Have you ever noticed that posts of many of your Facebook friends appear constantly in your News Feed, while the posts of other pals rarely pop up? Well, you don't have to be a digital marketing expert to understand that generally you only get to see what's new with people who you are in contact more frequently, or news that's trending among your friends. And the same happens with you - not all of your friends will get to see everything you post.
But you may have noticed that News Feed has been acting a little strangely lately, by showing some older updates and missing out what you might expect to see there. This is explained by the fact that Facebook has recently switched from organizing News Feed with EdgeRank software and started using a greatly updated algorithm.
In this new system, who gets to see your post is determined by this News Feed ranking algorithm, which can either make or break your exposure. So how this new algorithm works on a practical level is something that's essential for small businesses to know, especially if they are trying to get the most out of their social media presence.
News Feed is your Facebook Essential
Facebook has come a long way from its inception as a college social network site used by hot-blooded students looking to hook up romantically. Today it is not only the go-to site for personal interaction and keeping in touch with friends and families all over the world, but also one of the fastest growing marketing channels for businesses large and small. And this is where the all important News Feed comes in. It can act as a modern day shop front for your company, although one that beams directly into the homes and phones of your customers.
But while a company's personal Facebook page is a mix between a shop front, a website and a discussion forum, users tend to go to these pages as often as...never. Well, almost never. Stats show that most users learn about important events from their News Feeds alone and rarely visit the actual pages of the companies they Like or follow. So as a business owner, it is your goal to ensure that your posts show up in users' News Feed as often as possible.
As we've said, for the past few years, Facebook users and other social media marketers have used EdgeRank - an algorithm with a clear formula that determined whether or not a user would see your Edge (an update) in their feed. Yet behind the scenes and unbeknown to most users, Facebook has constantly been updating and improving this algorithm. And earlier this summer, they finally revealed to the world some of the new News Feed features. It looks like the new algorithm will change the way that companies market themselves through Facebook, but it is still too early to say to what extent.
New features in the algorithm
The EdgeRank formula used your affinity, edge weight and a time-based decay to rank entries. This meant that a newer entry would get a higher ranking for example. But the newer News Feed algorithm ranks posts according to many different criteria such as:
How often users interact with friends, the Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who might have posted the update.
The number of Likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from their friends in particular.
How much the user has interacted with this type of post in the past
Whether or not the users across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post
The goal of the change was to help the News Feed better target the users' interests. At first glance and according to the first industry reviews, for example, it looks like the time-based decay criteria won’t be so crucial anymore. So, if Facebook suspects that a user may have missed an important update a few days ago, which was widely liked and commented on by their friends, the algorithm will ensure that the update appears at the top of the News Feed so the user doesn't miss it.
Although the new algorithm is more sophisticated than the one behind EdgeRank, it is still easy to use it to your advantage and see your company's page thrive. But to appear in your users' News Feed, you will be competing with their friends' personal updates, which include the ubiquitous pics of pets and babies (and we all know what click magnets whacky cats and giggly toddlers are!). So you are going to have to work a little harder to get your those all-important "Likes", comments and interaction to ensure you show up in the News Feed time after time.
Is the News Feed worth fighting for? I have an amazing looking Facebook page - isn't this enough?
Unfortunately this isn't enough these days. Stats show that users spend most of their time on Facebook scrolling through the News Feed and rarely visit companies' individual pages. So, most of them will only see your creative cover photo only once: when they first look up your page (although having a good cover photo and attractive company Facebook page is still important). So, if your updates don't show up in users' News Feeds, chances are, many will never find out about the exciting offers and services your business can provide.
You can leverage News Feed Exposure by:
Posting engaging content - Ensure that the information you post and share is interesting and relevant to your readers. This way, you have better chances of getting comments and Likes.
Encouraging users to comment by asking questions - Ask about their favorite products, what they think about the recent event you held, etc.
Keeping your updates short and sweet - Users tend to scroll through long and chunky status updates without really reading them (don’t we all?). So make it easier for them by keeping things succinct and to the point.
Keeping your updates visual - Great photos get Likes, plus, an image is less likely to be ignored in the News Feed than just another line of text.
Ensuring consistency - Post regularly - at least 3-4 times a week.
Being creative in your posts - Don't keep repeating yourself. Post related news or something within the sphere of your industry and your customers' interests.
It looks like the new News Feed algorithm is going to be a lot more intuitive, and increasingly important as the News Feed replaces other websites and information sources for millions of users. But it should keep most business owners on their toes and encourage them to put in a little more effort and dedication to improve their Facebook visibility - and the online presence of their business.