Facebook shed some light on its central product News Feed yesterday. Although the social network has more than 1.11 billion users and 700 million daily active users, not many people know how it works. In an effort to clarify this product, Facebook launched a blog to provide a “window into News Feed.”
According to the first post, 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.” If you remember, News Feed used to display stories in chronological order within the feed. However, as the platform has grown, this model has not proved to be as effective.
Called “Story Bumping,” this first change pushes older stories to the top of the user’s feed allowing you to see any that you may have missed. So, all those baby and cat pictures will never be able to slip by again. 🙂
This is no small feat as Facebook says there are 1,500 pieces of content, on average, that can appear in each person’s News Feed every day. Lars Backstrom, Facebook’s Engineering Manager for News Feed, admits that the company’s ranking isn’t perfect, but did point out that “when we [Facebook] stop ranking and instead show posts in chronological order, the number of stories people read and the likes and comments they make decrease.”
In order to make this system better for users, Facebook, instead, typically returns 300 pieces of content each day per user. It chooses this content based on user activity. In other words, what users like, when they comment on something, and when they hide something all give Facebook insight into what the user wants and doesn’t want. Here are some specific examples that Facebook utilizes:
- How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
- The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
- How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
- Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post
Through these new changes, Facebook has seen a 5 percent increase in “Likes,” comments, and shares on stories from friends. For pages, the results have been even better with an 8 percent increase in “Likes,” comments, and shares. Also, the amount of stories that people are reading throughout the News Feed have gone from 57 percent, on average, to 70 percent after Facebook implemented the changes.
At this point, Facebook has rolled out the concept of Story Bumping and is beginning to roll it out on mobile devices.
TechCrunch also reports of two other changes regarding News Feed. The first, called “Last Actor” means that Facebook shows you more of the most recent 50 people you have interacted with. Secondly, through the “Chronological By Actor” modification, – which is not rolled out yet – Facebook is trying to make real-time stories understandable and relevant. For example, if a live event is taking place, actually ranking the frequent updates could result in confusion as well as spoilers. Facebook is, instead, attempting to display these stories in a clear and appropriate way.
The Marketing Impact
For page owners, Facebook’s adjustments to News Feed ultimately implies good news. The content that brands produce actually has higher long-term visibility now. What’s more, the “Last Actor” feature could increase a brand’s frquency for posting as well as help to better determine the optimal time to post.
These changes, however, are geared toward organic Facebook content. Any paid ads will still appear often and repeatedly in News Feed.
Another positive aspect of these changes is the blog launch. Hopefully, this will provide more transparency for marketers trying to successfully navigate ranking on the social network.
What does this mean for EdgeRank? Facebook apparently doesn’t use the term “EdgeRank” anymore, but there is no official name at this point. The three primary factors – affinity, weight, and time decay – that influence EdgeRank are still, however, significant to the updated algorithm.
What do you think of these changes to News Feed? Will they be useful or not?