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Facebook EdgeRank: Yes, We’re Talking Algorithms Again

If you remember dealing with algorithms in math classes back in high school and/or college, well, you have a better memory than we do. But unless you’ve been busy working in a computer lab or creating a Frankenstein monster in your basement (we won’t tell), it’s a fair bet you haven’t given any thought to algorithms until recently.

We’ve mentioned algorithms a lot recently in this newsletter, but generally in one specific context: revisions to Google’s search engine rankings, nicknamed Panda and Penguin, which penalize sites with lots of duplicated/unoriginal/”spun” copy, irrelevant links and other black hat SEO tricks.

With Facebook EdgeRank, we’re once again digging into the algorithm talk, but don’t worry: We’ll walk you through it. Trust us, it’s worth understanding, because EdgeRank is important stuff if you’re promoting your business in any way through Facebook.

What is EdgeRank?
Essentially, EdgeRank is the algorithm Facebook created to determine what’s displayed — and how high it’s displayed — on a particular user’s News Feed. (For the record, we hate spelling News Feed as two separate capitalized words, but that’s how Facebook spells it, and it’s not as goofy as Google coming up with weird new names every month, so please bear with us.)

If you weren’t already aware, the News Feed that appears when you pull up your Facebook page isn’t simply a list of all your friends’ posts — and posts from pages you’ve Liked — in reverse chronological order.

What you’re actually seeing is a selected subset of posts based on factors controlled by the EdgeRank algorithm. In that sense, the Facebook News Feed is unlike a Twitter timeline, which blasts out every single thing tweeted by every Twitter user you
follow.

By comparison, Facebook wants to give you a more customized and relevant experience. It knows you frankly don’t care about a lot of stuff your friends (and businesses/entities you’ve “Liked”) post, so it tries to figure out what you’d actually be interested in seeing.

EdgeRank isn’t a new thing — it’s been guiding what appears in your News Feed since 2006 — but what’s relatively new is that Facebook has publicly announced how EdgeRank is determined.

When marketing your business, understanding EdgeRank will help you understand what your reach truly is. Studies indicate that 40 percent of time spent on Facebook is on the News Feed — with only 12 percent spent on profile and brand pages. In practice, according to studies, your post is 40– 150 times more likely to be read in a News Feed than on your own FB page.

What’s in the EdgeRank algorithm?
If you ask Facebook, you’re going to get answers referencing terms like edges, affinity, weight, and time decay. Let’s run through these in basic English:

An edge is any action that occurs within Facebook, such as a status updates, comment, Like, or share.

Affinity refers to the relationship between you and another user. If you comment regularly “Like” Uncle Bob’s posts, post on his wall, tag him in posts, etc., you’ll regularly see his posts.

Note that this is a one-way street: If Uncle Bob rarely interacts with you on FB, he’ll rarely see your posts.

Weight refers to how important Facebook considers the post. With all engagement being equal, a photo or video is given more weight than a link, which is given more weight than a basic text post.

However, a text post with lots of engagement (Likes, comments, etc.) typically will have more overall weight than a video with no engagement.

Time decay is simple: The older a post is, the less likely it is to appear in your feed.

How does EdgeRank filter stories in practice?
There are four basic factors:

1) The more you engage with a friend or a page — leave a comment, post on the wall, share a link, etc. — the more likely you are to see posts from that user or page.

2) The more often you engage with a certain type of post, the more often you’ll see those types of posts. (If you regularly ignore or even hide posts about Words With Friends, for example, posts about FB games are far less likely to appear in your feed.)

3) The more Facebook users engage with a post, the more likely you are to see it. (For example, if a friend’s post garnered 25 comments, it’s much more likely to appear prominently in your feed.)

4) The more negative comments a post gets, the less likely it is to appear in your feed.

How can you use EdgeRank to increase your reach?
Here are a few of the best practices to follow:

1) Be concise: Posts that run 100–250 characters get 60 percent more likes, comments, and shares than post of more than 250 characters.

2) Be visual: Photo albums get 180 percent, individual photos get 120 percent, and individual videos get 100 percent more engagement than a standard text post.

3) Post regularly: One amazing statistic is that 96 percent of users will never return to your page even after they’ve engaged with it through a comment or Like. You’re only going to reach them through frequent posts.

4) Consider the time: People engage with posts most often from 9–10 p.m. Don’t publish a post at 4 a.m. just because something occurs to you then. There are applications available to post your updates at peak times.

5) Use emoticons: We’re surprised about this one, but the statistics bear it out. Posts with emoticons typically receive a 33 percent higher share rate, a 33 percent higher comment rate, and 57 percent more Likes. So don’t be afraid to throw a smiley face in there. 🙂

Let’s add something here that always important to consider when marketing your business: While it’s good to post regularly, you’ll get a lot more engagement if you’re providing useful and/or interesting information, not just purely promoting your business.

It’s important to use your posts as a way to engage with a customer in a friendly fashion, much like you’d engage in small talk. Provide links to interesting photos and videos related to your industry and trend stories, that sort of thing, preferably with a question or comment that welcomes responses.

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