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Marketing in the Age of Facebook Algorithms

Edited by Admin
Marketing in the Age of Facebook Algorithms
If you advertise your business on Facebook and are finding it hard to reach the kind of audience you used to, or want to, don’t worry – you aren’t the only one. Changes to the way Facebook works for advertisers have forced businesses and brands to rethink their options and, in the case of one brand, even ‘break up’ with the social media network. The truth is, using Facebook as a main method of reaching new or existing audiences has gotten more challenging over the years.
The News Feed Situation
The Facebook News Feed has undergone many changes since it was introduced in September 2006, but its purpose remains the same: to give Facebook users a more personalized experience. And believe it or not, it is actually heavily customized based off of your unique preferences and interactions. Every like, dislike, conversation, comment and share is tracked and thrown into a learning-based algorithm that takes into account nearly 100,000 factors when tailoring your News Feed.
This type of tailoring lets marketers reach very specific audiences, which is why it’s been such a tempting place for marketers to be. That said, it may not be as beneficial as it seems if you consider that the average Facebook user might have 1500 posts eligible to appear in their feed each day. Even if you pay to boost your posts, and purchase ad space to ensure your entry makes it into their feed, it may be overlooked.
While the algorithm sounds like a futuristic sci-fi cyborg entity that could take over the world, it is safe to say that the robot apocalypse is much further than we think. In order to understand and demystify what’s going on behind the News Feed, it would be helpful to look at its first iteration, EdgeRank. While Facebook hasn’t called the algorithm EdgeRank for almost 4 years, many people still refer to the idea of a News Feed prioritization algorithm as EdgeRank.
Behind The Digital Curtain
In the earlier days of the News Feed, Facebook used to manually adjust the kind of stories that would show up on feeds and eventually opted for an automated solution. Thus, the EdgeRank algorithm was born. The algorithm took into account three main factors when determining what would show up on your feed: Affinity, Weight and Decay. Affinity measured the relationship level and frequency of interactions, so that the more a user interacts with another, the more they are likely to see posts from that user. Weight factored in the number and type of interactions users have had with a certain piece of content in order to determine its appearance on more news feeds.
A post with a high weight of positive interactions will appear on more news feeds. Decay is based on how recent content was posted. Generally the newer the post is, the more likely it is to appear on news feeds. Intelligenthq.com has an entertaining infographic that uses Batman characters to explain how interactions between users are measured.
Back to the Future
EdgeRank (2.0) builds off the original factors of Affinity, Weight and Decay. It now looks at almost 100,000 factors, making it a much more complicated system. Lars Backstrom, Engineering Manager for News Feed Ranking at Facebook, described the new algorithm functioning on a deeper level saying that, “It’s not just about global interactions. We also look at what types of posts you interact with the most from each friend”. Meaning that, if you like photo content over written content from one friend, the algorithm will determine that you prefer to see photos over their status updates.
That’s just one example of how the algorithm shapes your News Feed, and it’s actually not that hard to see it working – you can even try it yourself! Take note of the people and pages as you browse Facebook. You will notice that your feed only has the statuses and posts from friends and pages that you interact with most. In addition, if you have a high Affinity with a person or if a post has a lot of weight, the algorithm will even ‘Story Bump’ to show you posts that were put up hours ago in order to bring you ‘new content’ you may have missed from that person or post.
EdgeRank and You
It’s been harder for pages to reach their audiences since the new EdgeRank algorithm came to town. Paying to boost attention is the solution that Facebook tries to push with pages and brands seeking to reach a wider audience. In many ways, trying to reach your audience almost becomes a competition.
The reward? A chance to appear on your audiences’ feeds. Who are you competing with? The friends and pages your users already have high Affinities with.
For companies trying reach their audience organically without paying to boost posts, the focus should be on creating engaging and interesting posts, as the new Facebook structure promotes the quality and quantity of the interaction now more than ever.
If You Want People To Talk About You, Talk With Them
The algorithm isn’t a scary thing. While it can sound like an invasion of privacy, and maybe even illegal, it’s not. It all goes back to Facebook’s main goal shared publicly in August 2013:
“The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them. Ideally, we want News Feed to show all the posts people want to see in the order they want to read them.”
Your brand isn’t reaching audiences due to the quality of the product or service. You just have to work against an algorithm that is working around the clock to bring individual users the best experience for them. As a brand, you need to be craftier when coming up with ways of reaching your audience. It’s not just about coming up with content. It’s about creating engaging topics that can start a conversation with your audience. If you want people to talk about you, talk with them. By starting a conversation with your audience you not only learn about who your fans are, you create an Affinity with them.