We've all seen Facebook Like Ladders. We may have even participated in some. I know I have.
In the off-chance you've been living under a rock, a Like Ladder is a noble thread posting on Facebook (usually in a group) that invites you to post a link to your author fan page or business page. The idea is that you will like all other pages listed and in return the rest of the people who have posted their links will also like your page.
It's designed to help everyone promote their pages and expand their reach for free.
But does it work? Not so much.
My guess is that these Like Ladders were designed back when Facebook deemed how important your page was based on the number of likes you had. The faster you could collect likes on your page, then obviously the more people you were reaching.
Now things are a little different. Thanks to the changes in Facebook permissions and rankings, the number of likes you collect on a page mean almost nothing.
Now the importance lies almost entirely on engagement.
What is Engagement?
Engagement refers to the people who like, comment, and share the posts on your page. And it has nothing to do with how many people actually like or follow your page. But it will directly reflect how far your reach is.
Facebook's latest news feed programming means they are prioritizing friends and family, and they believe their users are prioritizing friends and family as well. And let's face it — most of us do. Most of us would rather see those funny cat videos, quirky stories, and photos from the last get together than ads and promotions.
And people don't use Facebook in that way. They sign up to connect with people they know or people they want to get to know. And if they do go in and find a business page they like, they sign up for something other than ads: giveaways, contests, coupons, or complaints.
That's it. And that means the chance of them signing up to like your author page for the purpose of buying your next book is slim to none (save a few die-hard fans who want to be the first to know when that book comes out). This means that even if a person has liked your page Facebook will show them posts from their friends and family before it shows them your posts.
Unless Facebook believes they want to see your posts.
How to make Facebook believe people want to see your posts.
This is where engagement comes in. The more often a person likes, comments, or shares your post, the more that person is training Facebook in what he or she wants to see. Facebook comes to believe that person wants to see your posts. And after a while, if that person continues to like and share your posts, Facebook will begin to think about it even harder:
“Hey, if this person likes all these posts, then their friends and family will probably like this page, too.”
That's when you start seeing things in your news feed like “Clara commented on this.” Even if you haven't already gone to like that page.
And this can happen whether Clara is the only person who likes your page or the 500th person who likes your page.
How Engagement Works
Now, let's get into a bit of math, shall we? Because we all love math. Let's say Clara likes your page and likes or comments on almost all of your posts. If she's the only one who likes your page, that's 100% engagement and your reach will depend on how many friends Clara has and how she shares your posts (but it will be larger than 1).
Let's say you get up to 100 people liking your page. And out of those 100 people, 25 of them regularly like, comment, or share your posts. Now you're up to 25% engagement (which is still amazing, since the average page sees about 4-16% — but more on that later). Now Facebook thinks you're page is pretty important because of all the people who like your page, 25% of them regularly interact and share your page.
That means your posts is more likely to show up in their news feeds.
Now what happens when you hop onto one of those Like Ladders and you gain 200 new Likes? Now you've tripled your Likes so you're more important, right?
Now, because you've climbed up to 300 likes from strangers who have no idea who you are or what you're about, your engagement has gone down from 25% to 8% even though the same 25 people are liking, commenting, and sharing your post.
And now, because your engagement rate has dropped, Facebook doesn't think you're quite as important as you were yesterday. Because now only 8% of your followers are actually interacting with you. So your reach drops.
Here, we will use my page as an example. I signed up on one of those Like Ladders on October 4, 2016. Signing up for that ladder gave me 34 new likes on that day… But look what happened to the rest of my numbers:
The rest of my numbers all plummeted almost immediately. Even the number of likes that I would have normally gained in the month just from normal organic growth went down. And my total reach went down by 60%.
And the numbers are only just now, 28 days later, finally starting to crawl back up. Through a lot of hard work. Much harder than it was to build the first time around.
Why is it so hard to recover from a like ladder?
Now, you might be thinking “okay, but I can pick my engagement back up. All I need to do is get 50 of those 200 new followers to interact with me.”
That's true. That would bring your engagement rate back up to 25%. But this is much harder to do than it was for those first 25 followers. Why? Because that drop in engagement makes it harder for people to see you. You won't show up on people's news feeds as often anymore, even of your original 25 interactors. Because Facebook will think you're not as liked as you were. Which means those 25 people won't see you as often, won't like as many of your posts, and your reach will continue to drop.
It's a downward spiral. And this doesn't even take into consideration those people who hop onto Like Ladders in devious, self-serving ways:
- People who only like from their own author pages.
- People who like your page, but then unlike it as soon as you return the like.
- People who like your page, but then immediately unfollow or turn off notifications.
- People who like your page, but then select to hide all posts.
Believe me, they're there. I see it happen all the time. And each of these things drives your likes up but also drives your engagement down. And before you know it, you will be sitting at 3,000 likes on your page with a reach of 10 and wondering why no one is buying your book.
It's because they can't see you! Because you've helped train Facebook into thinking no one wants to see you.
Now. Are Like Ladders all bad? No. And most of the time when someone starts a Like Ladder, it's for noble intentions. The thought behind it is to help everyone extend their reach into new audiences. And they do have a place. I have met some wonderful authors whom I might not have found if I hadn't seen them on a Like Ladder in one of the groups on Facebook.
But they should not be your primary source for likes, and they should not be used as a primary means for growing your page. Because in the end, they will have the opposite effect on your page.