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How to increase organic reach with Facebook’s algorithm update

By  Ella Wilks-Harper | Mar 13, 2018

Despite fears that changes to Facebook’s news feed could hinder publishers, some media organizations are thriving.

One such publisher is Hashtag Our Stories (HOS). The social video company has almost tripled (186 percent rise) in the number of likes across its Facebook pages.

Set up in 2017, HOS is dedicated to training and empowering communities to tell their own stories through mobile.

Anjali Sharma, audience engagement lead at HOS told Reuters they have seen “great growth” since Facebook’s new update. Across all its community pages overall organic reach has risen from 11,579 to 182,820.

Co-founder Yusuf Omar and audience engagement lead, Anjali Sharma share insight into their social media strategy…

Every single consideration of our content is how does this look and feel on a mobile phone”

— Yusuf Omar, co-founder, Hashtag Our Stories

1. Engagement-first storytelling

According to Hashtag Our Stories, the first part of the storytelling process is to think about how content engaged on social.

“It’s all fair and good making a story but if it’s not going to travel on the internet, nobody’s going to it see it,” says Omar. “We teach people before we even shoot to think about where it’s going to be shared and what kind of headlines they are going to have.”

2. Mobile optimized content

Content is optimized for mobile in three main ways:

  • Large subtitles to maximise readability
  • Keeping video length short. The average HOS video is 1:06
  • Making sure content works vertically to cater for consumers on-the-go

“Every single consideration of our content is how does this look and feel on a mobile phone,” says Omar.

3. Hyper-local pages and groups

HOS currently have Facebook community pages covering South Africa, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Singapore and Palestine. Their ambition is to increase the number of pages and groups.

Asked about the benefits of having multiple Facebook community pages, Omar says, “We can be really specific in the way we headline pieces, in the way we script pieces and the kinds of content we deliver.”

He added, “A lot of media are trying to create one Facebook account with 50 million followers. We are more interested in having 100 Facebook accounts with a thousand followers on each.”

This approach has proved successful with the Hashtag South Asia community page increasing its likes from 193 likes to over 4,700 since January 1. This is a growth of over 2000%.

Hero content is the stuff that really gets people talking”

— says Omar.

4. Focus on quality conversation

For HOS, the metric for success is increasingly centered on conversations.

HOS encourage conversation on Facebook by:

  • Replying to comments with open-ended questions.
  • Asking questions at the end of most of our videos which start conversations.

Anjali says this approach also helps to avoid echo chambers: “Every video we produce starts a conversation in the comment thread where all different viewpoints find accommodation and people talk to each other.”

5. Focus on hero content

HOS is investing more time in hero content because they believe it is the content that garners the most conversation and buzz.

“Hero content is the stuff that really gets people talking,” says Omar. “We don’t see a lot of value in just feeding the beast for the sake of it.”

6. Collaboration and cross-posting

Cross-posting has also helped expand reach by leveraging pages with much bigger audiences. Posting on other pages also offers the opportunity to experiment with different headlines and thumbnails.

Collaborating with influencers has also been successful in expanding their audience. In the wake of Jacob Zuma resigning as South African president, HOS collaborated with a series of comedians in a reactionary video. The video garnered over 185 thousand views.

Want to find out more about how technology is likely to impact publishers? Download the Journalism, Media & Technology: Trends & Predictions 2018 report.