Facebook EdgeRank: What Controls the News Feed?

 Facebook EdgeRank

Facebook says that their users spend about one-quarter of their time on the social networking site interacting in the News Feed, an estimation that doesn’t include mobile traffic. One Quarter. For the individual that can mean a lot of “ugh!” moments as they are exposed to endless streams of kitty photos, vines, and last week’s memes that are just now making it into grandma’s status updates. Advertisers, on the other hand, have begun a love affair with Facebook’s EdgeRank, the algorithm that controls what appears in a user’s News Feed.

According to the 2011 comScore report “The Power of Like,” brands that post five to seven times per week on average are only reaching about 16 percent of their fan base. This means that, regardless of the number of “likes” the brand has to show on their fan page, only 16 out of 100 people are ever reached again after they initially click the like button.

Mike Rich, Senior Director, Marketing Solutions for comScore compares data from three major brands in the 2011 comScore white paper: Starbucks, Bing, and Southwest Airlines. His conclusion about where marketers should spend their time—whether they should focus on the fan page or users’ news feeds—he says,

It’s no contest. Brands get far more exposure on the news feed than their fan page.

And EdgeRank is the tool to use to get that exposure.

As it turns out, Facebook brands don’t attract customers. The opposite may even be true. With large brands like Target or Pepsi, most fans don’t return to the page after their initial “thumbs up,” if they ever visited the page in the first place.

On the other side of the coin, posts that make it into a followers’ news feeds are 40-100 times more likely to get their attention. Businesses and individuals alike will benefit from knowing what shows up in the News Feed and how it arrived there.

Face Book’s EdgeRank algorithm controls what appears on each individual’s news feed, and to do that, it uses three variables: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay.

Facebook EdgeRank Variables triangle

Affinity

Affinity is the algorithm’s measurement of the relationship between the post’s creator and the person interacting with it. An affinity score is applied which grows based on the closeness of the poster and the viewer. The more active a relationship between the two, the more significant the affinity score.

If a user routinely interacts with a content creator, that creator’s future content is more likely to appear in the user’s news feed.

To increase an EdgeRank Affinity variable, individuals, brands, and marketers must generate interaction. How that can be done is in a recommendation from Facebook Business.

  • Keep posts short and sweet – posts between 100 to 250 characters get 60 percent more likes, comments and shares
  • Photos, albums and videos get much more traffic than just text and links
  • Be directive – asking fans to comment, like and share generates more than three times the comments, three times the likes, and seven times the shares than posting alone
  • Have interactive conversation with fans—real, engaged conversation

The Constant Contact blog emphasizes that users log into Facebook to connect. They sign in to interact with others, not to be sold to, and they are more likely to promote the products of those brands that are the most interactive in return.

Simple tools such as questions, caption contests, and fill-in-the-blank posts greatly increase follower response. Fill-in-the-blank posts are capable of generating up to 90 percent more engagement from followers than a well-written text post.

Weight

Weight is the EdgeRank Algorithm’s measurement of simple priority of posts. EdgeRank gives a weight score based on the following order with number one getting the highest post weight and three getting the lowest.

  1. Photos (and videos)
  2. Links
  3. Text

The simple answer to the “why photos?” is that Facebook chooses to prioritize newer features. Users that incorporate those features into their posts score higher Weight rank.

Facebook says that the “perfect” size for a photo in a Facebook timeline is 403 x 403 pixels, but they recommend using higher quality photos—600 x 600 pixels are ideal and a user can reposition the content in the frame by clicking the pencil in the corner of the photo—which also increases the EdgeRank Weight score.

This list of what weighs and what doesn’t is simplistic, however because EdgeRank isn’t new. The “evolved” EdgeRank actually factors more than 100,000 variables when determining a post’s Weight, giving rise to the sentiment that the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm may be dying, or even dead.

Marketingland.com reports that the name EdgeRank hasn’t been used internally within the company for years now and the current iteration of the News Feed pusher doesn’t have a catchy name yet. But that pronouncement hasn’t changed the fundamentals of what gets prioritized in the majority of weight scores.

Time Decay

Time Decay is the algorithm’s measure of a post’s age. By slowly degrading any given posts Time Decay value, news feeds stay populated with fresh, current news. This value is also controlled, however, by the viewer’s use of Facebook. If they only log in occasionally the Time Decay is much slower, allowing older posts to still populate their feed.

EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm that controls what posts populate into users’ feeds measures the value of any given post created by an individual, brand, or business. Those posts are then pushed to the friends, fans, and followers it thinks will be the most interested.

This simple sounding solution created by the software teams at Facebook controls what users are seeing for what has been estimated as 27 percent of their Facebook viewing time. But how much time?

In the United States it adds up to more time than viewers spend at CNN, ABC News, The New York Times, and Yahoo! News combined. Those minutes scanning feed updates have been estimated to exceed 2, 800, 000, 000 minutes every day.

Users who wish to understand what is showing up in the News Feed as well as brands that want to be in those feeds would do well to learn about Facebook EdgeRank. Readers can visit the Facebook Business page as well as some of the concise and informative pages below for more information. Understanding how the software pushes content to the one location on the world’s most popular social media site that is guaranteed to get results could make the difference that gets you heard.

By Matt Darjany

Sources:

Facebook for Business
comScore
Marketing Land
Constant Contact Blog
What is EdgeRank
Mashable Topics “EdgeRank”

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