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What is the Facebook Algorithm?
The Facebook algorithm is called EdgeRank it's a complicated series of factors that decides which stories appear in each user's news feed.
Every action their friends take is a potential news feed story. Facebook calls these actions “Edges.” That means whenever a friend posts a status update, comments on another status update, tags a photo, joins a fan page or RSVP's to an event it generates an “Edge,” and a story about that Edge might show up in the user's personal news feed.
It'd be completely overwhelming if the news feed showed all of the possible stories from your friends. So Facebook created an algorithm to predict how interesting each story will be to each user. Facebook calls this algorithm “EdgeRank” because it ranks the ‘edges'. Then they filter each user's news feed to only show the top-ranked stories for that particular user based on previous interactions with their friends and pages they follow.
How does it work?
No one knows ‘exactly' how the algorithm works it's top secret and it's always changing and evolving. Your EdgeRank is kind of like your credit rating – invisible, important and unique to each user.
Back in 2010 at Facebook's 2010 F8 conference, they revealed the three main ingredients of the algorithm:
- Affinity Score
- Edge Weight
- Time Decay
This is incredibly simplified version because the algorithm actually uses over 100,000 highly personalized factors when it determines what gets shown in your news feed.
Let's talk Affinity Score
Affinity Score means how “connected” a particular user is to the ‘Edge'. For example, I'm friends with my mother on Facebook. I write frequently on her wall, and we have a ton of mutual friends. This means I have a very high affinity score with my mother, so Facebook knows I'll probably want to see her status updates.
Facebook calculates affinity score by looking at explicit actions that users take, and factoring in 1) the strength of the action, 2) how close the person who took the action was to you, and 3) how long ago they took the action.
Explicit or ‘strong' actions include clicking, liking, commenting, tagging, sharing, and friending. Each of these interactions has a different weight that reflects the effort required for the action–more effort from the user demonstrates more interest in the content. Commenting on something is worth more than merely liking it, which is worth more than merely clicking on it. Passively viewing a status update in your news feed does not count toward affinity score – you have to interact with it.
Affinity score measures not only my actions, but also my friends' actions, and their friends' actions. For example, if I commented on a fan page, it's worth more than if my friend commented, which is worth more than if a friend of a friend commented. Not all friends' actions are treated equally. If I click on someone's status updates and write on their wall regularly, that person's actions influence my affinity score significantly more than another friend who I tend to ignore.
Lastly, if I used to interact with someone a lot, but less so now, then their influence will start to wane. Technically, Facebook is just multiplying each action by 1/x, where x is the time since the action happened.
Affinity score is one-way. My mother has a different affinity score to me than I have to her. If I write on my mother's wall, Facebook knows I care about my mother but doesn't know if my mother cares about me (which of course she totally does!).
This may sound confusing, but it does operate mostly from common sense.
Each category of edges has a different default ‘weight'. Basically, this means that comments are worth more than likes.
Every action that a user takes creates an edge, and each of those edges, except for clicks, creates a potential story. How often have you seen an update in your feed that says “Mary commented on such and such post”? You are far more likely to see a story in your newsfeed about me commenting on a fan page than a story about me liking a fan page (though that does happen as well – usually when the fan page is on a topic that might interest you – that's the algorithm in action).
Facebook changes the edge weights to reflect which type of stories they think a user will find most engaging. For example, photos and videos have a higher weight than links (especially links that take you away from Facebook).
New Facebook features generally have a high Edge weight in order to promote the feature to users. For example, currently Facebook Live is being rolled out, native Facebook Live video has a very high default weight for now. Generally, after a few weeks or months, Facebook dials the new feature back to a more reasonable weight.
As a story gets older, it loses points because it's “old news.”
EdgeRank is a running score–not a one-time score. When a user logs into Facebook, their news feed is populated with edges that have the highest score at that very moment in time. Your status update will only hit the news feed if it has a higher score at that moment in time than the other possible news feed stories.
So what does it all mean?
Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard people who use Facebook for business complain about their organic reach being next to non-existent. Facebook is very much becoming a ‘pay to play' platform with many businesses being forced to pay to get their posts seen. However, there are still ways to grow your following and increase your engagement without paying.
Let's Focus on What You've Got
Before we start worrying about growing our following – how about we focus on engaging the followers you already have! I've created a series that I've been posting on Instagram and on my Facebook page and I thought I'd turn them into blog posts so you can find all the information in one spot.
The first series is based on Affinity – building relationships and creating meaningful interactions.
