Ascending Facebook News Feeds

When you go on Facebook, you may commonly see the same people always get on the top of your news feed. You may think, “Why is this? Are they just lucky? Is it because they have more friends than everybody else?”

You may also wonder, “Why are so many people asking me to Like or comment on their post?”

Similar to how Google has an algorithm to determine the best content for the top positions of search results, Facebook also has an algorithm to get popular posts to the top of your news feed. It’s called Edgerank.

Introduced in 2010, Edgerank is what helps get relevant content to the top of your news feed. It’s led many companies to “news feed optimize” their posts to make sure they get their posts to the top of news feeds, which ensures it gets in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

So what can you as a business owner do? What is the formula to help get you to the top of people’s news feed? In this post but I will explore what you need to know so you can understand the keys to news feed optimization.

Background on Edgerank

Facebook had a problem: the average Facebook user has 245 friends and about 15% of users update their status every day. Combine this with the updates received from “Liked” pages and the user can be overwhelmed with content on Facebook.

In response to this problem, Facebook developed an algorithm they’ve called Edgerank. Edgerank ensures that a user doesn’t see a 5 day old, uncommented, unliked status update at the top of their News Feed.

Here’s the breakdown on how Edgerank works:

Every item in your news feed (status update, poll, photo, etc.) is considered an object.

An object gets an edge when a user interacts with an object. This can be via commenting, Liking, tagging, etc.

Here’s the three main parts to Edgerank:

  1. Affinity Score: Affinity is your relation to a friend. The more you interact with a friend, the “higher” your affinity becomes with them. The same goes for business pages. The more you like, comment, share or view an object of theirs, the stronger your affinity is with the brand. Note that this is only from you. How much your friend interacts with you doesn’t impact the affinity score you have with them.
  2. Weight: Some “objects” “weigh” more than others. In other words, some have more meaning. For example, if you post a photo to your status, this will “weigh” more than a simple status update.
  3. Time: Just like it sounds, time measures how old your status or post is. Facebook wants to make sure their users see fresh content on their news feed, so the status update you posted 3 years ago (or even 2 days ago) will not appear on top of anyone’s news feed.

These factors determine what gets to the top of your news feed. It helps make sure that you have relevant and recent content.

It appears that Facebook puts a lot of weight on pictures. Go to Facebook right now and you’ll see photos at or near the top of your news feed. The Next Web speculates that the hierarchy of weights is: photo/video, links, status updates.

So here’s a quick tip for your personal profile: if you want a particular quote to be seen, instead of typing it, find a picture of it and post it to Facebook. This will undoubtedly get more eyeballs than simply posting a text status update.

What Edgerank Means For Businesses

Many businesses are implementing news feed optimization. You’ve noticed them—they’re the ones that are asking for Likes, comments (asking questions in status updates) or less commonly asking you to share their object. They’re doing this and asking you to interact with their object so it will get to the top of other’s news feed.

One big brand that does news feed optimization is Coca-Cola. Go to their Facebook page and you’ll see photos in about every object. As you see, it’s working quite well. Each object gets a significant amount of Likes and comments, all of which help it soar to the top of news feed.

What Edgerank primarily means for businesses is that it can help one of your objects get to the top of news feeds.

Edgerank usually only helps after fans have Liked your page. The only time it can help acquire fans is if your current fans share an object.

From here I’ll cover photos, links and status updates and how your business can capitalize on Edgerank with all of these elements.

Photos

Photos catch the eye of people as they scroll through their news feed. According to an internal Facebook study, “Posts including a photo album or picture can generate 2X more engagement than other post types”

Brands post pictures of their product or something similar to their product. Here’s an example from Hyundai:

Here’s Coors Light showing their appreciation of Earth Day:

They’re not exactly showing off their product, but encouraging their customers to recycle. Nice job of branding with showing the recycle symbol and the Coors Light logo next to each other.

Zappos posts a quote along with an eye catching flower:

Takeaway:

Attach photos to your posts. It will help catch the person’s eye. The picture should be relevant to the post, anything else and it will be spam. For example, don’t post a picture of a model and have a status update totally unrelated to the model. Try a mix of posting product pictures and anything related to your status update.

Note regarding uploading photos:

Note that posting a link to a photo and uploading a photo to Facebook are not the same thing. Uploading a photo has more weight. Thus when you want to post a status update, uploading a photo will mean more than simply adding a link to one.

Links:

Posting links are something brands do a little less of on Facebook. Often brands will post links to press releases or any other company announcements so customers have a place to go for more information. Some also post other people’s content. Here’s one from Discover:

It’s important to understand your user demographic and post stories or articles that will help them.

Here’s Honest Tea:

They know their customers care about organic food and post a story about organic food.

Takeaway:

If your company has an announcement, make a small snippet of it on Facebook then include a link where fans can go if they want more information. You can also post links that point back to your company blog. For example, anytime a new post is on your blog, you may want to add the link to it. If you get mentioned by a news source, you should definitely post the link. Here’s an example from Ford:

Part of social media is about being helpful and a resource to your followers. Post great content that fans will love.

Status Updates

Many brands will ask fans questions or provide a quote.

