time users spent on it, even if they didn't like it or didn't share it.

Live video was also prioritized as it brought in three times more playback time than regular video.


This was the year Facebook started prioritizing emotional responses by weighing responses (i.e. heart or the angry face) more than classic likes.

Another ranking signal has also been added for video: completion rate. In other words, videos that people watch until the end are shown to more people.


In January 2018, Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook algorithm would now "prioritize posts that trigger conversations and meaningful interactions". (This was apparently a response to widespread criticism of Facebook's negative impact on the wider fabric of society.) The changes were intended to improve the quality of the time people spend on Facebook, and taking responsibility for the platform affects the world mental health and general well-being of users.

Brands had legitimate concerns about this shift. Contributions from friends, family members and Facebook groups took on new weight beyond organic content from organizations and companies. To get traction, brands would now have to earn a lot more engagement (e.g. comments, reactions, comment replies – and if a post was passed on to a friend on Messenger, that counted too).


Updates in 2019 included prioritizing "high quality original video" that viewers watch for more than 1 minute, and particularly videos that linger for more than 3 minutes.

Facebook has also started collecting posts and content from "close friends": d. H. Of the ones people are most concerned with, be it tagging each other in photos or DMing in Messenger.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been widely criticized on two fronts. First, the role of the algorithm in spreading dangerous misinformation. Critics said the 2018 algorithm change increased outrage and division, political polarization, and encouraged misinformation and borderline content. Second, critics didn't like the techniques or the amount of personal data Facebook collected to feed this algorithm.


Facebook announced that it is helping users understand the algorithm and take control of their own data in order to give better feedback to the algorithm. However, people are increasingly concerned about their privacy and for many, "more relevant ads" don't seem like a worthwhile compromise.

Now if you hide a Facebook ad it will ask why and one option is "It knows too much".

– David Teicher? (@Aerocles) January 24, 2021

Meanwhile, in 2020, Facebook announced that its algorithm will now evaluate the credibility and quality of news articles in order to promote informed news rather than misinformation.

Where are we today?

How the Facebook algorithm will work in 2021

In January 2021, Facebook published new details about its algorithm.

Facebook algorithm graphic

Source: Facebook

You can read the technical explanation here, but here is the easy version.

How does the Facebook algorithm work?

  1. First, Facebook takes every post available in a user's network (a.k.a. the "inventory") and evaluates these posts based on given ranking signals such as type of post, topicality, etc.
  2. Next, it discards posts that a user is unlikely to be aware of based on that user's past behavior. It also demeans content that users don't want to see (i.e., clickbait, misinformation, or content that they have stated they don't like).
  3. Then a “more powerful neural network” is run over the remaining posts to rate them in a personalized way. (For example: Mona watches 20% tutorial videos from her chess group, but 95% a heart reaction to a photo of her sister's new pup) and ranks them by value.
  4. Finally, a nice cross-section of media types and sources is arranged so that a user has an interesting selection of posts to scroll through.

What does this tell us about what factors bring a post to the top of the feed? The answer is that it depends on whose feed we're talking about.

Facebook says it uses thousands of ranking signals. Everything from a user's internet connection speed to whether or not they prefer to get involved by liking or commenting.

Even so, over the years, Facebook has repeatedly mentioned the same four ranking signals as the most important when it comes to how high a news feed appears in the news feed.

4 Facebook algorithm ranking signals to consider:

  • Relationship: Is the contribution from a person, company, news source, or public figure that the user engages with frequently? (i.e. messages, tags, interventions, episodes, etc.)
  • Content Type: What type of media is in the post and what type of media is the user interacting with the most? (i.e. video, photo, link, etc.)
  • Popularity: How do people who have already seen the post react to it? (Especially your friends). Do they share it, comment on it, ignore it, smash that angry face?
  • Topicality: How new is Swiss Post? Newer posts are placed higher.

For most of these signals, Facebook naturally has to track the behavior of its users. This is where the debate between data protection and personalization comes up. (Once again.)

After all, Facebook will continue to strive to make their information transparent to users in 2021. For example, the Access Your Information tool is designed to help people understand why they are continuing to see ads for Moon Boots. (Maybe you have set your location to … the moon?).

It remains to be seen how the debate between data protection and personalization will develop. At Hootsuite, we're optimistic: No good marketer wants to be creepy or annoying anyway. And even if the vast majority of Facebook users choose to go back to days before targeting, both organic and paid content on Facebook needs to be compelling, informative, fun, and inspiring.

In the meantime, let's look at how brands can work with the algorithm to optimize their organic reach.

11 tips for working with the Facebook algorithm

Reply to your audience

While your branded content can never really compete with a sister's new pup, it's still very important to prioritize building connections with each person in your audience.

Why? Because the algorithm prioritizes posts from pages that a user has interacted with in the past. This means that it is important to improve your answer game, whether on Messenger or in the comments.

