Everybody wants their posts to be “seen and heard.” When it comes to being seen on Facebook however, it is a very crowded space: as of August 2013 there are 1.15 BILLION users on Facebook and over 18 MILLION Brand Pages. Frequently, I’ll read a blog or hear marketers/agencies explain how content is ranked and how FB selects what will show up where in users’ news feeds…. usually with a reference to EdgeRank. EdgeRank was (notice the tense) the algorithm that determined the content on the Facebook homepage for each user and assigned value to posts based off of 3 criteria:
- Affinity (Relationship)
- Weight (What was the content type & what action was taken on it?)
- Decay (Age of post)
Up until recently, that is. Now it’s no longer just the “trinity” of affinity, weight, and time decay… Lars Backstrom, Engineering Manager for News Feed Ranking at Facebook, estimated that there are now as many as “100,000 individual weights in the [scoring] model that produces the new News Feed.” And while EdgeRank criteria are still used, it’s much bigger than that now and adhering to the previous conventional “weight” associated with EdgeRank’s weight can backfire for marketers on FB.
Here are the “big rocks” associated with how it’s factored now:
Let’s start with the things we’re familiar with.
Affinity, weight, and time decay still factor into news feed placement, but now so do:
- The Relationship Settings of your audience: Users can choose to “Get notifications” or “Receive updates” from the pages they like and there are 2nd level settings to control what content type that the user wants to see in their news feeds. Individual FB users have the ability to assign each friend a classification or a list and then choose which updates they want to be able to see in their news feeds as well (see photo below).
- Negative Engagement Computation: when your content is “hidden” by users, results in “unlikes” of your page, or is reported for spam, that’s negative engagement… though it’s worth noting that FB has assigned a diminishing impact by allowing “hides” to decay over time)
- News Feed Interaction: how connected users are interacting with ads and other timelines
Now, let’s talk about new changes that affect the News Feed rankings/inclusion:
Device Considerations – this is really cool, actually, from an end-user standpoint but needs to be taken into consideration by page managers & marketers. The News Feed algorithm considers what device is being used and things like the speed of a user’s internet connection when deciding what to show. So, if you have a lot of media rich (digital interactive media – animations & video.. defining characteristic is that it moves, and is downloadable/embeddable), those updates may not be shown in news feeds of those interacting w/ facebook through slower internet connections and older phones (they’ll get more text content instead). If you’re not careful, this can limit your Facebook marketing reach and effectiveness.
Story Bumping – This has had a 5% increase in engagement on organic stories by users and 8% increase in organic stories from Pages by changing the news feed from the chronological order of stories we’re used to seeing. Story Bumping bends the “decay” rules by giving older, unseen posts a second chance at News Feed visibility if they’re still getting interaction, without having to necessarily scroll down.
Last Actor – Facebook calls it “chronological by actor” prioritization and it puts added weight to recency, in an effort to combat the “turn to twitter for breaking news” issue. Facebook tracks a user’s most recent 50 interactions and gives them more weight when deciding what to show in the News Feed. This works on a rolling basis, so the value of interactions declines after 50 more recent interactions by the user. TechCrunch has a really good article on this if you want to learn more.
Post Types – Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you have post types. Facebook doesn’t favor rich content – users do. There are plenty of studies to show that there’s higher engagement in photos, videos and how users engage more with rich media. That said, the News Feed tailors visibility by user – those who watch more video posts or those prefer photo posts are more likely to see more content of that type in their news feed, and users that tend to click more links will see more posts of that type. Then Facebook further takes into consideration the types of posts users interact with the most from each friend. (according to FB)
The very important “net-net”result? Facebook Page owners that continually publish one type of post are likely not having those posts seen by fans that interact with other types of posts. Don’t rely on archaic “EdgeRank” rules that push you to rely on one type of content or post “X number of times a day” for best engagement. Survey your fans, pay attention to what they’re interacting with – the new analytics tool will help you do it. Then, create and publish and a variety of content types – because that will keep your page interesting, which is what will ultimately attract the engagement you crave (shares, clicks, comments, likes).