The News Feed — in the center column of your home page — is a list of stories from the people and pages you follow on Facebook. Customized and continuously updated, it is designed to make the most out of the time you spend on the social network by serving up the information that’s the most meaningful to you. News Feed stories include likes, status updates, app activity, photos, videos, and links.
According to comScore, 40% of time on Facebook is spent on the News Feed. When a user logs in, there are normally many more posts than can fit in their “top news.” EdgeRank is an algorithm developed by Facebook that governs what is displayed — and how high — on the News Feed. Knowing how Facebook decides what shows up (and what doesn’t) in news feeds is key for digital marketers. If you can write posts with an eye toward the EdgeRank algorithm, they will have a higher probability of being displayed at the top of users’ “top news”.
Every piece of content in Facebook is called an Object (for our purposes here, think “post”), and each interaction with that content is called an Edge. Examples of Edges include status updates, comments, likes, and shares. Each Edge is comprised of Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay. Sounds pretty complicated, right? Stay with me and you’ll understand why it’s simple and effective — it’s very similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
EdgeRank is the sum of Edges. It looks at all of the Edges (actions on Facebook) that are connected to you and ranks them according to their importance to you. Objects (posts) with the highest EdgeRank typically appear at the top of the News Feed, although there’s a small amount of randomness.
Affinity is a one-way relationship between a user and an Edge. Think of it as a measure of the closeness between you and a brand. It looks at whether or not you’ve previously interacted with a post or whether your friends are engaging with it — actions taken into consideration include liking, sharing, commenting, and messaging.
Weight is a system that increases or decreases the value of actions within Facebook. All Edges (Facebook actions) are assigned a value chosen by Facebook. Edges that take the most time to accomplish tend to weigh more — for example, commenting is more involved than simply liking a post, so it’s considered to be more valuable.
Time Decay is the easiest of these variables to understand. It refers to how long the Edge has been alive — expressed mathematically, it is 1 ÷ (Time Since Action). The older an Edge is, the less value it has. This helps weed out old content and replace it with interesting new content.
Here are some ways to get your posts to the top of Facebook’s News Feed:
Increase affinity for the people who like your Facebook page by posting content that appeals to them. Polls, questions, contests, and other interactive initiatives increase engagement. The more often you post, the less you’ll deal with post decay, which lowers content visibility.
Engagement increases with the size of your audience. Clear CTAs that raise interaction rates — sharing, liking, and commenting on your posts — improves the weight of that content. Post trivia questions and encourage people to answer by commenting on the posts, ask users to tag themselves in photos and like their favorites, etc.
Facebook pages that always include these have the best EdgeRank scores. Text-only posts don’t stand out or offer much opportunity for engagement. Adding links, photos, and videos to all of your posts increases visual interaction, making it more likely that users will view/watch, share, like, comment, and browse. This improves affinity and weight.
Contests that give away unrelated prizes attract many people who will never engage with your brand — they’re only liking your page to get the swag you’re giving away. Chances are that none of your messages will show up in their news feeds. If thousands of people like your page but only a few actually see your content, you’re not accomplishing your goal. It’s important to build an online community instead of going for the “low-hanging fruit” to increase the number of people who like your page, which creates an illusion of engagement.
Post often — at least once a day — to decrease the time decay of your content. See my post, How to Improve Your Facebook Fan Engagement, for detailed analysis about the best times to post by industry. It includes a cheat sheet for effective wall post strategies.
The good folks at PostRocket, makers of a News Feed optimization tool, created these infographics to help you better understand how EdgeRank works. Keep these great visualizations on hand as you work to improve the visibility of your posts.