EdgeRank: Doing the Right Things Doesn't Solve the Bigger Issue

Posted on October 19th 2012

EdgeRank: Doing the Right Things Doesn't Solve the Bigger Issue

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!

Carole

Carole Billingsley

Owner, Seek Social Media

Carole Billingsley is a social media strategist and the owner of Seek Social Media (@YouSeekSocial), based in Houston, TX. Seek Social Media specializes in social media strategy development for bands, brands, and mom-and-pop shops. Carole brings to the table over a decade of marketing and promotions experience in the entertainment industry as well as three years' experience in social media marketing.

See Full Profile >

Comments

EasyLunchboxes
Posted on October 19th 2012 at 2:53PM

Carole - THANK YOU for this! I have been searching for an answer about interest lists and do they really help our fans see our posts. After reading, I will not be asking my fans to add my page to an interest list.  Yours is the first article I've found that clearly spells out all the problems with how Facebook is "allowing" our content to be seen. I have signed Hugh's petition and will be sharing your excellent article (and the petition) with my readers. 

Carole
Posted on October 23rd 2012 at 2:29PM

Thank you for your comments, EasyLunchboxes! I'm so glad that you found the information valuable!! And thanks for signing and sharing Hugh's petition. I think we are all able to decide for ourselves what we want to see in our news feeds and what we don't. I appreciate your taking the time to comment! 

Reign Johnson
Posted on October 19th 2012 at 3:42PM

You use the news feed to follow updates from friends who you regularly interact with, and use interest lists to follow pages and companies that you're interested in. 

To get people's content to show up in the news feed, either add them as a close friend so you'll see all their stuff, or go to their profile and like several things and they will be ranked higher in your feed.

As far as posts by pages, Edgerank keeps this to a minimum in the news feed, which is good in my opinion.  Too much brand content and not enough personal content defeats Facebook's ultimate purpose, connecting you to the people who are important to you.

Your information on Interst lists is incomplete.  While adding a page to an interest list will marginally increase the likelihood that it's displayed in your feed, the main functionality of interest lists is designed to click on the list and view the feed from that actual list. 

That fix allows more social media savy users to not miss any content.  As far as other people missing the content because they don't understand the platform, that just isn't Facebook's problem. 


Facebook is a great free tool for brands to be present on to interact with their fans, but more and more companies are thinking of it as the core of their online marketing and lead generation strategies.  It's not, it's just a great social tool, period. If you don't like the return you're getting on investing in Facbeook advertising (like I didn't) then take your advertising dollars elsewhere and continue to reap benefits from the free aspects of the FB platform.

In summary: Edgerank helps make Facebook great, and it isn't going anywhere.  Expecting each user to filter their own content is ridiculous, especially when it's pair with the arguement that people aren't tech savy enough to use interest lists.

Carole
Posted on October 23rd 2012 at 2:27PM

Thanks for your comment, Reign! Part of my point is that I don't feel I should have to make an interest list to keep track of brands that I'm interested in - nor do I want to ask my brand's fans to do that. Also, it's been my experience that even adding people as close friends doesn't ensure that all of their posts are pushed to my news feed. As for my information on Interest Lists being incomplete...that's quite possible as this post was not intended to be about interest lists, per se. However, you say that "adding a page to an interest list will marginally increase the likelihood that it's displayed in your feed, the main functionality of interest lists is designed to click on the list and view the feed from that actual list." According to Facebook itself, interest lists are supposed to be pushed to the news feed (i.e. one shouldn't have to click on the list to read the content contained within). See this post from Facebook's help section on interest lists: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=304521666277592#What-are-interest-lists?

You say that you're glad that EdgeRank keeps Page posts to a minimum in your news feed. So I have to ask, if you don't want to see posts from pages in the first place, why would you like the page? I contend that by liking a page, users are telling FB that we WANT to see the information/posts coming from that page. However, if all the page does is send promotions and marketing posts, then yes, users are quite capable of unliking the page.

I agree that FB shouldn't be the core of any brand's marketing and lead generation strategies. It should be a component within a broader set of strategies.

I disagree that users aren't savvy enough to know what they want to see in their news feed and that, at the very least, EdgeRank should be tweaked so that users CAN have greater control over what they see. If one is savvy enough to click like, one is savvy enough to cick unlike. I don't understand why you feel that users shouldn't be allowed to filter their own content.


Again, thanks for your comments!

 

James Meyer
Posted on October 19th 2012 at 9:34PM

The changes Facebook has been and continues to roll out make it extremely important for businesses to have a diversified social media presence.  Problem is, most can't even do one platform well much less concern themselves with multiple.

Starting earlier this summer I've been positioning my clients to create roots and stems and even more so lately advising them to invest in platforms over which they have most control and ROI.  Those businesses that don't will find themselves further behind the curve come 2013.

Thanks for the article.

Have a great day.

James

Carole
Posted on October 23rd 2012 at 1:43PM

Excellent points, James! Thanks for your insights!! I completely agree, you can't put all of your marketing eggs in one basket, be it Facebook or any other platform. I appreciate your comments!

Rahul S
Posted on October 20th 2012 at 10:35AM

Using the EdgeRank, Facebook is indirectly asking brands to advertise their pages, posts and apps so that the brands have a better chance of being listed in their fans newsfeed. Brands can avoid paying ad money to Facebook by conducting contests on their pages which reward participants with free stuff and discounts. Such contests will make participating fans to viral market the page, using contest share posts. In my experience, this method is more productive than social ads.

Carole
Posted on October 23rd 2012 at 1:41PM

Contests are a good way to increase your reach, Rahul! I do worry, however, when I see pages running contests that are out of compliance with Facebook's TOS (i.e. not using a 3rd party app, using FB functionalities as a requirement for entering, etc). Those little mistakes could cost them in the end if their page gets shut down. Facebook appears to be getting more strict in enforcing those rules.

I don't mind that Facebook is asking, directly or indirectly, to advertise or spend money as none of us should expect to market our businesses for free. I'd just like to see an even (or more even) playing field.

Thanks for your insights and for taking the time to comment!!

digitalheaven
Posted on October 28th 2012 at 4:17PM

The bottom imaged made me chuckle out loud - at Starbucks, nonetheless. Nicely done. I'm looking forward to reading your blog post about FB customer service because... it's nothing to call home about. I've had two varying experiences and both on the opposite ends of the spectrum.