Here’s the thing: Facebook wants to keep you engaged, like your funny uncle at the family reunion who has all those stories. Either you know the person like this in your family, or you are that person. Either way, listen up. 

Facebook has this cool thing called a transparency center. On that site, linked here, they tell you what kind of posts are the most visible on Facebook and Instagram. This is good news, right? Yep, it is, and authors need to listen up a bit. 

But first, let’s talk organic vs. paid posts. 

Organic vs. Paid Posts

If you advertise on Facebook, it is important that you understand the following information is gathered from organic posts and organic post links. However, it is good to understand that while ads get more clicks than organic links, there are certain types of links that get more clicks. 

For example, if you are going to post an organic (not boosted) post on your Facebook feed, you are more likely to get a click on an Amazon link than a link to your website, although if you have a clever click-bait type headline you might beat these odds. Want to get more clicks? Link to a popular news site or YouTube, one of the top clicked domains in Q2 of 2021. 

Paid posts rely more on good ad copy, a solid headline, and good graphics and video, and there is a ton of information out there on what works well and what doesn’t, including this great article by David Gaughran on Facebook ad targeting. However, for obvious reasons, if you don’t have to pay for clicks and leads that drive your audience to your books, well, bonus time!

That is why it is important to pay attention to this set of data. Ready? Here we go.

What Do People See on Facebook?

First it is important to understand what people see when they open Facebook. We all know there is an algorithm, and people see what Facebook assumes they want to see. This data is gathered (at the moment) from all over the place, including cookies used for tracking your behavior on other websites. 

That’s why if you search for a toaster on Amazon, suddenly the next day you will see 50 ads for that brand of toaster and others that are similar. When we are advertisers, this is great, because if you searched something, we get to target you with our something, like a book or a vacuum cleaner, for example, and eventually convince you to make a purchase. Because of the latest Apple update and some other coming changes, this will change going forward, and your ads may seem a little less targeted.

But aside from ads, Facebook tries to show you what you want to see, and it turns out the number one thing is posts from friends at around 57%. Another 19.3% is from groups you have joined, or of late groups Facebook thinks you may want to join based on other groups you are a part of, or things you may have searched on social media. 

Next comes posts from pages, so we see that the rumor that Facebook is placing more emphasis on groups is true. The remainder are unconnected posts, those not from groups you have joined or people you know, and this is a very small percentage. 

What does this tell you as an author? Well, if you are friends with readers, that is the best, but the reality is authors are often friends with other authors, and all the scam friend requests out there means that is not likely to change anytime soon. 

If they join a group you have created or that you manage, they will see your posts more often, and if they like your page that is the third most engagement you will get outside of advertising. 

But what about links? When you add a link to your post, how likely are your friends to see it?

To Link or Not to Link

You may see authors and others put links to their blog posts or even buy links in the first comment of a post. Why? Well, overall, only 12.9% of all the post seen in the news feed on Facebook contained a link. Whoa! That is not much. 

Let’s break it down a bit more. 

  • Posts from friends (57% of all posts seen): 2.3% of visible posts contained links
  • 1% of posts from groups contained links
  • 6.6% of page posts seen contained links
  • 2.8% of that 8% of unconnected posts users see contained links

What does this mean? If you put a link in your post, only 2 of every 100 of your friends will see the post. Put a link in your group post? Unless you pay to post it, only 1 in every 100 group members will see it. 

In part, although Facebook will not officially comment, this is to prevent automated posting that is filled with links. Also, to be honest, Facebook makes money from advertising, where most of its revenue comes from. So they don’t like to give you organic views of links when they really want (read need) for you to pay for people to see them. In short, no advertising is free. 

However, this means even if you are sharing an interesting Washington Post article, your friends won’t see it. In fact the most visible non-Facebook domains, number 1 and number 2 respectively, are YouTube and Amazon. 

So, should you put a link in your posts? Most of the time, the answer is “no”. You should put them in the first comment, which means even if you automate posts, you still need to be present, or have someone else present, to add comments to your posts. 

This does not mean that posts without a link cannot have power even without an immediate comment. Use a photo that says something like “Visit our Website using the button on this page” or something along that line. 

Top Links and Posts

For reference, you can visit the Facebook article here. There you can see the top posts and links viewed this quarter. Notice what they have in common. Is this something you can imitate or do something like? What can you learn from these posts?

You can find similar data on nearly every social media platform, and if you have a business account (like on Instagram) you have access to a lot of analytics and anonymized information about your followers. The important takeaways from this data are these: 

  • Posts with no links get more views and engagement
  • Groups win over pages, at least at the moment
  • Paid posts will always outperform organic ones

While none of this is really breaking news, many of these principles will help you as an author decide what kind of posts to share, when, where, and how. It can also help you decide what works organically, and what links you should be paying to share.