Understanding the Facebook News Feed Algorithm

When Facebook first launched the News Feed in 2006, it described the News Feed as a feature that

…highlights what’s happening in your social circles on Facebook. It updates a personalized list of news stories throughout the day, so you’ll know when Mark adds Britney Spears to his Favorites or when your crush is single again. Now, whenever you log in, you’ll get the latest headlines generated by the activity of your friends and social groups.”

Since 2006, the News Feed has experienced numerous transformations — all with the intention of serving each unique user with the stories most relevant and important to them. Facebook users know what the News Feed is, and they know that the News Feed curates the content that they see. But most Facebook users do not understand how the News Feed really works. While Facebook will never reveal every detail of the ever-evolving algorithm that powers the News Feed, there are News Feed basics that are widely accepted among marketers determined to crack the code. Through understanding the basics of the News Feed, you will set yourself up for more organic engagement success on the platform:

In  a 2013 Blog Post titled News Feed FYI: A Window into News Feed, the Facebook team stated:

“The goal of News Feed is 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. Ideally we want News Feed to show all the post that people want to see in the order they want to see them.”

Every algorithmic tweak is made following intensive testing and user, and all made with the intention of delivering the right content to the right people at the right time. Here is a brief outline of Facebook’s algorithmic ranking signals, which help the platform to determine which pieces of content to deliver to which users at which times:

 

Interaction History: How often users interacts with the person or page posting content; the more interactions, the higher the ranking signal.

Community Engagements: The number of engagements (likes, shares and comments) a post receives from the entire Facebook community. Likes, shares and comments from an individual user’s’ Facebook friends will increase the strength of that ranking signal.

History: if a Facebook user has interacted with this type of post, meaning posts of a similar subject nature, in the past then the ranking signal will increase.

Hides: If this particular post is continuously being hidden from users News Feeds than its ranking strength will decrease.

See First: In 2015, Facebook asked its users to take a more proactive role in determining the content that they see on their News Feeds by utilizing “See First.” See First is a curation tool in which Facebook users can select up to 30 friends and personalities whose content they’d always like to see at the top of their News Feeds.

Time Spent: The newest addition to the Facebook algorithm signals is Time Spent. 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. So, the more time the Facebook community spends consuming a piece of content, the higher that post will be ranked in the algorithm.

How Can You Work With Facebook’s Algorithm Updates?

Facebook is constantly tweaking their algorithm. While updates may alter logistical distribution tactics, they shouldn’t upend your overarching approach to creating Facebook content. 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.

Focus on Quality: Regardless of how Facebook continues to update its algorithm, one constant will always remain: 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. n this age of content proliferation, quality is continuing to set the standard. The only way to ensure continuous views, clicks, shares, likes and prolonged time spent is to produce substantive content that offers real value to audiences. 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.

Produce Platform Videos: Video content has exploded on Facebook in the past year; the platform doubled their daily video views from 4 billion to 8 billion in 2015, and as a result, Facebook has been tinkering with more active video discovery features. Rather than just watching the videos users’ friends publish to their News Feeds, Facebook wants to enable people to be able to search for specific video content on the platform.

In April 2016, Facebook hedged even more of their bets on video when they introduced a series of updates to Facebook Live, including filters, reactions, video destinations and map. All of the features are designed to encourage all Facebook users to go live and broadcast their life updates with followers and friends. The interactive nature of video content naturally entices Facebook users to stop and take notice. Additionally, audiences spend several moments consuming your video, the time spent will also factor into the algorithm’s ranking signals.

Post Less: When brands first began to employ social media strategies to grow their presences on platforms, there was a widespread belief that the best way to engage with as many people as possible was to post as often as possible. From blog posts to link shares and status updates, many Facebook users assumed that quantity would lead to quality. Unfortunately for many, this popular hypothesis has proved false. By over-posting, brands are actually hurting their own engagement by pushing down quality content. When it comes to Facebook frequency, less is actually more. Posting between 5-10x per week will optimize your reach and engagement potential.

Engage With Your Community: Remember, your followers don’t have to engage with your content or continue following you at all for that matter. If you don’t maintain active communication with them, you may lose their loyalty and interest very quickly. There are countless blogs and publishers within today’s digital media landscape and all are vying for the same thing: followers who read and engage with their content. Any publisher who does not prioritize community management faces a severe handicap in this ongoing battle for followers. Be consistent, respond thoughtfully, and don’t’ be afraid to add personality. It takes a lot of work to build an online community, but it doesn’t take much work to destroy one. Growing a community is often a slow and painstaking process. The work does not stop once you’ve hit your follower goal — in fact, in many ways, the work has just begun. It’s impossible to predict what new platform changes and challenges may pop up in the coming months. The best way to ensure long-term social relevancy is to maintain strong relationships with your followers through community management.

Optimize Your Audience:  Through the Audience Optimization Tool, you can incorporate Interest Tags to help your specific content to surface among individuals that have noted that they are interested in that specific category. The tool allows you to distinguish a “preferred audience” based on specific keywords. For example, if your brand creates organic Facebook content around Travel Deals, you would input keywords related to this niche. After selecting your first (broad) category, Facebook will do the work for you and serve you with relevant categories.  When you publish your specific piece of content, the post will be integrated into the News Feeds of Facebook users who have selected those interests within their profiles. You can (and should) add specific interest categories based on the content of each of your posts to maximize your chances of an interested audience engaging with the unique post.

Use Facebook’s Native Link Format: Back in 2014, Facebook began to reward posts shared with ‘link format’ over those shared within the caption of a post. Facebook made this update based on their findings that users were naturally more inclined to click content that had been shared in the native format over content shared via a link in caption. In fact, the network found that posts shared with native links received twice as many likes as posts shared with an embedded caption link.

The beauty of Facebook’s algorithm is that it is never complete. Facebook is constantly assessing the user experience of the News Feed and strategically tweaking the algorithm to better serve the needs of its user base. As Facebook’s global community of users continues to evolve and make shifts in their lifestyles and approaches to social content, Facebook will attempt to evolve to meet their wants and needs. However, employing a quality-first content strategy will prepare your page for any and all future algorithm enhancements.

 

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