There’s long been an assumption that brands need to pay to reach their audience on Facebook. But, in light of the recent (and dramatic) changes to Facebook’s algorithm, we have to wonder: is organic Facebook reach dead?

This was a topic up for discussion during Social Media Week in Bristol, with a summit featuring an impressive line-up of speakers, including BBC Apprentice-winner Mark Wright (who now runs digital marketing agency Climb Online), Trunki founder Rob Law and Sean Clarke, head of rights and brand development at Aardman. Each had their own story on how they approach organic and paid content on Facebook, and here are our top 10 takeaways from the session.

  1. Own your hashtags

Carefully select the hashtags you want to use to represent your brand and then go about curating the content in that feed as much as you can. Regularly post content clearly promoting the hashtag and including a call to action for users to use it too.

  1. Utilise user-generated content (UGC)

Select the best images and videos that users post with your hashtag and re-populate them across your channels. Show real people engaging with your brand, using your products or talking about your work. Trunki does this brilliantly, ensuring that every fourth post features UGC.

  1. Targeting matters

All speakers agreed that paid and organic content should go hand-in-hand on Facebook. Here are some of the ways they are using Facebook’s targeting tools:

  • Saved audiencesnarrowing your audiences down into different audiences will save you time in the long run. For example, create audiences for different countries, looking at the leading brands and piggy backing onto their audiences.
  • Custom audiences – retarget people who have been to your website using the Facebook Pixel.
  • Lookalike audiences – replicate the type of people who have been on your website, like your Facebook page or view certain content and create ‘lookalike’ groups to target. “Lookalike audiences have changed the game on social media – if you’re not using them you won’t be finding the right audiences,” said Mark Wright.
  1. Creative assets count for paid ads

Don’t underestimate the importance of investing time and money into the assets you use to advertise on Facebook. Keep your branding and imagery consistent with other channels but try out a mix of flat images, carousels, videos and cinemographs to see what appeals to your audience the most.

  1. Build brand partnerships

Both Trunki and Aardman noted the value of brand partnerships. These can be done in so many ways, from simple packages for giveaways with likeminded brands, to global partnerships that take your company into entirely new territories.

“This is a great way to get out both brands’ messages,” advised Rob Law. He also suggested that if you’re running giveaways in partnership, use a plugin (like Rafflecopter) as a tool to get people to do other things as part of the entry mechanism.

  1. Sell with emotions

Mark Wright believes there are two main ways to sell on social – either through emotions or numbers. Even the most mundane companies can find an emotional hook, and this is what will resonate with your target audience the most.

  1. ‘Sweat’ the asset

Reuse content wherever possible to make it work as hard as possible. This is an approach we certainly adopt at AMBITIOUS. Also:

  • Consider the big seasonal themes and how your message can be tailored to make it relevant. Aardman reuses assets to make them topical, finding short video clips that relate to events like Easter and April Fools Day.
  • It also creates ‘stings’ which tell a short, bitesize story, building them so they’re textless and can be localised and used all around the world with each country’s text and logo added.
  • Make hero content with a view to rolling it out more than once. Aardman’s ‘Learn how to shake it with Shaun’ videos were created for his 10th birthday, during a time in-between film launches, and then used again with the next film release.
  1. Video is still king

Predictions say that video will account for 80% of all internet traffic by 2019 – and considering Facebook users watch 8 billion videos per day, that’s easy to believe. Keep video short for social, try out different approaches and don’t let a small budget stop you.

  1. Be an early adopter

“I’m an early adopter,” explained Mark Wright. “I try lots of stuff and then triple the budget of anything positive until it stops being effective. Never just do one channel of marketing – monitor the leads and as soon as you get positive ROI maximise that channel.”

The same goes for new functionalities, tools and features. Keep abreast of how Facebook is changing and what tools it makes available – the algorithm often favours content that utilises its newest features, too.

  1. Explore Facebook groups

At the moment, Facebook groups are not affected by latest algorithm changes, so this is a good area to explore. Find groups relevant to your organisation and offer them products to try out and review or giveaway. Or, see if someone from your organisation can run a live webchat in their group on a subject that’s of interest to its members. You could even set up your own group if you can make it meaningful to members. Be creative and explore different options that could work for your particular brand or organisation.

What tactics have you used when creating content and ads on Facebook and what’s worked best for you? Tell us in the comments below – and make sure you connect with us on Facebook.