The Algorithm is in control
Facebook is controlled by an algorithm known as Edgerank. This very complex set of rules controls the newsfeed, and ultimately what Facebook users see. The algorithm is constantly criticised and is a topic of much controversy as many people believe there is some sort of conspiracy or evil plot behind the algorithm.
The fact is, an algorithm is necessary as it is physically impossible to see everything in a newsfeed. Without an algorithm the Facebook experience would not be an experience at all, it would be a massive pile of unrelated data that is useless to most users.
Edgerank, is in place to provide the user with a quality Facebook experience. It does this by ‘learning’ what you like, what your interests are and from your behaviour it ‘knows’ quite a lot about you.
the overarching mission of the News Feed is “to connect people with the stories that matter most to them”
Edgerank is also controlling the experience from Facebook’s point of view, where the company has certain preferences for how the Facebook experience should be and they are using Edgerank to deliver this highly ‘tailored’ experience to the end user. In the very immediate future we are going to see Facebook adopting artificial intelligence more and more, and this will increasingly become a part of Edgerank.
How Edgerank works is a closely guarded secret, perhaps the most secretive part of Facebook. Facebook does not want people to know how it works, because this would make it easier to ‘beat the system’. There are literally thousands of theories on how Edgerank works, and these are constantly changing as Edgerank adjusts and changes. There are whole industries based on theories on how Edgerank works and how to manipulate it.
Edgerank takes into account 1000’s of factors. But the basic formula is as follows:
Edgerank = affinity x weight x decay
Affinity Score – this is how close the relationship is between you and your audience based on your past interactions
Weight of the content – Facebook gives the content a weighting score based on factors such as who created it, your overall quality score, an analysis of the content, quality of links, what Facebook wants in content. Negative factors can be taken into account such as demoting ‘clickbait’ articles and poor quality links.
Decay – the age of the post – newer fresher posts get priority.
Without getting too caught up in complex analysis of how Edgerank works, there are a few basics that the average marketer must know.
Edgerank has a profound affect on advertisers and Facebook for business. Perhaps the most obvious impact is that this is what is preventing you to achieve much in the way of organic (unpaid) reach. No matter how hard you try your posts will not go viral organically for this reason.
When Facebook announces from time to time that they believe the Facebook experience would be better if a certain product was used more, you can be pretty sure this will become a priority for Edgerank. Throughout 2015 Facebook has been repeatedly stating that videos will be the way of the future, this is coupled with work from Facebook around optimising video and making it easier for users to load video. Finally towards the end of the year it is announced that Edgerank will be prioritising posts with video, and giving them better organic reach.
Edgerank is constantly monitoring your performance as an advertiser and it gives you a quality score. This is based on how people interact with your posts/ads, are they liking them, are they reading, what sort of engagement are you getting. If you do well on all these things you will get a better quality score and you will find then that Edgerank will work with you to optimise your ads for your most effective audience. Edgerank will work in the same way, but against you if you have a poor quality score, if Edgerank believes you are bombarding people with low quality advertising that is not relevant to your audience then it will ensure advertisers with better quality scores are put ahead of you and you will have to increasingly bid more for advertising.
As the you read this post, I am sure you will see there is plenty of room for controversy. With over 2 billion users Facebook has a lot of control and influence over what this community is seeing. This, I am sure, is the debate in many ethics or social classes around the world, but not the purpose of this post. For us, we simply need to acknowledge that Edgerank exists and understand what it does and how it affects our audience engagement.
It really boils down to this. Facebook is a corporation, owned by shareholders. The leaders at Facebook have recognised that in order to be successful, and give the shareholders what they want (profit), they must achieve certain things. These things boil down to providing the best quality, most entertaining, relevant and engaging experience for their users. If the user is happy everyone will win. This must be balanced with achieving a level of advertising that is acceptable, relevant and not too intrusive while giving the advertiser what they want.
Edgerank is geared towards delivering these things. The advertiser must listen to what Facebook wants in order to ‘beat the system’ . If Facebook says they want video, then give video a go. If they say relevance is key then keep it relevant. We must ensure we always have the knowledge to work with the algorithm rather than against it.