Facebook Updates Algorithm With Time Spent Ranking

As we covered in our recent post The Evolving Algorithm, the team at Facebook is always prodding and improving the News Feed. Facebook knows that the only way to keep people coming back to their platform is to create an experience that serves their wants and needs. For the past few years, Facebook has been on a mission to offer a News Feed that values quality over click bait. The News Feed’s algorithm has used predictive ranking factors to serve individual users the stories that they presumably want to see based on their past engagement history with a particular type of content and the publisher. Facebook, however, realized that although their algorithmic updates had made great strides in enhancing the user experience, there were still pieces of the puzzle that were missing. This week Facebook announced a new algorithm update centered on the ranking signal of time spent viewing. 

One thing that the Facebook team sought to understand was whether a lack of engagement, meaning likes, shares or clicks, was really an indication of disinterest. Can Facebook users be fully engaged in stories and posts without feeling compelled to take a public platform action through the form of liking, commenting and sharing? The answer, they found, is yes. Through research and user feedback, Facebook has realized that the amount of time spent on a post is a significant indicator of value and meaning. Often, users will spend time reading through articles and posts about more serious subject matters, and although the content was compelling enough to get them to read the piece in its entirety, users may not feel comfortable liking or commenting, especially if the subject matter is serious or emotional.

In accounting for time spent in their algorithm, Facebook feels that they will better be able to serve their global community of users the types of content and articles that they want to consume. The algorithm update does not mean that the value of a like, comment or share is diminishing, but it does mean that Facebook is recognizing the fact that individuals approach different types of content on the platform differently; some love to publicly show support through liking and commenting, while others choose to quietly interact with quality content through spending a significant amount of time on an article. If a Facebook user spends 7 minutes reading an article, then that is enough time to indicate that the article resonated with them in some way.  However, before this update was put into effect, if the individual chose not to share, comment or like, the algorithm would have had no way of knowing that the article meant something and that the user would probably like to see similar content continue to surface in their News Feed.  This ranking update adds a layer of dimension to the News Feed algorithm and allows the platform to support real user behavior in a more comprehensive way. 

What does this update mean for you?

This update shouldn’t change or affect the way that you approach creating content for Facebook. Boiled down, this update is further proof that quality content wins. As a brand or influencer publishing content on a regular basis for your audience,  you should always be aiming to share something of value rather than something that will garner easy clicks. The purpose of a Facebook post should be to give something to your audience — whether it’s entertainment, information, inspiration or personal insights — putting your audience, and their wants and needs, at the core of your Facebook strategy will create a more engaged and sustained community. In this age of content proliferation, quality is continuing to set the standard. You owe it to yourself and your audience to follow the golden rule: publish content that you, as an audience member, would want to consume. 

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