About Face: Revealing the Mysteries Behind Facebook's Algorithm

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At the start of this year, Facebook announced an update to its News Feed algorithm, proclaiming that it wanted to give more priority to posts from friends and family that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”

Facebook reasoned its member community values open expression and ideas, and that communications from friends and family should have highest priority. Users should also be able to customize the way they consume content.

Under the new system users began to see more updates from popular friends on their screens, and less content from those entities publishing public content including brands, companies, media outlets and other information sources. The term “screens” here is important because Facebook now counts organic reach when an unpaid post enters a person’s screen. This updates how posts used to be viewed as organic reach, i.e. when it entered a user’s overall News Feed, which may or may not be seen by the Facebook user.

Impact on Advertisers?

The News Feed changes have had some impact on advertisers although rising costs don’t appear to be much of a factor. For many media buyers interviewed by Digiday, advertising on Facebook is “business as usual.” Few advertisers are seeing higher rates, and in some cases rates are lower. The more important factor for advertisers is aligning their brands to meet the new changes to authentic content in the News Feed.

Let’s discuss some of the main objectives that Facebook’s new algorithm seems to favor when it decides which posts to show specific users.

Key post factors the algorithm likes: lots of likes and shares, videos with lots of views, references to trending topics, content with which a user frequently interacts, engagement from friends and family members. All of these can take different formats. Here are some we’ve seen over the past month:

The personal posts: Organic posts have diminished in favor on the network in recent years due to the proliferation of professional posts and videos from brands and news organizations. But the algorithm change means news feeds will now see more personal story posts from friends and followers. These posts either spark a lot of conversation or a lot of thank you-type responses. In this case, these posts will dominate the person’s feed as well as friends’ feeds. It’s these organic posts that will likely gain in popularity.

Trending posts: Want to know why everyone’s posting about gun control issues in recent weeks? Because it’s a trending topic. Facebook is more likely to deliver those posts to user screens to drive engagement and, in its words, “spark conversations.”

The heavily commented post: If posts can spark frequent comments on a daily basis, then these posts will be seen in more friends’ feeds. Comments mean engagement, and Facebook rewards engagement. Smart Facebook users find that by asking questions on their feeds relating to content they’ve produced, this will most likely result in more click throughs to their content, and more comments on their pages.

Facebook advertisers, page owners and group leaders need to keep up with the ever-changing nature of the News Feed. Here are some good ways to do this:

Analyze competitors: Find their pages, look at their posts, check the engagement levels, see when and how often they are posting.

Check your own Facebook data: Stay on top of your Facebook analytical data on “who” the fans are so you can tie together brand content with relevant content. You’ll be able to find insights about fans’ and followers’ levels of engagement with your brand, time of day for this engagement and levels of clicks on your posts and ads, among other data. To see your data, click on “Insights” and “Posts” in the left page column.

Watch trending topics: There may be more opportunities for brands and advertisers to link their brand to a trending topic. Twitter has a major events calendar it makes public every month and Facebook rolled out a “Trending News” section on its mobile app following the redesign of its Trending results page.