Facebook EdgeRank: understand social media and capture your audience

Few of us understand it and very few of us have even heard of it; but Facebook’s EdgeRank is fundamental in the world of marketing via social media.

Facebook EdgeRank is an algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what appears in their users’ news feeds. The news feed is essentially, depending on the individual, news, in order of preference and time. EdgeRank will determine which connections are the most important by judging how often they appear in each particular user’s news feed.

In order to market a product or service successfully on Facebook, understanding of this algorithm is crucial. Even though understanding of this algorithm makes the difference between a campaign success and a campaign failure, surprisingly not a great deal has been written about it.

Compared to other algorithms out there, EdgeRank is pretty simple. However, don’t let its simplicity fool you into thinking you can get away with limited knowledge on it. Like anything, if you know how to use a tool properly, then you can use that tool to your full advantage. Without that proper knowledge, you won’t be able to use that particular tool to its full effect.

So why is Facebook’s news feed being called ‘EdgeRank’?

Facebook EdgeRankIn brief, every piece of Facebook content is labelled as an ‘edge.’ For example, a status update is an edge. A photo upload is an edge. Every interaction on Facebook is an edge.

So, if we are speaking about the Facebook news feed in terms of EdgeRank, every piece of news is an edge.

 

What elements make up this algorithm?

Facebook EdgeRank consists of three factors only.

-          Affinity

-          Edge Weight

-          Recency

Initially this seems simple, but there’s a lot of complexity behind each of these factors.

 Affinity

In effect, affinity is Facebook’s score of how ‘friendly’ you are with someone or something. The more you interact with someone or the more you view a company’ page, the more that particular profile or page will appear in your news feed as a result. The algorithm takes this into consideration and so orders your news feed results accordingly.

There are some doubts on whether affinity should or should not play a significant role in EdgeRank. The more a particular profile appears in your news feed, the more likely you are to keep viewing that profile. This cycle will keep going round and round. View profile – profile updates appear in news feed – view profile again – even more profile updates in news feed. Therefore from the sceptics’ point of view, affinity isn’t a fair measure.

Nonetheless, most people tend to interact with only a small number of their connections on Facebook. Therefore for most of us, affinity does work rather well.

From a marketer’s point of view, you need to understand that affinity is one-way. If you keep visiting someone’s profile, they will keep popping up in your news feed, but this doesn’t mean that you’ll keep popping up on theirs. From a privacy point of view this is good news – Facebook has always pledged that no-one can ever know who has viewed their profile or how many times it has been viewed – affinity supports this pledge. However from a marketer’s point of view, this isn’t such good news. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t do things to increase others’ affinity with you. If you trigger interaction, for instance if you comment on someone’s photos and they then comment back, it leads them to have a greater affinity with you. This highlights the importance of interaction in social media.

Edge Weight

This formula decides which pieces of content are more likely to appear in someone’s news feed than others. For example, photos carry more edge weight than a ‘like’ of a brand or organisation.

There’s no definitive sequence, but certain objects acquire more edge weight than others (photos). The three that have the highest are videos, photos and links. Therefore, with this knowledge, you should communicate with your fans with these particular types of content, if you want to reach as many followers as possible.

Edge Weight varies from person to person. If someone browses lots of photographs, then lots of photo updates will appear on their feed. Or for example, if someone ‘likes’ lots of things, then they will be shown what their other friends have liked. You can’t find out what each individual favours, so balance the content you post for each user’s possible preferences with either text links or videos and photos.

We also have to bear in mind that Facebook wants to push its own content and updates forward too. For example, if it introduces a new feature like the new ‘Check-in’ function, Facebook will show you everyone who has ‘checked in’ to encourage you to start using the feature. This doesn’t mean that the feature carries a high Edge Weight.

Variety is key: understanding different edge weights of different types of content will help you reach most of your potential audience.

Recency

Otherwise known as time decay, the Recency element shows recent news only – if it’s old news then it won’t appear. Facebook relies on temporal content – something newer is more likely to appear than something older.

So – use time to your advantage. Post content when your users are most likely to be online. This increases the likelihood of the news reaching your audience. For example, posts that are made in the morning are 39.7% more likely to be viewed/commented on etc than posts made in the afternoon.

However, it may also be useful to post in off-peak times as well. Off-peak times mean less competition for a status ‘space.’ With fewer people making posts, your posts are more likely to be seen in the fan’s news feed (if they are online at that particular time of course.)

Increase your EdgeRank

So, armed with a better understanding of EdgeRank you can start to make wiser decisions regarding your social media campaign.

Creativity is a key factor. But, although these creative campaigns may be the focus of all the case studies, the lower profile campaigns based on constant interaction with fans actually deliver the most value.

Facebook EdgeRank

How can you increase the likelihood of a new campaign appearing in your fans’ news feeds?

  1. Do all you can to increase affinity between your followers and you. Start a debate or a discussion to encourage interaction as much as you possibly can. Don’t fear asking for the contribution – using question words like ‘where, when, why, would’ have a big influence on likes and comments, thus increasing affinity. Try and make this ongoing as affinity will decrease over time if interaction is not maintained.
  2. Post photographs. Photos appear in the news feed more frequently than a status update, as do videos and links.
  3. Research on and off peak Facebook times.  Post your new campaign when you’re likely to get the most interaction from your fans.

You must plan your Facebook strategy, and use EdgeRank to help you. Although often used as a success measure, likes on a Facebook page aren’t the way to measure success. As we have learned from EdgeRank, just because someone ‘likes’ something, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to appear in their followers’ news feeds. A smaller but more engaged audience may lead to more appearances in news feeds than a larger and less engaged audience.

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