Social Media

Facebook Algorithm Update Gives Bypassed Posts Second Life

August 6, 2013

Today, Facebook unveiled an update to its algorithm aimed to resurface older stories that users missed by not scrolling far enough down their feeds. The announcement was made via a press event and a blog post labeled ‘News Feed FYI’ – a new category within the “Facebook for Business” site where the platform will explain any future updates to its algorithm.

Billed as a “better way to surface older stories,” Facebook says it has data that shows the update will increase engagement on organic posts from brands by 8 percent. This figure is slightly lower for organic posts from friends, which saw a 5 percent lift.

Facebook says the goal of the News Feed is to deliver relevant and timely stories, ensuring that people don’t miss the stories that are most important to them. At any given time, Facebook draws from an average of 1,500 potential stories to feature and ultimately rank on the feed. Of these 1,500 stories, only about 300 are curated in News Feed on a given day (Source: Facebook).

Considering the limited real estate on a user’s screen (and for mobile screens this is even more limited), this means that people who don’t scroll down enough might miss the content with which they actually want to view and potentially engage. Therein is the challenge at the heart of today’s update.

With this update, any stories that are demonstrating social momentum – that is, picking up a substantial amount of engagement from friends or the community at-large – will resurface near the top of the News Feed.

For brands, this means that previously unread stories will get a second shot at life among users that missed them the first time around – that is, if those stories are attaining a substantial degree of engagement and/or virality within Facebook. Note: this update does not influence how paid content appears in the News Feed.

Facebook’s algorithm relies on several signals – from individual users and from the community at-large – to determine which stories appear in the News Feed and where on the page. These signals include:

  • How often an individual interacts with content from that ‘author’ (friend or page), and how many times they’ve interacted with their content historically
  • The universal popularity of the content – e.g. how many Likes, shares or comments it has received from friends and the broader Facebook environment
  • How often you, your friends or the community at-large has reported or hid posts from the author

While marketers have long known which signals matter most when it comes to ensuring their organic page content surfaces on fans’ News Feeds, this slight algorithm change underscores the continued importance of engagement to meeting this end.

As a direct result of the update, brands might notice a dip in impressions while simultaneously seeing higher reach – and with that, increased engagement with organic posts. Engagement will beget greater engagement as popular stories are resurfaced to a new audience comprised of people who previously missed the post.

Brands might also revisit frequency best practices. Since time decay is a less critical factor now, community managers might opt to post more often in order to feed more stories into the algorithm to be considered for a re-post later in the day.

As is the case with any evolving platform, brands are advised to take a test-and-learn approach to constantly revisit and tweak best practices as needed. Our process incorporates real-time measurement and optimization based on brand relationships with consumers at scale.

Since each brand page is slightly different than others – and because this update does not fundamentally change the essence of how Facebook prioritizes content – marketers will not need to dramatically alter their approach. Engagement remains paramount. Yet, even with the minor maneuvers to posting strategy that this update brings, today’s news is good news for brands as they will now have even more opportunity to get their stories in front of their fans within an increasingly cluttered landscape.

Cover photo via Forbes