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Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm

Facebook’s news feed works to deliver the most important news to you on your newsfeed, at the right time so that you do not miss the stories that are most important. Considering that there are on average a potential 1,500 stories for each individual Facebook user to view when they log into the site there is a necessity for an algorithm to rank the stories which are most important to the viewer. Edgerank is the name of the algorithm previously used by Facebook to determine where and what posts appear on each individual user’s newsfeed. The system is no longer called ‘Edgerank’ since they started employing a more complex system based on the same algorithm but the principle still remains.

The three different variables which make up this algorithm are affinity, weight and the time decay of the post. But how can Facebook’s algorithm be used to improve marketing on the social media site and why does it matter for your brand?

Image - mashable.com

Studies have shown that 96% of fans who like a brand on Facebook do not go back to a brand’s Facebook page after initial engagement. In addition, a brand’s post is 40-150x more likely to reach their fans in the newsfeed rather than on the brand Facebook page, as 27% of all time spent on Facebook is spent looking at the newsfeed itself. The Edgerank algorithm system can therefore help brands to make their posts more likely to hit their target audience by increasing its value on the newsfeed.

Image – Post rocket production

First of all – how does the algorithm, work?  It is made up of three variables – affinity, weight and time decay:

Affinity measures the relationship between the viewing user and the person who is posting the story. This means that the closer your relationship to the user, the higher the score on the algorithm and the more likely the post will appear on your Facebook news feed. However, it is a one way interaction – if you interact with another user, their stories will be more likely to appear on your newsfeed, but it might not work the same way around.

Weight is the second variable and works because different types of posts carry different weights on Facebook. The higher the weight, the higher the score and therefore the more prominent the post will be on the Facebook newsfeed. Photos and videos are the highest weighted, followed by links and then plain text updates. Brands who are trying to reach out to a greater audience and trying to get their posts to have a greater presence on their fans’ newsfeed should try to use new features. The reason for this is because Facebook assigns higher weights to new features to encourage users to take them up and use them more. Engagement from other users also factor into the post’s weight, so a plain text update with comments and interaction from friends can carry more combined weight than a photo post with no engagement. So how can you increase the weight of your posts?

-          If you keep them short and usually between 10 and 250 characters they will get 60% more likes, comments, and shares than posts over 250 characters.
-          Post more photos (180%) and videos (120%) as they get more engagement and will therefore carry more weight.
-          Ask for people to answer questions on your posts – this will increase the audience engagement with the posts.

Time decay is the third factor. Naturally older posts will start to slip to the end of the newsfeed as they become “old news”, as older posts continually lose their value and it makes space for newer posts to take their place. However, this does depend on how frequently one logs into Facebook – a frequent user will see old posts disappearing more quickly, whereas someone who logs on only occasionally will still see posts from a few days ago appearing on their newsfeed. How can you improve this section of the algorithm and make your brand stand out on Facebook?

-          Post on a daily basis, it increases reach to your audience.
-          Find the best times of day to reach your audience, and then post at these times.
-          Changes to the Facebook algorithm in the past few months have now seen older stories which have recently had a lot of engagement of likes and comments rising to the top of the news feed again. This change has resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on organic stories people saw from friends.

Image - Facebook for business news

Although the ‘Edgerank’ algorithm is now more complicated that the three strands of affinity, weight and time decay – similar principles still remain. Facebook has commented on its Facebook for business page that, “We are continually working to improve News Feed and from time to time we make updates to the algorithm that determines which stories appear first”.

A recent change to the algorithm was introduced to Facebook at the end of last month.  This change aims to give greater weight to user feedback on undesirable ads. Facebook will now be trying to show more relevant advertisements to users inside the News Feed. This will help brands who are trying to market through Facebook as it will try to deliver the right ads to the people who want to see them most, even if fewer ads are delivered overall. This shows a general move by social networking sites to introduce more relevant advertisements to their users as opposed to delivering any random adverts – Instagram has recently announced their introduction of adverts saying that the user will be able to control which ones they see by giving feedback on whether the ad was right for them. Therefore this seems to reflect a general move to produce more relevant adverts for users of social network sites.

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Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, October 11, 2013 Rating: 5
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