enero 08, 2014


Facebook modified its EdgeRank Algorithm... Bad News?

Advertisers don't seem to be particularly happy about the change. Now that they were finally comfortable promoting their stories and cashing out on their hard earned likes, Zuckerberg's company changes the playing field and establishes new rules of engagement... how uncool... Why is Facebook doing this?

Facebook answer to that question is:
Surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme. Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.
Apparently, Facebook has been conducting a series of surveys in order to finely tune up the way the algorithm perceives relevance for the audience in your updates. They presented users with different types of content and asked them the following:
  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

I have my issues regarding the survey design and results. I specially dislike the way the 5th question was presented. It categorizes the "meme" as low quality leading answers negatively about memes in the mind of the user. Somehow, I don't see a user answering honestly he or she prefers a funny meme over a well crafted article from a news organization, despite the fact that the former seem to be much more popular than  the latter, but I imagine Facebook has taken the shame factor into account interpreting the survey's results.

How is people reacting to the new algorithm?

Comments on FB Official Blog new algorythm's anouncement

Judging from comments in Facebook Official Blog, many suspect it's a matter of Facebook getting greedy. They think Facebook does not want companies to clutter people's newsfeeds with content unless is paid. And according to the comment of Nestor Carrasco, responsible for the fanpage "StarterDaily" the results of organic unpaid updates are dramatic: a decrease from 30% engagement to 2%.  Content that, up until today, made 30% of your fans engage, now gets only 2%. Less people exposed to the content turned into less people engaging.  If Facebook wanted engagement, reducing the number of people the content reaches does not seem logical... or does it?

My Opinion

Although Facebook usage is still growing, Facebook has seen a decrease in this growth. They want it back on high speed and they've figured out that engagement is key to recover velocity.

Engagement will keep users on Facebook, make them use it more, expend more time on it.  Take it from the perspective of a user: if your news feed keeps filling up with non engaging content, you'll look for it somewhere else. An engaging user is a person who goes from mere witness into action mode. From that point of view, brands should prefer this type of user over the other. Facebook wants to be a platform of engaging users because they know they have more value.
Turning non engaging users into engagement junkies is not a task Facebook can do alone. They want us marketers to step inside this "creating Mr Engager" scenario and add our 5 cents to the jar. In the long run, activating engagers is a desireable scenario for us too.
They made some recommendations alongside the anouncement:

  • Make your posts timely and relevant
  • Build credibility and trust with your audience
  • Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”
  • Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”


1.What you consider important may not be what users find important.

Well, for once, it seems pretty obvious that Facebook does not encourage us to prioritize what we consider important over what users may consider important. That is a key factor to consider when we prepare our content. And don't only consider the essence of the content, notice the relevance of now. What is important for the users currently. Context Matters my friends.

2.Make "Engagement Trigger" Content

Shareability of your content seems to be important. Facebook prefers a message your followers would recommend to others, or even better, one they'd comment about, over content they may like but not feel in need to share. This presents some issues.

Imagine you are responsible for Viagra's Social Media Strategy. There is certainly a community of people interested in your content but... will they share it with others? Seeking shareability is undoubtely a challenge.

3.Make your content Facebook Native. Links may not work as they used to.

AllThingsD interviewed Lars Backstrom, Facebook's NewsFeed Manager, and he had some remarks that particularly caught my attention:
Q. Are you paying attention to the source of the content? Or is it solely the type of content?A. Right now, it’s mostly oriented around the source. As we refine our approaches, we’ll start distinguishing more and more between different types of content. But, for right now, when we think about how we identify “high quality,” it’s mostly at the source level.
Q. So something that comes from publisher X, you might consider high quality, and if it comes from publisher Y, it’s low quality?A. Yes.
It's yet to be determined what a high quality source by Facebook's algorithm standards is. Backstom's answer lead us to think that a vague article about cancer treatment from the New York Times would be considered of higher quality than the testimony of a cancer patient posted on his personal blog... I happen to disagree. But, since it's a factor, it may be better for us to create the content natively within Facebook, so outside links to what could be consider a not so high quality source weight less on the algorithm's criteria.

4.Value Facebook Users' interests as much as Facebook does

All the changes Facebook does to the algorithm have one purpose in mind, and it is not to make you pay to reach their users. Facebook wants to empower their users. They want them better informed, more engaging and active. They cherish the user because he is the main asset of their business. Facebook prioritizes a better user experience over a better marketer's one because users' enjoyment, not advertisers money, is Facebook's source of income. Advertisers will always come second, that is the way it has to be. A Facebook with a UI tailored for advertisers instead of for users is not valuable even for advertisers.

So, Facebook designs its algorithm trying to get into the mind of the Facebook Native. They want to mimic their thoughts, think like one, in order to give him or her what he or she wants. You should do exactly the same.

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