Organic Value & Facebook Advertising

Facebook Advertising: How Top Promoted Posts Get Picked

If you’ve kept a consistently watchful eye on the state of Facebook advertising lately, you probably already know that organic reach on the platform isn’t what it used to be. 80 million new monthly users were added in the first few months of 2017 alone. With over 2.5 trillion posts and counting on the world’s widely used social media platform (about 64% of all ages), the sheer saturation of mass user-submitted social media data is so great that the complete viewership of even your own community may have to come at a necessary cost.

It would be satisfying simply to say that the visibility of any promoted post ad is always just a matter of how many dollars are spent in the equation, but those who have spent any decent amount of time running their first few promotional ads have likely experienced that this isn’t quite the case.

To get a grip on the best promotional post strategy that you can move forward with, it pays to be mindful of the hidden factors that play into promoted post visibility. The following are just a few of the essential things to understand about what determines promoted post advertisements’ presence in Facebook feeds today.

Promoted posts versus boosted posts

To start, we should clear the air about where to draw the line between boosting a post and promoting a post. While boosting occurs on the page itself, promotion occurs deep within your Facebook ad management control console. When simply boosting a Facebook post from the page hosting it, the options for potential targeting adjustments are kept relatively basic. Compared to boosting, promoting a post as a full-blown advertisement with Facebook’s Power Editor provides you with many more customization options.

Casual Facebook page owners who aren’t quite as gung-ho about driving up leads and conversions may not have quite as much of a need to promote their posts as opposed to just boosting them, but if you want to be truly thorough, Facebook’s auctioning system for promoted posts has an ocean potential power to offer.

The Bidding System and Promotion Quality Assessment

Well over 5 million advertisers regularly use Facebook to promote their businesses on a daily basis. There are simply too many active advertisers on Facebook for promoted posts that target the same audiences to get equal exposure. To determine exactly which of the billions of promoted post advertisements competing for visibility to identical audiences should be shown, Facebook’s algorithm takes the balance of a certain set of key factors into account.

The first variable of the ratio concerns the likelihood of a genuinely valuable and positive experience being provided to a well-targeted audience that finds the ads relevant. For the second variable, the key area of interest is the estimable value offered to the advertisers themselves should the promotion get executed.

No matter what you’re promoting on Facebook as an advertiser, chances are that you’d prefer to have the majority of your post engagement constituted by those who fall squarely within your target audience; however, before that can happen, your post has to prove itself as certifiably more valuable to the members of that target audience than the other ads competing with it for the same target audience.

Essentially, posts that are favored by Facebook’s bidding system are generally seen as possessing the best balance of relevant value, likelihood to compel action, and oftentimes a history of positive reception with the audience of interest.

While a conventional auction is a single event that usually takes place for a relatively extended period of time, an individual Facebook promoted post auction is a swift process that repeatedly occurs billions of times throughout the day.

Every moment that any Facebook user is eligible to view a promoted post, a lightning-round auction takes place. In the auction for a user’s viewership, all the pending promoted posts competing for exposure will place the bids set by their advertiser creators. While maximum bid amount alone will rarely be the deciding factor, bid amount may still play into equation when all or most other parameters between the competing ads are highly similar.

The factors that play into what promoted ads are determined as the winners of an auction aren’t terribly complicated to understand, but nevertheless, it pays to keep a short land sweet list of them in mind whenever you’re planning out the structure of promoted post to begin with. The four main promoted post bidding factors are:

  1. The degree to which an ad is predicted to compel the target audience to take the specific action that it is optimized for (50 times a week is ideal frequency for this action)
  2. The maximum amount that an advertiser is willing to bid for the chance of having their promoted post seen.
  3. The overall relevance and quality of the promoted post in terms of design, layout and genuinely valuable content to offer.
  4. The history of feedback that a post has already gained so far.

Many newer Facebook advertisers tend to have a habit of focusing excessively on either the amount of money they can bid or the specificity of their audience; while those two things are unmistakably powerful factors, the matter of plain post quality can’t be overlooked either.

A “high-quality” Facebook ad, in terms of what the platform’s algorithm favors, is oftentimes one that offers easily and quickly digestible value without requiring too much text to convey it. Dynamic or highly visceral photos/videos will almost always win out over text-heavy posts with no visual media at all. Posts that immediately communicate a clear-cut message to the target audience will usually always beat out posts with a relatively ambiguous purpose that’s difficult or impossible to discern at a glance.

In addition to the content of the post, the history of feedback to it heavily factors into how its quality is determined as well. Promoted posts that closely resemble other posts that their target audience has a history of consistent positive engagement with are often seen as more valuable to them than those resembling posts with histories of significant negative feedback or indifference.

In many cases, promoted posts that don’t have the highest maximum bid can still win the auction over those with higher spending ceilings due to higher inherent quality, contextual relevance and strong pre-existing feedback.

Summary: Putting the promoted post bidding odds in your favor

Statista reports that social media advertising budgets doubled from $16 billion to $32 billion between 2014 and 2016. but don’t let that statistic snatch your wallet away too fast. As elusive as organic reach may be these days, you don’t have to resign to paying a fortune just to be seen. Choosing to just throw buckets of money at your promoted post ads in the hopes that they’ll become omnipresent in your target audience’s feed will most likely leave you sorely disappointed.

Instead of breaking the bank, it’s better to strike a balanced chord between the qualities of relevance, quality, clarity, inherent value, and pre-selection based on all the engagement and positive feedback that a post has received to date.

Making a point to define your promotion’s ideal target audience as accurately as possible can easily compensate for a lower bid amount with a far greater likelihood of commanding interactions from the perfectly selected demographic. The more relevant that a promoted post is to a highly specific audience, the more likely it is that that even the smallest pool of users who see it will actively engage with it and share it.

Instead of simply promoting any posts that are eligible for promotion, it’s wiser to focus on selectively choosing to promote only those with the best proven track record of engagement. No matter what the prized target audience may be for any auction, your previous posts that have received the most positive feedback and commanded the most highest frequencies of certain actions will always be your strongest contenders to bid with.

Primary Sources

Anita Balakrishnan. CNBC. (Most recent update: 2017, May 3). Facebook shares dip despite better-than-expected earnings. Primary source retrieved from: 

Josh Constine. Tech Crunch. (Most recent update: 2016, July 27). Facebook sees 2 billion searches per day, but it’s attacking Twitter not Google. Primary source retrieved from: 

Edison Research. The Infinite Dial. (Most recent update: March 10, 2016). The Infinite Dial 2016. 

Evan LePage. Hootsuite. (Year Published: 2017). All the Media Advertising Stats You Need to Know. Primary source retrieved from: 

Statista contributors. Statista. (Year Published: 2017). U.S. Social Media Marketing - Statistics & Facts. Primary source retrieved from: 

BI Intelligence. Business Insider. (Most recent update: 2017, April 12). Facebook adds a million advertisers in 7 months. Primary source retrieved from: 

Robert Allen. Smart Insights. (Most recent update: 2017, February 6) Primary source retrieved from: 

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