What has happened to Facebook ranking algorithm?  

iStock_000015180428XSmall.jpg-child-shrug “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”,  – says famous quote by Winston Churchill. It seems, this phrase has become a motto for Facebook. Announcements about latest Facebook updates have become a common thing. So it’s time to summarize what has changed in news feed filter and how brands should act to generate leads on Facebook.   

Too much

Facebook says that an average user may see around 1500 posts appering in his news feed daily. If someone has a large number of friends or pages followed, this figure grows to 15 000 per. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, naturally, users are not able to read all these publications.

At the same time, the number of pages liked by a typical user has grown by 50% over the last year. That is why for brands chances that their news will be seen become slimmer. How should brands behavior in this situation? Year by year, Facebook is trying to improve rankings algorithms to offer better user experience.

EdgeRank is not what it used to be

Before, Facebook used its own algorithm to filter news feed. This Facebook rankings algorithm determined what posts and in what order to show in user’s news feed.  It was calculated as the sum of all actions (Edges), which take place in social network (status updates, comments, likes and shares).

Edge Rank Facebook

In August 2013 Facebook stopped ranking news with the help of EdgeRank – they needed more complex system for post evaluation. The news mechanism doesn’t have a certain name.

Lars Backstrom, Engineering Manager for News Feed Ranking at Facebook, told that new system is different from EdgeRank and contains about 100 thousand new weights which are considered dutring post evalution.

Only 3 aspects have been preserved from EdgeRank:

  • Affinity (who the user interacts with, how often and in what way  – like, comment)
  • Weight of the edge (for example, comments overweighs like)
  • Time of publication (the fresher a post, the better).

As Mark Zuckerberg told, they are going to create a personalized newspaper for each user.

With this aim in mind, Facebook developers introduced two more important ranking factors: story bumping and last actor.

Story bumping

Posts which didn’t come into user’s view because he didn’t scroll the page, will be shown once again, but among the first. This factor is called story bumping.  It means that even if the update appeared two hours ago, however for the users it is a new piece of information, it will be included into the news feed.

Story bumping ensures that users don’t miss the most important news to them. For example, if you have not seen the update, but this is something which is really worth your attention and this post has received a lot of likes and shares, it will come to your news feed over and over until you see it.

Story Bumping Facebook

Certainly, story bumping increases the audience reach of interesting stories. After this ranking factor was launched and tested, the following results have been achieved:

  1. number of likes has risen by 5%;
  2. users’ interaction with community pages has grown by 8%;
  3. number of posts read has increased from 57% to 70%.

Last actor

Facebook includes into your news feed news updated from the last 50 pages you have visited. Last actor allows brand pages to additionally interact with the user that visited the page recently. Firstly, the user visits the brand or friend’s page and later sees their posts in his news feed – this is double interaction.

Quality content is above all

Important mission of Facebook is to show “right content to the right people at the right time“ says Varun Kacholia, Engineering Manager at Facebook . In December 2013 several new factors were introduced, including those which determined the content quality. For instance, if the post contains call to action encouraging users to like or share, the quality of the content is marked as low. At the same time, news are considered to be by 15% less relevant that other posts. News feed should contain more posts, which are really useful.     

Low quality content Facebook 

Memes will appear less now

Memes have been also included into low-quality content category which spams the news feed.

“It’s not like you’re never going to see a funny cat photo from Imgur,” said News Feed manager Lars Backstrom.

More of branded content

In February 2014 Facebook developed one more algorithm, which aimed to help brands increase the reach: if the post published on brand page has hashtag leading to other brand’s page, then such post will be shown in the news feed of the second brand follower too. For example, if McDonald’s mentiones collaboration with basketball star, LeBron James, and will place a hashtag, than Lebron’s fans will see the post from McDonald’s too.

Post reach Facebook

 Large images

Newsfeedbegantoshowlargeimages. This update follows the redesign trend at Facebook, which started in March 2013. This new feature allows brands to attract greater attention to their posts by creating engaging and appealing images.

Rankings updates Facebook

Auto-play videos

In September 2013  Facebook  began testing auto-played videos in news feed – wherether it is post on community page or ad. It means that if you scroll the news feed, videos which come into your view, are started automatically. It is true for only those videos which are uploaded directly on Facebook, not those from other sources like YouTube. This feature is still being tested and everybody can tell their opinion about it. You can vote here.

Ok, we understood, now what shall we do?

The main point which all social media marketers continue developing is quality relevant content. No doubt, every agency uses its own unique strategy, which distinguishes them from others. Ivan Skovorodnyakov, senior analytic at digital-agency RTA shares his point of view:

“The first thing brands should keep in mind when building their Facebook marketing plan is that posting content doesn’t mean interacting with the audience. Interesting, informative, valuable content should not only inform the user, but engage and start a dialogue. That is why it is important to define content “territory” and format based on audience interests research, competitor analysis and best practices.  If you think about more deep interaction, then make the content both: consumable and sharable.
1. Involve in dialogue: publish the content that induces users to click on it or the one which encourages discussion. is that posting content doesn’t mean interacting with the audience. Interesting, informative, valuable content should not only inform the user, but engage and start a dialogue. That is why it is important to define content “territory” and format based on audience interests research, competitor analysis and best practices.  If you think about more deep interaction, then make the content both: consumable and sharable.

2. Use/test  unusual formats of content: infographics, comics,  product integration into photo, video and so on.

3. Leave space for users to generate their own content, provide quality patterns as an example

4. Analyze the time when your audience is online and when your competitors publish the content.

5. Run regular contests, activate hashtags. This will increase organic reach in the long term and viral reach in the short-term.

6. Make the use of  adverstisement on Facebook (sponsored posts). Paid reach triggers organic and viral reach.

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