It’s easy (and often justified) to paint Facebook with the “evil-empire-that-set-up-a-way-to-monitize-your-abilty-to-reach-your-fans” brush, but we also need to stop and give props to Facebook for just how smart the EdgeRank algorithm really is. This is real life. It doesn’t matter how many “friends” your brand has, what matters is that they want to engage with you. If you can’t start a conversation that they are interested in, well, shame on you.

In the race to the biggest audience possible, brands are still losing sight of (a) how EdgeRank works, (b) why it matters, and (c) how this is true of all marketing anyway.

Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm is the secret-sauce that the platform uses to decide what content ends up in your newsfeed. The easiest way to understand this is that the more an individual actively engages with you, the more recent your post is, and the more others care about that content, the better the chances are that your message will be seen. Creating content that generates likes, shares and comments improves the deliverability of your other posts. On average, only 16% of your audience is seeing any of your messages, and that number drops off significantly if you are not posting frequently enough, or if your content doesn’t connect with your fans and compel action. If you want a more in-depth explanation of how EdgeRank works, you can check out this nifty infographic.

Facebook wisely decided that if your fans are not responding to you, they probably aren’t that interested in what you have to say. Makes perfect sense. Ultimately, this puts a huge amount of responsibility on a brand to keep their audience engaged on a daily basis. It puts engagement of the audience you have on a higher pedestal than getting more fans. If you spend money on a campaign designed to increase your Facebook audience, but don’t have a plan on how you will keep these new friends of yours happy, you run the risk of very quickly becoming invisible, and flushing your investment down the toilet.

This is not to say you shouldn’t try and influence or game your EdgeRank, but the larger point is more important. You need to be interesting. Even if there wasn’t an algorithm that defined this sort of engagement, the same thing would be true. Cream rises to the top, and brands that really know how to connect with their fans will see a better ROI, regardless of how you want to define that.

This is true of all marketing. Whether you are trying to reach people through Facebook or billboards, email marketing or print advertising, the one thing that is more important than everything else is that people need a reason to care. Don’t settle for making good when you can make great. Don’t put up a billboard if people aren’t going to take a picture of it. Don’t invest in that new video if you don’t think people who don’t know you will want to know you when they see it. Stay away from anything that is me-too.

Be a brand that people want to have a beer with, and then maybe they will.