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Facebook really did a number on us this time. Usually the social network’s implicitly required updates only involve a change in its look and feel. This time the change was far more diabolical than even Graph Search — with the latest Facebook news feed update Facebook eliminated its Edgerank Score.
I use the word “diabolical” because the online reaction seemed to indicate Facebook marketing had just died. Edgerank is — well was — Facebook’s way of determining what got put into a user’s News Feed. Its three easy components, affinity, weight and time decay, simplified online marketing. Keep your fans interacting with your page, keep your page full of highly rated photos and links, and post your content at a time when most of your fans are online. Plug and chug, right? After all, it was an equation — comparing it to high school algebra wouldn’t just be metaphoric.
Affinity, weight and time decay still are members of the new formula, but they comprise less than 1 percent of the factors considered. Talk about a demotion. Perhaps Facebook thought the separation of powers wasn’t quite separated enough, but its response was slightly over reactive. According to MarketingLand, more than 100,000 different elements of a user’s behavior now determine what shows up in his or her News Feed.
It’s now a little easier to understand why the announcement gave marketers the tremors. Affinity, weight and time decay were all things markets could control, and more importantly, there were only three things to keep up with. How in the world — virtual or real — is someone supposed to check for more than 100,000 different factors before he or she posts anything? The federal government moves faster. Also, some of these elements — like what type of device a user is using to log in to Facebook — cannot be controlled by marketers at all. For the person who thinks he intimately knows his target audience, this is truly terrifying stuff. Other major changes to take note of include:
- Story bumping: Facebook tracks the posts that users haven’t seen, and if those posts received a lot of interaction, the social network will “bump” them to the top of a user’s News Feed the next time he or she logs in. This eliminates the chance that a user will miss out on popular content, regardless of when he or she was on Facebook that day.
- Last actor: Facebook promotes posts from the latest 50 users or pages with which a user has interacted. It’s like a more time-sensitive version of “affinity.”
- Post types: Facebook’s previous declaration was that photos and videos matter more than links, which matter more than simple text updates. This hierarchy completely summed up the “weight” element of Edgerank, and it applied to all users. Now a post’s weight is based far more on the individual. Users who mostly interact with links will see more links, and users who mostly interact with photos will see more photos.
- Device and Internet connection: Facebook can even determine what type of connection a user is using and alter the News Feed accordingly. According to the social network, certain larger items in a News Feed are literally impossible to see with a slow connection.
Heads up: I’m going to change the tone of my blog post here. Ready? I think all the doom and gloom associated with the change is pointless. Facebook’s decision to call these changes “improvements” to its News Feed wasn’t just a PR messaging tactic. Remember when all those reports came out at the beginning of this year claiming people were bored with Facebook? From a business standpoint, bored users are worse than angry users — at least angry users garner publicity. People got bored with Microsoft when Apple became the new big thing. Facebook had to adapt quickly, and it responded by imitating one of the most popular tech companies ever — Google.
Facebook and Google know how to do business:
Google Search is so successful because the Internet giant gathers a massive amount of data about its users and then uses that data to benefit those users. Similarly, Facebook’s decision to change its News Feed based on each individual’s interactions is intended to make Facebook more interesting. If I like links, it therefore makes sense to show me more links. I also don’t want to waste time trying to see an item that will never download because of my slow connection.
In the end, the update was inevitable. According to MarketingLand, each Facebook user has the potential to see approximately 1,500 posts per day, and Facebook’s algorithm has to decide which 300 posts are most interesting to that user. There’s no way the social network could accurately perform such a task if it relied on only three factors.
Facebook marketing is the most successful type of social media marketing for almost every business. Can you imagine what would happen if people really did get bored with Facebook? We’d have to reinvent our strategy elsewhere, over and over. Facebook works, and I’m happy the company is trying to keep it that way.
So how do you adapt?
Well, the good news is that you don’t really need to. Facebook’s advice remains the same: post a lot of quality content that garners interaction from fans. Our job as marketers is still to post great photos, to respond to any requests from our audience, to entertain our audience and to attempt to create a genuinely interesting page. Despite the hullabaloo the Internet made about Facebook’s updates — the eulogies performed over Edgerank’s death, the thousands of “affinity, weight, time decay” infographics that suddenly became irrelevant — good marketing still looks exactly the same.
About the author: Joseph Havey is the Director of Social Media for the Triangle-based Shelten Media, LLC, a start-up company specializing in social media marketing. He is a member of N.C. State’s PRSSA chapter, and writes for the school newspaper, Technician. In his free time, he trains for triathlons.