The Modern Marketer

Keeping up with the times

Facebook: The Signal in the Noise

DONE

I currently have 349 friends on Facebook. And to be quite honest, I hardly know most of them.

There are a select few of my “friends” on Facebook whose lives I’m actually interested in, and whose posts I want to see. If I had to sort through every single update from the over 300 other people I’m friends with on FB just to find the ones I’m interested in, it would be incredibly annoying and I probably wouldn’t use Facebook nearly as much.

Luckily, I don’t have to. Neither do you. This is thanks to the constantly improving algorithm Facebook has developed to find the signal in the noise for us.

The original algorithm they used is a term that many of you may have heard before: Edgerank. Basically, Edgerank took into account three main factors when determining what people saw on their news feeds: affinity, weight, and time decay. 

  • Affinity, is your relationship with other users on Facebook. It takes into account the amount of interaction a user has had with your account, e.g. clicks, likes, comments, shares.
  • Weight, is how much priority is given to your post based on post type. Videos and pictures garner the most amount of attention, then links, then plain text status updates.  However, interaction with a post can influence its weight. If a plain text post has a ton of likes and comments for instance, it would be placed above a video with no interactions.
  • Time decay, is how old your post is. Age is relative though; if a user doesn’t access their FB very often, your post will remain relevant for them longer than it will for users who are constantly checking their feeds.

In order to evaluate a post based on these 3 factors, Edgerank would consider four “specific action-points”.

  1. The user’s past interactions with the author of the post.
  2. The user’s past interactions with other posts of that type.
  3. The reactions of other users to that specific post.
  4. Amount of negative feedback or complaints on that specific post.

Below is a simple diagram that explains the way these “specific action-points” work.

Screen-Shot-2013-08-12-at-7.17.40-PM

So what does all this mean for us? It means that really, we control what we’re seeing on our FB news feeds. The algorithm FB is using today is basically a fine tuned version of Edgerank, that is constantly improving at deciphering exactly what it is that each individual user wants to see. This is great for us. Not so much for some businesses.

There’s been a lot of noise recently from aggravated from some corporate/celebrity FB users who don’t like the fact that they now have to pay to push their posts to the top of “fans'” news feeds.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, wrote a blog post last year in which he said, “Who really appreciates that some posts rise to the top of their newsfeed because some folks they used to work with and are still friends with shared a baby picture ? Not only do I not like it, I like even less the obligation I feel to like the picture so I don’t seem like some grump.” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding on his part of how the algorithm works. Posts from a FB friend show up on your feed because you have shown recent interest them. If you have a FB friend who you haven’t interacted with in a long time, you won’t be randomly seeing their “baby pictures”.

As Facebook’s statement  from August 12th said, “The bottom line is that your Page strategy should still stay the same: produce high quality content and optimize for engagement and reach.”

So, Mark Cuban, maybe instead of spending your time criticizing FB, you should consider utilizing it in a more productive manner. Possibly, by creating posts that your “fans” actually want to see? If they value the information you’re sharing, it will show. And if not hey, you’re a billionaire, so really what’s the $3,000 it would cost to put “a particular message in front of half of the people who follow the Mavericks page.”

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