Here’s Ford who encourages fans to complete a sentence:

By entering a comment, it increases the weight of the object, thus helping bump it to the top.

Honest Tea is one that frequently posts quotes:

Many good inspirational or motivational quotes will naturally get a lot of Likes and/or comments.

Takeaway:

When posting text status updates, keep in mind that most people don’t like to read a lot. Keep it short and if there’s more information needed provide a link.

Examples of Companies Using News Feed Optimization

Some companies run daily contests. A fan has to Like, comment or share a post to enter. Here’s an example from online nutritional supplements retailer Muscle and Strength:

They run this type of contest daily and it always gets a strong response. The shares help spread their brand and likes and comments add weight to the post, helping propel it to the top of news feeds.

Many political organizations will encourage fans to Like a post. Here’s one from the left of center Think Progress:

Here’s one from the right of center Heritage Foundation:

Discover Card doesn’t always ask fans to Like a post, but when they do, it always gets a strong response:

And finally one from REI, asking fans to Like their post if they like sleeping bags:

Takeaway:

You don’t have to be on Facebook for any more than 5 minutes to see a business in your news feed asking for Likes and comments. There’s no way around it, you need likes, comments and/or shares if you want to optimize your post and help it get to one of the first on news feeds’. You’ll want to avoid asking for Likes, comments or shares on every post. Do this and people will tune you out and unlike your page.

It’s important to be aware of Facebook’s contest and promotion guidelines.

Regardless of edgerank, Facebook is a great platform for spreading word about your company and communicating with prospective and current customers. News feed optimizing gives you a great chance to get your brand in front of a lot of people who already “Like” you. Done consistently, this can help enforce your brand into the fan’s mind. Brand reinforcement will help make sure that you’re the first company that comes to mind when they’re looking to buy something in your market.

Being on Facebook is a good thing. But if you want to take your brand to the next level, you should be practicing news feed optimization.

Other Useful Articles On Facebook Marketing

Got Any Tips?

Do you currently do news feed optimization? Have you learned any tips or tricks to share with the other readers?

About the Author: Zach Bulygo is a guest blogger for KISSmetrics, you can find him on Twitter here. You can also follow him on Google+.

  1. This is something I’ve wondered about for a while, so thanks for filling in a lot of blanks.
    One thing I do that I don’t know if is right tho, is when I post a link ( typically to one of our blogs), I post that link in our business page, logged in as that business.
    What we’re struggling to do is get that in front of our friends, as the number of likes the business has is currently less than our personal friend list.
    What I tend to do then is log back in as me, and Share the link object to my own time line so it would make it more visible to more people… Is this the best way to do it?

    • Sure, but you can also invite your friends to Like your page. There are also a lot of other things you can do to increase your fan base on Facebook.

      I might have to write a blog post on this….

      • Great – thanks for responding Zach,

        We have sent out the occasional message to our friends to Like our business page, but I’m very keen it doesn’t come across as needy or desperate – I’d rather be able to just make good content and get it in front of people who can then chose to like it or not.

  2. I didn’t know that FB also have its own algorithm.

    • They certainly needed one here.

      I doubt Facebook spends as much time on it as Google does with PageRank, but EdgeRank is important.

      I also think it’s critical for businesses to understand EdgeRank–I think there are so many business who are using social media incorrectly. It astonishes me to see the amount of companies who use it as an advertising platform. Companies should:

      1st) Realize how to use social media
      2nd) Optimize their Facebook posts around the EdgeRank principles.

      Social media is about two things:

      1) Engagement
      2) Providing value

      Anything else and you’re probably just spam.

  3. Virginie Renson May 25, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Really good and thorough post! Lots of very actionable content.
    Except for one thing:
    “Some companies run daily contests. A fan has to Like, comment or share a post to enter. Here’s an example from online nutritional supplements retailer Muscle and Strength:”
    Even if you mentioned the link to the Facebook contest policies, they shouldn’t organize such a contest directly on their Timeline: “You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.
    iv. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.”
    Sorry to bother with that on an otherwise very valuable post, but I thought it’s really worth mentioning.

    • Thanks for noticing! It looks like M&S has been going against Facebook contest rules for quite some time.

  4. why don’t you include a published date on your article pages? This would be helpful to know how old content is.

    • You can always look at when the first comment was published, it’s typically a good indicator.

  5. “Discover Card doesn’t always ask fans to Like a post, but when they do, it always gets a strong response”. Lol. Nice Dosequis reference :)

  6. What about video? I’ve always thought that video had more weight than photos would when it comes to FB? Do you have any information on that?

    • I do not, but The Next Web (according to the link posted) seems to think that photos and videos hold the same weight.

  7. Really awesome article.. I actually hadn’t known that Edgerank was what determined the Newsfeed, even though I had heard of it. Be careful with those giveaways though – many of the examples violate Facebook’s rules of using Facebook functionality to enter a contest. I thought you weren’t allowed to us liking, sharing, etc as entry into a contest? It all has to be down on an outside app/page?

    Danielle Hohmeier
    Online Marketing Manager at Atomicdust

  8. I guess you should look now, Facebook is totally changed now !
    Thank you

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