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EdgeRank: Doing the Right Things Doesn't Solve the Bigger Issue
Posted on October 19th 2012
UPDATE: Hugh Briss of Social Identities has started a petition at change.org asking Facebook to make EdgeRank an option. You can read it (and sign it, if you're so inclined) here.
Posts have been flying from Facebook Page owners recently encouraging fans to create interest lists, click 'show in news feed', and interact frequently with posts to ensure that the Page’s posts show in user’s news feeds. While these are options, they don't solve the bigger issue. That bigger issue is EdgeRank and the fact that an algorithm decides what content is important to you - not you.
One of the most important determining factors in posts being seen in the news feed is the interaction between users and Page content. The more a user interacts with a Page’s content, the more likely that Page’s posts will show in that user’s news feed. Supposedly. Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine which posts are placed in users’ news feeds (see a post and infographic by Aaron Lee explaining EdgeRank here). So, the way it’s explained by Facebook, the more a user interacts with a Page’s content the more likely that content will show in the user’s news feed. Sounds logical, right? The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to really work that way.
For instance, in my own personal news feed, there are Pages that I interact with on a regular basis, yet their posts don’t always show up in my news feed. Then there are Pages that I never interact with, yet see every post. Hmmm. Some would say that the Pages I see regularly (regardless of my lack of interaction) have a higher EdgeRank so their posts are seen by a larger percentage of their fans. OK, but how do you (and by you, I mean Facebook) explain my not seeing the Pages that I do interact with? Ironically, this group also includes a couple of Pages for which I’m an admin…so I surely should be seeing their posts, right? You'd think so, but...No.
I suggested looooong ago that, while I appreciate Facebook’s desire to make my experience on the site more relevant and engaging (sort of), I don’t appreciate the fact that Facebook wants to determine which of those Pages will give me that experience. Users are smart enough to unlike a Page that is posting too often, posting substandard content, etc. We managed to find the Pages in order to like them in the first place, I’m sure we can figure out how to go back to the Page and unlike it if we, indeed, don’t want to see their posts.
SEE ALSO: Dear Mark Zuckerberg, Can We Talk?
Many Page owners have recently been encouraging their fans to make interest lists for the Pages whose content they don’t want to miss, engage more with the Page’s posts, or even go to the Page and click “show in news feed”. Unfortunately, none of these ‘fixes’ solve the bigger issue.
Why these ‘fixes’ don’t always work:
1) Interest Lists I have interest lists for several topics. Even so, the interest lists don’t even show in my news feed consistently. If even my interest lists aren’t pushed to my news feed regularly, how does that help? Answer? It doesn’t!
2) ‘Show in News Feed’ This request is definitely not the fix because ‘the show in news feed’ is the default setting when a user initially likes a Page. Obviously that’s not working or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
3) Encouraging Interaction This is always a great idea, but as I mentioned above, there are many Pages that I interact with regularly, yet they still aren’t always pushed to my news feed. Also, if that Page’s EdgeRank is low, I may never see the posts or have the opportunity to interact with the Page’s content. If I have 1,000 fans and my posts only go out to 100 of them, how do the other 900 fans know if I’m posting relevant, interesting, or engaging content?
The overriding issue is Facebook deciding that my news feed is too cluttered and attempting to fix that for me (and you) by developing an algorithm and basically deciding for me (and you) what I’ll find interesting. We saw the same phenomenon when Top Stories was rolled out. An algorithm isn’t capable of deciding for a human what is relevant content. Period.
Facebook says they want to encourage frictionless sharing…yet they are stifling that for brand Pages – especially small business Pages. I mean, do you really think Coca Cola or Starbucks have to concern themselves with EdgeRank? No. Some would say that’s because those Pages get a great deal of fan interaction. I believe one could also say that those companies’ posts have a better chance of getting fan interaction because their posts are seen in their fans’ news feeds. I wonder how much they spend per quarter on Facebook advertising. Don’t even get me started on advertising and Facebook customer service – but do check back in a day or two as that will be the subject of my next post.
So what is the answer? One answer would be for Facebook to listen to their users’ complaints and to the complaints of business owners who are trying desperately to encourage engagement on their Pages. Given the complete lack of customer service from Facebook that may never happen, unfortunately. Unless…
A recent Facebook post by Hugh Briss of Social Identities discussing the effect of EdgeRank on not only which Page posts are pushed to your news feed, but also posts from your friends. Hugh invited his fans to like, comment, and share his post as a sort of impromptu petition (and awareness campaign) to let Facebook know that when we like a Page, that is an indication that we want to see that Page’s posts and we don’t need Facebook to assume a Big Brother role and decide for us or, in effect, censor our news feeds - from Pages or friends. The idea of EdgeRank as censorship is also addressed in this post by MaAnna Stephenson of BlogAid. See Hugh's humorous, yet sadly accurate image below. You can also see his complete post on the subject on the Social Identities Facebook Page.
What do you think is the answer? Would a petition to Facebook work? Let me know your experiences and your ideas for a fix in the comments below!