Facebook Updates News Feed Algorithm (and its impact on your business)

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Courtesy facebook.com

It used to be that anytime Facebook rolled out an update to their News Feed algorithm, they would do so with little notice to their users. Now they’re trying to turn over a new leaf by being more transparent, creating a News Feed FYI blog series to keep everyone (especially small businesses and marketers) up to date on these changes.

They kicked off this initiative by announcing new factors that determine how posts rank within your News Feed. Before we get into these new factors, I first want to briefly explain how your News Feed typically works.

EdgeRank

While browsing your News Feed, you may have noticed that the posts you’re seeing are not in chronological order. In the words of Facebook, this is because they want to “deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.” There are an average of 1,500 stories from friends or Pages each time you visit your News Feed. If these were displayed chronologically, there is a good chance you would miss out on important updates from friends, family and businesses.”

That’s where EdgeRank comes in. EdgeRank is Facebook’s algorithm that determines what is displayed within a given user’s News Feed, as well as how high they rank. There are three different factors Facebook looks to when determining EdgeRank, but in the interest of brevity I won’t go into great detail. If you’d like to read more about these factors, you can do so here. It essentially boils down to those who you (and the community at large) engage with most, either by Liking or commenting on their updates, will be given a higher EdgeRank. The updates with the highest EdgeRank will typically display at the top of your News Feed.

Now that you know how your News Feed works, let’s go into its recent changes.

Story Bumping & Last Actor Signals

Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm has not been changed dramatically, and it still determines posts displayed in your News Feed. However, these updates now give older posts that you may not have seen the chance to appear at the top of your News Feed, alongside new updates since your last login. Because of something called Time Decay, updates that were older than an average of three hours would begin dropping down in ranking, making it less likely to be seen.

Story Bumping aims to give the older posts that are still receiving lots of Likes and comments a second chance.

Facebook also rolled out a new ranking factor called the Last Actor signal. This keeps track of the 50 most recent friends and Pages you interacted with, which then receive a small increase in value the next time you login to your News Feed.

What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?

To put it simply, greater visibility for your brand (as long as you’re delivering engaging content to fans). In a recent test of the new algorithm, Pages saw an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares. Further, people would only read about 57% of stories in their News Feed, on average, prior to the update. This number increased to 70% once these stories resurfaced.

This means that a Page’s most popular posts now have a greater chance of being seen by more people, even if they’re older than a few hours!

However, you can’t just sit back and expect a better performing Page. If you weren’t providing engaging content prior to these updates, chances are you won’t see much of a difference. You can combat this trend in a couple ways.

Don’t market too much! The entire goal of social media is to be social. Users don’t want to be marketed to. They want to interact with their favorite brands and feel as if they’re important and being heard. I subscribe to the 80-20 rule. Only 20% of your updates should be straightforward marketing. That’s it. Anymore and fans might feel as if they’re being spammed.

Be visual! This type of content was always important, since photos receive 53% more likes than other posts. With that type of interaction, it’s clear the more visual posts will be even more important now.

Test, test, test! Lastly, with the decreased effect of Time Decay, the posts that don’t grab the audience will disappear quicker without doing much damage to your EdgeRank. This gives you more opportunity to test engaging content with your fans to see what works.

Now’s the time to take your social media marketing efforts to a new level. Let us know how it goes!