If a person took the time to speak to your brand, don't miss the opportunity: make them feel heard, make them smile, or inspire them to screen them and use the emoji with a single one Send smiles to their group chat.

Pro tip: Whether you're a solo preneur or have a whole team of community managers, Hootsuite Inbox makes managing these conversations a lot easier.

Let your audience respond to each other

This tip comes from Facebook. If a post has sparked a lot of conversations among a user's friends, the algorithm appears to apply "action bumping logic" to redisplay that post to the user.

It means that The most interesting conversation starters get more reachin the form of second chances.

The algorithm rates content that people want to share and discuss with their friends. (Note that this does not mean that the algorithm wants you to inspire strangers to get into wars of flames.)

Strive for love more than preference

In recent years, the algorithm has weighed reaction buttons heavier than a simple like. So aim for emotional responses in your posts: love, care, laughter, sadness, anger.

If you're not sure what will appeal to your audience, analyzing sentiment on social media is a good place to start.

Post when your audience is online

You've heard this a thousand times, but we need to re-emphasize because Facebook keeps emphasizing it.

Timeliness is a key signal. The latest posts are displayed at the top of the news feed.

Of course, all is not lost if a user misses a post (e.g. if he loads his newsfeed but his boss comes over to close it). There's still a chance he'll see this post the next time he logs in: the algorithm's "unread burst logic" means invisible posts will be "added to the allowed inventory for this session."

However, the easiest win on this list is to schedule your posts to appear at the best time for your Facebook audience.

Skip the algorithm with Facebook Stories

The thing about Facebook Stories is that they are not part of the news feed. They float overhead (in the truest sense of the word and figuratively) and are not controlled by the algorithm. They're also effective at increasing traffic, according to Facebook: 58% of people say they visited a brand's website for more information after watching a story.

What Kind of Facebook Stories Should You Post? According to a study by Facebook, here's what people want from brand stories:

  • 52% want stories that are easy to understand
  • 50% want to see new products
  • 46% want tips or advice

Take care of your branded Facebook group

The benefit of running a Facebook business group is that while it does take some care and feeding, it opens up yet another channel for you to connect with your customers, fans, and the community.

It's also a second channel for important content to reach your audience's eyes. The Facebook algorithm prioritizes posts from groups that are important to users. Hence, a post that is amplified in a popular group of enthusiasts and fans is more likely to have more reach.

Go live on Facebook

In 2020 everyone was stuck at home and live video on Facebook in the US was up 50%.

Since live videos get 6x more engagement than regular videos, the algorithm really likes it. A little bit of know-how is required for brands. Given that virtual events don't seem to go away anytime soon, live video is effectively feeding two birds one scone.

Become a favorite

Did you know that every Facebook user has 30 slots for their favorite sites and people? These thirty lucky ducks receive an automatic free pass from the algorithm.

This is part of Facebook's drive to give people more control over what they see. Let your followers know they can prioritize your content on their own schedules if they choose to.

List of favorite sites and people

Pro tip: This is what is known as the "Giant Freaking Question". So be sensitive. There should be a solid reason for users to prioritize your content, whether it's because it's really entertaining or because it is really important to keep them updated.

Create long form videos that people want to see

The playback time and completion rate are important ranking signals for videos as they indicate that the viewer has enjoyed the video enough to watch the whole thing.

In short, the longer you interest people, the higher your video post will be rated by the algorithm and the higher it will appear in the Facebook news feed.

From 2019, Facebook will also evaluate and prioritize the following signals for videos:

  • Loyalty and Intent: Videos that people search for and return to;
  • Video Length and Display Time: Videos that are viewed by people past the 1-minute mark and are longer than 3 minutes;
  • Originality: Videos that do not come from other sources and offer a lot of added value.

That brings us to our next point:

Don't post clickbaits, misinformation, or any other nasty thing

Do not do it !! Don't do any of this or you will be annoyed by the algorithm, and we at Hootsuite will be genuinely disappointed in you too.

  • Links to websites that use scratchy or stolen content with no added value
  • Borderline content (a.k. a piece of content that isn't entirely banned, but should probably be)
  • Misinformation and false news
  • Misleading health information and dangerous "remedies"
  • "Deepfake videos" or manipulated videos that have been flagged as fake by third-party fact checkers

Extend your reach with your best lawyers

Your employees have more credibility and authority with the Facebook algorithm than your brand page. This is because they have more credibility and authority over their own followers and friends.

Plus, they know the inside information about your brand, so what they say can be a lot more meaningful than anything your copywriter can come up with. (Sorry, other copywriters.)

Here's a calculator that will work out the numbers of your employees' potential reach if they are empowered to share your brand's content in their own circles.

Manage your Facebook presence along with your other social media channels with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule posts, share videos, engage your audience, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it for free today.

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Jeffrey Rabinowitz