Facebook Announces Major News Feed Algorithm Update

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Today, Facebook held a press conference to announce more changes to the News Feed as well as a significant update to what was formerly named the EdgeRank algorithm. EdgeRank had been the formula that determines what content is to be seen in a users feed.

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In March of this year Facebook announced the first major change to the Facebook News Feed in six years. The theme at the time was reduction of clutter by providing more choice and control over the content and stories users will see in their feeds.

Any time there is an update to the algorithm it is big news as Facebook has stated that 88% of engagement happens via the News Feed. The last major update to the algorithm was September of 2012. A month later there was concern over the changes impacting organic brand reach. Since that time organic post visibility has been stable at ~16% visibility.

This has led to the need to either amplify relevant owned content via paid (Paid + Owned = PWNED) or partner with Facebook & pay for reach generation to “guarantee” reach. With today’s announcement it initially appears that these changes will positively enhance a brands ability to impact organic reach.

To date, most brands focus on creating a compelling content strategy that creates relevant connections with their fans. But even with increased engagement & organic post visibility it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through without some form of paid amplification to boost reach. Today’s update will hopefully allow relevant & engaging content to once again impact organic visibility.

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Today’s announcement

Today’s announcement started with a stat outlining that the average person has about 1500 stories they could see in the newsfeed – some have tens of thousands..

Every eligible item to show in news feed gets a score when the news feed is loaded. Each story in feed gets a score based on how relevant we think it is to the user. with the goal of putting the most relevant items at the top. The algorithm was called EdgeRank but as of today has been retired.

Moving forward the News Feed algorithm will continue to focus on your relationship to the person/source and how  you have interacted with them before. Facebook is promising more transparency going forward about news feed & ranking/scoring.

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As the changes come into play there are three primary areas of focus for updates to the algorithm. Two of which will be incorporated, one will not.

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1) Story Bumping – Story bumping considers showing not only all new stories, but considers all stories that are new to the user that may have driven engagement since the last time you visited. If you miss stories on one visit, they may be eligible to show on the next visit. This was tested with 80% of employees, older stories were at the top of the feed and interaction went up on organic content during internal testing. Stories read went from 57% to 70%.

Story Bumping

Story bumping is separate from the ad system and applies to organic content only. Story bump is live now on web & coming soon to mobile.

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2) Last Actor – This is another new feature to the news feed algorithm and “captures your current state of mind”. This new element takes into consideration the most recent factors from your Facebook activity. This ties to your last 50 interactions with content and gives those users a slight bump in news feed ranking. An example is if you interact with an individual in the morning that same person’s content may be weighted slightly higher later in the day.

This has led to 1 to 2% bump in the number of interactions with posts. This feature is now live on mobile & web.

3) Chronological by Actor – One additional item that was tested and not launched was chronological by actor. This feature gives a higher score to most recent stories from your friends. This element caused issues with mapping unrelated stories and will not be launched at this time.

What does this mean?

Now the News Feed algorithm responds to the following signals

  • How often you interact with the friend, page who posted (Last actor)
  • The number of likes, shares & comments a post receives
  • How much interaction with this type of post in the past (Story bumping)
  • Reporting associated with a post

For brands both story bumping and last actor represent new opportunities to increase organic reach. By allowing more relevance with older stories that drive engagement as well as Last Actor’s “current state of mind” this allows brands to impact organic reach via engagement which is definitely good for brands with a solid focus on a relevant content strategy that begets engagement.

One additional note, Facebook’s VP Chris Cox did state that they are still working on balancing how many posts users will see from publishers.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The rise of PWNED Media

Recently, I had the privilege to speak at the Dallas Digital Summit discussing the convergence of owned & paid media. The talk covered the importance of visual storytelling and the intersection of real-time paid amplification.

Tom Edwards DDS speak

One of the outputs of the presentation is a new phrase that better defines the intersection of paid & owned media. Being a gamer of course I gravitated towards “PWNED media” as the new descriptor for this emerging trend.
TheBlackin PWNED MEDIA Final

There is a consistent theme coming from Facebook regarding owned content strategies. Whether it’s a Facebook conference, on-site at Menlo Park or other interactions with Facebook team members you will consistently hear the phrase “Storytelling”.

Facebook DDS

This definitely makes sense as Facebook’s platform is organized around the generation and amplification of stories.

Storybook DDS

With this in mind, one of the more powerful elements to incorporate into an owned content strategy is visual storytelling.

Snickers Snowman

Think about this for a moment… when we were first learning to read, our parents most likely used picture books to begin to create associations between visual images and the context of the story.

Curious George DDS

The same thing still happens now as adults.

Felix DDS

A picture paints a 1000 words, images are more powerful storytellers than words. Within Facebook, timeline now showcases and rewards brands that use visual imagery to help tell the brands story.

Oreo DDS

In the past I have written about the importance of Edgerank as well as recent changes to the algorithm. In order to optimize owned content, it is important to drive engagement around that content.

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Creating engaging visual content is definitely the first step to maximize the platform, but there is another step to further drive the reach and impact of visual content.

This is where the paid portion of “PWNED Media” comes into play. Instead of having a separation between owned content & paid campaigns, there should be an intersection to drive a more efficient media spend.

Green DDS

One of the ideal methods to drive engagement both within an existing fan base and beyond is to execute real-time amplification of engaged content.

Converged Media

In layman’s terms take owned content that people are already engaging with and add it to the targeted paid inventory to further maximize the reach of content that people already find interesting.

This is done by setting a pre-determined virality rate based on the size of the fan base and a carefully calculated threshold based on engagement.

This ensures that content that users find compelling can be maximized on behalf of the brand and also serve as an acquisition driver for like-minded fans that align with the persona of the brand.

To my knowledge only 2 brands are actively executing a “PWNED Media” strategy and I lead the social strategy for one of them. If you are interested in hearing more about real-time amplification in action please reach out to me.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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