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8th October, 2012

The word algorithm is one that most PR professionals will be aware of. Google’s method for determining search rankings is as secret as it is alluring for those looking to gain more search prominence.

But there is another algorithm out there that is far less famous, but equally important. It’s called EdgeRank and it is what Facebook uses to determine the stories that show up in a user’s newsfeed.

The Facebook newsfeed is the key to success for Facebook marketing. It’s the place where every single Facebook user spends most of their time.

Yes, that’s right, Facebook users will hardly ever visit your Facebook page, they consume your posts through their newsfeed.

Tough time getting through?

Another very important point to note, and one that many marketers still fail to realise, is that the vast majority of posts never actually make it into someone’s timeline.

Conservative estimates suggest that only 16% of your fans, on average, will actually receive any particular post you send them.

So how do you increase that percentage? The answer is simple: improve your EdgeRank.

Introducing EdgeRank

Facebook understands there is a massive problem with information overload on the platform. It knows that we make a lot of connections on Facebook – some of them we really care about, others less so. It therefore makes sense that we would want to receive updates from those friends (and brands) that we really care about rather than long-lost school friends we haven’t seen in years or brands we ‘liked’ in order to get a freebie or enter a competition.

EdgeRank attempts to solve that problem and it does it in quite a sophisticated way.

Every single ‘update’ that you might see in your newsfeed on Facebook is called an ‘edge’ (hence EdgeRank). An edge could be a status update, a song you listen to on Spotify or a picture upload.

Much in the same way that Google wants to help you find the information you care about, EdgeRank helps Facebook show you the edges that matter most to you.

There are three elements that make up EdgeRank – affinity, weight and decay.

It’s worth looking at each of these in more detail.

Affinity

This element attempts to work out how much you care about the person or brand that is sending you an edge. You’ve probably noticed how, if you snoop on someone’s profile, you’ll probably get more of their updates in your newsfeed over the next few days or weeks.

But you don’t just have to visit a Page to affect affinity. Simply liking a post, leaving a comment or sharing an update can raise affinity levels.

That’s why, for a brand, getting a like or a share isn’t just good for engagement, it’s vital in ensuring more of your posts will get through to that fan in future. It’s a vote of support.

The great thing about affinity (if you can get it) is that it’s self-fulfilling. The more affinity you get, the more of your posts will appear to in future and the more interaction (and therefore affinity) you’ll be able to achieve.

Weight

This is all about the types of edges that appear in your newsfeed. Facebook understands that a picture will generally have more interest to you than a Spotify update. Therefore it assigns different weightings to different pieces of content. There’s no definitive list here, but it is fair to assume that links, photos and videos have more EdgeRank than other pieces of content.

As with all algorithms, there is no one size that fits all. Some users will show more interest in photos and therefore Facebook will show them more photos in their newsfeed. So just putting videos in every post won’t necessarily be successful. Having a regular stream of these three pieces of content is the best advice for success here.

Decay

This is all about timeliness. In simple terms, something that is more recent is more likely to show up in someone’s newsfeed.

Content, content, content

What is perhaps most interesting about all of this is that, while big flashy campaigns might do a good job of increasing the number of fans you have, it’s only the ongoing community management stuff that will actually work when it comes to increasing EdgeRank.

Good quality content on a regular basis is the only way to tick the box when it comes to affinity, weight and decay. And it’s only by ticking these boxes that your future updates will be seen.

None of this is rocket silence, but how many brands are really paying attention to it?

picture credit


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