Khalil Trabelsi

Khalil Trabelsi

Community Manager and Producer of Happiness

Nobody Can Understand How Facebook Algorithm Works!

Stop lying to people!

Nobody can understand how Facebook algorithm works! (except if you’re working at Facebook) Because first, No one really knows its real algorithm formula as Facebook is always tweaking it. Second, the News Feed is acting with a lot of prediction and the result could not be exact at 100%. Third, as a marketer, even if you know pretty well your audience and what they really want from you, you will suffer to reach them all! Why? The answer is easy peasy and I guess you know already that because Facebook wants you to pay to reach them.

Like what I did, you’ve probably searched on Google to understand more what does this weird “EdgeRank” mean, and you’ve got certainly thousands of articles like: “How Facebook algorithm works”, “7 easy tips to increase your Facebook algorithm” or “Facebook algorithm revealed: How to remain visible in the cluttered news feed”  

Seriously, how does Facebook News Feed work?

Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed at Facebook gives, in a nutshell, a set of steps to rank posts that appear on your screen:

Like other similar ones on internet, this video might help you get a superficial idea but nothing really deep! We all know that posts shown to us on News Feed are sorted by an “estimation” of likelihood. And we all know if you stop engaging with someone on his/her posts, you’ll see less content from him/her.

What I want to say here, is there a mathematical and trusted formula that we, as marketers, could use to know exactly or approximately what is shown on the News Feed?

You have probably seen this:

Or this:

Or maybe this:

Those incomprehensible equations are just one single formula called EdgeRank and containing the same 3 parameters: Affinity, Weight and Time Decay.

Affinity is your relationship with users. How much a user has been interacting with you (or your page) in the past. And this relationship affects how likely this user sees your posts. So if they’ve clicked your links, liked or commented on your posts in the past, EdgeRank assumes they’re pretty keen to see more of your stuff and gives it a higher priority.

Every action taken by a user has a default Weight, a comment for example has probably more importance than a like. Posting a Photo or a video has a higher weight than writing a simple status. In plain English, weight is how much priority Facebook gives to your posts depending on their type (Photos, videos, links..) and the actions made on them.

Time decay: When you log into Facebook, most commonly, you will see newer posts more than the older ones. When a story becomes “old news”, it loses points and its score drops down.     

In 2011, The term “EdgeRank” was abandoned as Facebook started using a machine learning algorithm that takes as many as 100.000 factors into account. “Affinity, weight and time decay are still important but there are now a lot of different facets” said Lars Backstrom in an interview with MarketingLand.

Another algorithm tweak in 2018 and Consequences:

December 2017 was apocalyptic for brands, businesses and media. Facebook was announcing less content from publishers to prioritize “meaningful” interactions with friends and family. And I quote here what Zuckerberg said through his personal account: “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us” […] “As a result, you’ll see less public content, including news, video, and posts from brands” What is that mean? It means literally that businesses will pay more and more and more to be seen!

If you have been managing a Facebook page over the past few years, you’ve likely noticed a drop in your organic views and interactions even if  you’re producing a good quality content. And that’s because Facebook News Feed has become over-crowded by brands publications and it has to filter more of that content to give its users what they really want to see and engage with.  

Now, what is the percentage of that content shown on a user’s News Feed?

Zuckerberg said it clearly, news posts will make up to 4% of a user’s News Feed (down from 5% in 2017). And the rest? It will be divided by friends, family and a tiny portion for brands. Unfortunately, there is no exact percentage of how much brand posts might represent from a user’s news feed, otherwise, there are studies that reveal how much could brand posts reach audience:

2007: Fan pages were launched. From that moment, anyone could create its own professional page, talk about its business and collect more fans.

2012: A lot of Marketers began to learn that Facebook restricted organic reach posted by brands, and talks about “the death of Facebook era” began to rise.

2014: According to Social@Ogilvy’s analysis of more than 100 brand pages, organic reach was surprisingly declining from 12,05% in October 2013 to 6,15% in February of the next year. Moreover, organic reach could be as low as 2% for pages with more than 500k likes.

2016: SocialFlow looked at 3000 publishers and media companies Facebook pages to analyze their organic reach performance and found a 42% drop of reach per post. At the same time, Lars Backstrom, Engineering Director at Facebook, announced in a blog post that there will be changes on News Feed ranking to “help make sure Facebook users don’t miss stories from their friends and family” and said explicitly that “this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages.

2017-2018: Because space in News Feed is limited, Facebook is going forward in its strategy of showing less content from publishers and businesses and more from friends and family as we said above.

So, should you spend more money on Facebook ads?

Yes, no doubt! But you have to keep in mind that Facebook ads rates have risen by 35% in the last quarter of 2017 alone according to Digiday.

A digital agency based in San Francisco called AdStage uncovered approximately the same results by comparing Q1 and Q4 of 2017.

Facebook targeted advertising is a very powerful tool compared to other social media platforms. Since its creation, Facebook had collected a huge amount of informations about its users interests, locations, relationships.. And that’s why it’s possible to target hyper-specific audiences with extreme precision, and that’s why you won’t find something similar on the other platforms (at least for now).

I’ve personally heard a thousand times that a good quality content is worth more than spending a lot of money on Facebook ads, this is so true, but could we deliver a good content everyday and stay constant? I doubt that!

Should publishers run away from Facebook?

(Or COULD publishers run away from Facebook?) Anyway, Facebook still has the dominant position on social media, but as Business Insider reports, many publishers are finding their ways to diversify their distribution tactics with referrals from Instagram or Pinterest.

And this was proven by a report from Shareaholic after looking into insights from more than 400 millions users who were visiting 250k websites.

No surprise, Facebook traffic to the websites was dropping between the second half of 2016 and the second half of 2017. Site visitors were much more likely to be referred from social networks, but now they are likely to come from search engines. Since 2014, Search had been placed behind Social traffic in terms of “share of visits” but retook the lead in 2017.

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