The Quick and Dirty on Facebook’s New Audience Optimization Feature
Facebook is no stranger to updates and upgrades. Just last year, we saw the introduction of more sophisticated ad options, auto-play videos, the digital assistant service Facebook M, and a customer service-focused Messenger service for brands. Wanting to be known as a technological giant on par with a juggernaut like Google or Apple, it’s no wonder why the platform keeps rolling out new features.
Facebook’s latest release is a feature called “audience optimization,” which allows brands to have more control over their target audience. Exclusively for organic publishers (not advertisers), the feature is designed to improve the relevance and reach of a publisher’s posts. These types of updates can be easily misinterpreted, exaggerated in importance to the point of being overblown, or unfairly dismissed as being irrelevant—so before you make any snap judgments, let me break down exactly what this update is, and how you can use it for your brand.
First, let’s take a look at why Facebook is doing this in the first place. The bulk of Facebook’s new features and functions have been on two of its main fronts: users and advertisers. The motivations here are obvious; if you make your users happier, they’ll stay on your platform longer, and you’ll have a larger consumer audience to work with. If you make your advertisers happier, they’ll earn better results and will be willing to spend more money with you. Long story short, these types of updates result in more power or more revenue for the platform.
What’s mysterious about this update is the fact that it exists exclusively for organic publishers. Companies and organizations that use the platform only to make organic updates are typically a lower priority than either of the other two camps—in fact, Facebook has been gradually scaling back the potential organic reach of such posts for many years, leading many to believe that organic visibility would eventually disappear altogether and brands would have to pay to use the platform no matter what.
There are a few potential reasons why Facebook would make this move. First, it increases the relevance of organic posts that appear in users’ newsfeeds, making individual users happier about the type of content they’re seeing. Even though there’s an objective benefit for organic marketers, the real target could be user satisfaction. It could also be an effort to restrict organic visibility further (and less noticeably) by reducing the potential reach of company and organization posts, or a way to tease companies into upgrading to a paid advertising plan—all of which are ways to increase Facebook’s bottom line, so it makes sense.
Three Key Features
Now that we understand Facebook’s motivation and the intention of the feature, let’s dig into the details. There are three key features to audience optimization, and each holds unique benefits:
- Preferred Audience. The preferred audience feature works as a “tag” function—if you’re familiar with Tumblr or similar blogging platforms, this concept will not be new to you. When posting specific content, companies and organizations can now “tag” them with specific interests, topics, or other qualities. Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm will then carry tagged content to the newsfeeds of people who have the highest likelihood of liking and engaging with that content. Though this is technically a way of optimizing the audience for a post, it doesn’t affect the audience directly—instead it categorizes the post so Facebook can understand it better.
- Audience Restrictions. Audience restrictions function oppositely; rather than making statements about your work, you’ll be making statements about your potential audience by filtering out users who wouldn’t find your content interesting or relevant. Currently, you can filter by factors like location, language, gender, and age—presumably, more filters will be introduced if Facebook deems the audience optimization feature worthy of expansion.
- Audience Insights. Insights is perhaps the most complicated new feature, if only because it offers the most raw data. Once your page has used the audience optimization feature, you can tap into these Audience Insights to learn more about how your content has performed and why. For example, you can drill down to find engagement metrics for your content with each of the specific tags you’ve assigned to it, or learn how different demographics have responded to your content overall.
Chances are, all three of these can be useful in your campaign. Be sure to try each of them out—checking Insights to see how they perform—and see which ones give you better results. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that this is a new and unexplored feature. In the world of marketing, fortune favors risk takers and experimenters.
Getting Started With Audience Optimization
Getting started is easy. Head to your page, click on Settings, and highlight the General column. From there, find the row “Audience Optimization for posts,” and check yes. This will allow you to begin using the feature. Audience optimization options will now be available to you underneath your traditional posting area.
If your page already has 5,000 likes or more, the feature may be turned on automatically, so check to see if it’s available to you. If you don’t see an option to check in your Settings menu, don’t panic—the feature is still new, and Facebook is rolling it out gradually to all pages. Whenever you get the chance, I encourage you to experiment with audience optimization—and let me know how it goes for you!
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