On the 6th of August Facebook announced a major algorithm update, mainly affecting how the News Feed works:
“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. We’ve heard from our users and Page owners that we need to do a better job of communicating these updates. Starting today, we’re going to try and change that…”
Via a series of blog posts entitled ‘News Feed FYI’ they will roll out a series of changes with explanations and help for those affected by them. The basis of how Facebook have determined what we should and shouldn’t see as individuals has long been a mystery, despite their relative openness about the fundamental elements. They have received a fair amount of criticism with regards to the relevancy of what appears in who’s News Feed, and it looks like things are set to change.
No More EdgeRank
The EdgeRank algorithm has been used to determine who is shown what via the News Feed as determined by:
User Affinity – Essentially the degree of separation between the user and content creator
Content Weighting – For example plain text, photos, links etc. Each type of post has its own weight
Time Decay – Older posts move down to be replaced by newer posts
…plus some other factors they keep close to their chest.
However it was announced that EdgeRank was no longer being used, though these factors remain important. The new algorithm, which appears to have no official name yet, intends to make sure the News Feed delivers “the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.” In their first post Facebook say that there are on average 1,500 potential news stories they could show in your News Feed, and determining which ones are most relevant is no mean feat.
By paying attention to what users engage with and what they don’t, Facebook seeks to optimise your News Feed to the profile it has built around you from your actions, selecting a much smaller number of stories to show each individual when they log on.
According to Facebook the new algorithm works via your responses including:
- How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
- The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
- How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
- Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post
Early data suggest this way of working increases lies and interactions when compared to the EdgeRank algorithm. For example where time decay was a major factor for EdgeRank, if you missed a great post the first time you probably wouldn’t see it again. However with the new algorithm in place, the fact your friends had interacted with it means it may well be bumped back up in the News Feed for you to find at a later date. This is being referred to as Story Bumping or Story Bump, and in internal tests has apparently increased the number of stores read from 57% to 70%.
Facebook have reported that they are also using a Last Actor component. Facebook will keep track of the last 50 people and pages a user has interacted with. These people and pages will have a little more weight over your News Feed than others.
On the upside this means that businesses worth interacting with will remain in a large number of Last Actor figures at any one time, gaining authority as they go.
The danger posed here is that of businesses posting more and more frequently to try to up their odds of being seen and staying within that last 50, which will eventually cheese users off who may stop interacting all together.
What Does It Mean For My Business?
Only a small percentage, said to be 10-15% of Facebook users, will see any given post on their news feed. If a company wants to guarantee they are seen by a greater number of users they must pay for advertising or promoted posts.
These new changes should help good quality content reach more users than when EdgeRank ruled the News Feed. If users have engaged with the post more, it should resurface in this 57% upped to 70% way than internal testing suggests.
Equally, by good quality posts being moved up, poor quality posts will be moved down, placing more emphasis than ever for companies to produce engaging, quality stories, images etc for the Facebook market. If you don’t want to pay Facebook for advertising it’s time to get serious about what you produce for it and post on it.
The Last Actor feature strikes me as the kind of element that has the potential to be ‘gamed’ to death in a very short space of time. Then Facebook will have to move the goal posts once more to compensate, and so the merry dance begins.
Once again businesses are begin pushed, sometimes against their will (surely not!), to provide the good stuff to enable Facebook and other platforms to offer the best possible user experience. If you are an agency who still has clients not taking social media seriously, or you are that client, now could well be the time to have a rethink.