Let's talk about this whole social media algorithm thing. Learning how to use all the fancy technology available doesn’t beat the algorithm, thoughtfulness does. Being thoughtful with what you post is the ultimate algorithm hack! Social Media is about RELATIONSHIPS and in the algorithm they call that “AFFINITY”. Affinity = closeness of the relationship. If you can get someone to engage with your post — like, comment and share then the more “affinity” or probability there is that they will see future content. What are you doing to build affinity?
Affinity in the Algorithms takes into account things like: How many mutual connections does a person have with you. How many of their mutual friends engage (like, comment, and share) a post. But the biggest part of affinity = RECENT INTERACTION. This makes perfect sense if you think about it. If Facebook or Instagram is only going to show me 1 out of 5 posts as a best case scenario, wouldn’t it be good odds that they are going to show me something from someone i’ve already demonstrated that I “like”? So what we want to do is create posts that cause people to have “recent interaction” with us. Before I give you my 5 favorite tips it is important for you to understand one thing: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about them – your followers. You must earn the right to show up in their feed.
Liking, Commenting, & Sharing on other peoples posts doesn't get your posts to show up more in their feed, it gets THEIR posts to show up more in your feed. If you want to show up in their feed💡 The key is to get them to like, comment or share back. It is human nature to show reciprocity so the more you show love, ❤️ the more love you will get back. Leaving comments is the KEY here! When you like their post, they can’t like that you like their post. BUT if you leave a thoughtful comment, they can like your comment or comment back. 💥 BOOM! You just created “RECENT INTERACTION”. You just invited them into your world! So slow down and leave comments instead of just liking. You will create more QUALITY RELATIONSHIPS this way and that's how you build your tribe.
Do you use lists on Facebook? It's a great way to get the ‘right' people to engage with your posts. Using custom lists allows you to create your own home feed based upon the people you want to make sure you engage with. You can create lists for close friends, business colleagues, clients, locals, whatever you want. Then you can tailor posts to suit each group and make sure the people your posts are most relevant see it and you don't annoy those it has nothing to do with! Great way to make sure you don't show up on the ‘naughty' (spammy) list!
Did you know Facebook is the largest relationship based search engine out there! You can have a series of words and phrases that you put in the search bar that will return posts for you to engage with. For example if you type “pray for” + “hospital” = you can find posts that might show you a friend is going through a hard time – don’t let Facebook decide for you if you'll see a friend is hurting. You can proactively perform this search occasionally to make sure aren't missing anyone that is having a tough time. Type “anniversary” or “celebration” and see what comes up. We all know Facebook shows you Birthdays and i’ll explain later how engaging with someone on their Birthday actually doesn’t help as much as you think with engagement. But guess what day is important for people and when you engage with the post it is super thoughtful? Yep! an Anniversary. 😍 You can proactively search for friends that are talking about certain topics that are important to you and that you would like to engage in.
In the last post I talked about using people's birthdays as an engagement tactic might not be the best move. Think about it, engaging with someone on their Birthday is awesome — but if you are doing it as a “strategy”, you are not standing out. That person is either overwhelmed and gives an end of the day “thanks everyone for the birthday wishes” post or they like and comment on so many posts they can't even remember who wished them well and who didn't! Instead use the Facebook feature ON THIS DAY. This way you can share memories specifically with someone and have more thoughtful interaction. It will also show you the anniversary of who you became FB friends with on that day and you can use that to better organize your lists or engage with one of their recent posts. On Instagram really engage with their posts and seek out opportunities to comment on events that they are sharing – if it's important enough for them to share then sharing the special moments with them will make you stand out – don't just throw them a heart – comment!!
If you are going to “tag” someone in your post, be super thoughtful about it. Tag = touch. They are in the picture or it is super relevant for them. While tagging people in your posts can increase your post reach, it only works if that person allows it on their timeline or feed. Also think about what happens if people begin to remove themselves from a post or hide it? You begin to get flagged and your overall post reach is reduced. If you are on Facebook it's called Facebook probation. If you are using Facebook then ‘Mentioning' is often a more thoughtful way to include someone. You do it in the post or the comments by using the @ sign and typing their name. What is great is that mentions show up in search (even outside Facebook), but tags don’t. Personally, I have often used mentions in comments to let people know a certain post reminds me of them. Which one do you use? Tags or mentions?
Those are some of my top tips on building affinity to help you work the Facebook algorithm. Have you got any great tips for creating engagement on Facebook? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!
Here's to your success,
Make sure you check back for the next series on the Facebook Algorithm where we are going to be talking about making an impact.
You can find part two here!