Facebook yesterday pulled back the curtain, addressed the long-standing rumors about the mythical beast commonly known as “Edgerank” (Spoiler Alert: It’s just a sexier term for “News Feed Delivery Algorithm”) and provided more information on exactly how posts are weighed in the News Feed. As part of a whiteboard session aimed at providing more disclosure into how and why we see the content we see, Facebook announced several changes to the News Feed algorithm (Story Bump, Last Actor and Chronological by Author). These changes increase the importance of recent interactions and provide the ability to see content that would normally be too far down the page for most users to view, essentially providing a “second chance” for people to see content that they may have missed shortly after it was posted.
How Facebook Currently Weighs Your Content:
Facebook’s delivery algorithm leverages affinity, weight and time decay to determine what content users see in the News Feed. Above all, Facebook’s goal is to deliver content that is both timely and relevant to the particular user – this is done both organically and through paid products such as news feed ads. For the same reason you don’t keep equal contact with every person you’ve ever met in your life, Facebook uses a variety of signals and user actions to tailor content delivered for each user. These include:
- How often users interact with the friend, Page or public figure who posted
- The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives overall (with particular attention to how popular the post is within the user’s friend network)
- How often the user has interacted with the type of post in the past
- Whether or not the post is being hidden widely across Facebook (reports of spam)
With yesterday’s announcement, Facebook is seeking to find a balance between the content users want to see and the content they are most likely to enjoy. The end goal through all of the delivery tweaks is to provide a customized and personally-tailored content experience where users can easily access the things and people they care about.
News Feed Changes Announced:
These shouldn’t be confused with content filters like “Recent News” and “All Friends” that users can control on the News Feed, but rather these are changes to how content is weighed and ultimately delivered to the user as part of an updated delivery algorithm.
Story Bumping: To help users deal with the large number of new stories that pile up in between visits to the News Feed, Facebook unveiled a new feature – Story Bumping – that spotlights stories that are new to you (as opposed to simply all new stories) at the top. Previously, all stories would be put at the top of the feed. Only new stories (even older ones) that are relevant to the user and are unseen will be bumped to the top. This feature has been rolled out to 99 percent of desktop users and is being finalized for mobile users. Recent tests on this new functionality resulted in a 5 percent increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on organic stories users saw from friends and an 8 percent increase in likes, comments and shares on organic stories they saw from Pages.
Last Actor: When a user likes a post, the algorithm keeps track of the last 50 interactions and applies that to ranking items in your feed so more posts from that content creator are included. For example, if you’ve been interacting a lot with a new Facebook friend or coworker, the News Feed “learns” this and puts those stories higher in your feed.
Chronological by Actor (beta): Though still in development, Chronological by Actor will allow the News Feed to take a particular user’s posts that are relevant to you, and order them in chronological order.
Implications for Brands:
As we’ve long been aware, Facebook leverages user data and action history to deliver relevant, timely content. The need to leverage trending topics (possibly through Facebook’s new hashtag functionality) in content creation continues to be important. Yesterday’s announcements indicate Facebook’s desire to continue to tweak delivery algorithms so that ultimately users are choosing exactly what they want to see in their feeds.
- For brands, this means an increased importance on building strong advocacy programs where customers and fans are proactively sharing your content with their networks. The goal should be to have your fans carry your content for you.
- It’s easier for users to see all the content they’ve subscribed to and/or want to see, but if fans aren’t engaging with your content, it won’t matter. For this reason, reach becomes a less important metric than actual engagement rates as users have more opportunities to see stories in their feed, but will only engage with those relevant to them.
- Since Facebook weighs a user’s history with a particular post format, it’s in a brand’s best interest to experiment with various content types rather than limit themselves to only photo or visual updates.
- Staying relevant is even more important than it was before as the News Feed weighs recent interactions more heavily than before. This means creating reasons for your fans to continue to visit your page for timely, relevant content is vital to any long term content strategy.
- The use of hashtags can play a role in both determining what topics are trending and relevant as well as creating trending topics, especially if a hashtag’d post picks up a lot of engagement.
Facebook shared the following internal statistics pertaining to the News Feed:
- 700 million people use the News Feed every day.
- A user will see an average of 1,500 potential stories from friends, Pages and connections each day, but only 20 percent of these stories make it to the user.
- People read on average 57 percent of the stories in their News Feeds and do not scroll down far enough to read the other 47 percent.