Social Media: How to make Facebook's algorithm your friend

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Facebook has a dirty secret.

You know that brand page you have where you’re hoping to attract some of Facebook’s 900 million users? You know, the one you put all of your blood, sweat and tears into posting engaging content and useful information?

The secret, which Facebook released earlier this year, is that most users only see about 16 percent of updates from brand pages like yours.

Whenever I share this, there is a collective gasp heard throughout the room. “That’s not fair! We did all of this work connecting with them and now there’s a chance they won’t even see it? What gives?”

What gives is Facebook’s notorious EdgeRank algorithm. Born from Facebook’s desire to present you with only the most relevant and valuable updates from your network, this formula is one marketers can’t afford to ignore as they engage on Facebook.

Let’s take a look at what EdgeRank is all about and what it means for your brand.

How EdgeRank Works

So how does Facebook determine which posts you see and which ones you don’t? The EdgeRank algorithm determines this from the value of your social objects — statuses, links, photos, videos.

Facebook views all of these inputs as “edges” and assigns value based on the following factors:

1. Affinity score between viewing user and edge creator

2. Weight for this edge type (like, comment, tag, etc.)

3. Time decay, which is a factor based on how long ago the edge was created.

What EdgeRank Means for Your Brand

Scientific formulas aside, what does this mean for you and your brand page on Facebook?

Affinity — How close are you to the user? Do they interact with you a lot on Facebook?

If they do, that’s great! EdgeRank will probably show your content to that user more.

However, affinity is a one-way street. You can’t ensure users will see your brand page’s posts more by liking everything they say.

Weight — Easily the most abstract of these factors, weight speaks to the level of engagement your page has going for it.

Remember, Facebook is looking out for Facebook in all of this. As such, it gives additional “weight” to things that keep people on the network engaged.

As social objects attract more interactions, they are given a higher value. While Facebook is characteristically tight-lipped, many speculate that more weight is given to photos and videos on the network as they have historically been more engaging than simple statuses and links.

Time Decay — If weight is the most abstract factor, time decay has the best name.

Really, this factor speaks to the recency of your social object. It’s also perhaps the simplest to understand — yesterday’s news won’t be at the top of the heap forever despite numerous likes and comments.

How You Can Optimize Your Engagement for EdgeRank

Just knowing about EdgeRank can help you tailor your brand’s Facebook updates accordingly.

While time is out of your hands, weight pivots around producing effective and engaging visual content such as photos, photo albums, and videos.

If you’re looking for more engaging text posts, remember to phrase updates as a questions — How are you celebrating this Fourth of July?, instead of just Happy Fourth.

Facebook also allows you to target your page updates demographically. Segment your posts to more relevant demographics and watch your affinity rise.

Facebook ultimately is a marketing tool. As such, relevance and recency rule in appealing to your network and beyond.

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