If Facebook were New York, its News Feed would be Manhattan. And like real estate in Manhattan, it takes some savvy and a little luck to make the most of News Feed.
The main advantage to getting content into the Facebook News Feed, as opposed to ads, is that it's free and it can be updated constantly. There is, however, a strategy to maximizing your company's exposure, according to Zach Welsh, VP-client services for Brand Glue, a social media company, beginning with an understanding—as much as possible—of how Facebook's News Feed works.
“The News Feed is built with an algorithm called Edgerank,” Welsh said. “And they don't release information about the algorithm at all. You have to figure it out by reverse-engineering it.”
Moreover, Welsh said, the algorithm is constantly changing to keep up with the exploding number of pages and users on Facebook. While the algorithm itself is somewhat mysterious, Welsh said, there are three main components that determine whether a post will appear in a fan's News Feed and how long it will remain there.
First is the edge score. “This is a hard value score about the kind of content,” he said. “Is your content a picture, link, a check-in, a video? We don't know the actual edge scores assigned to these kinds of content, but it seems that photos are ranked highly, so our clients are spending more of their budgets on graphics.”
Second is the affinity score. This score is harder to gauge, Welsh said, but it's generally derived from the relationship between the user and the content or content creator. So for example, a user who is a football fanatic and interacts regularly with a particular team will likely see more of that team's content in his News Feed. The same applies for brands and people.
Finally, there is the time decay measure. “There is a certain amount of time a status update will continue to get impressions,” Welsh said. With time, the content will slip down the News Feed and it's safe—or even a good idea—to post it again, he said.
Time decay is hard to measure, but it's partly a function of how big a Facebook page is and how often content is posted on it. A smaller Facebook presence has a longer content half-life, so a company with fewer than 10,000 “likes” might only need to post once or twice a day. A company with many more “likes” would have to post more often.
Even with a well-designed News Feed strategy, it's important to understand the limitations of the News Feed. Because the Edgerank algorithm depends on users as well as content generators, even the most successful Facebook pages and updates will not be seen by all fans.
Welsh said that while it's hard to know exactly, it's safe to assume that any particular Facebook News Feed update will be seen by between less than 10% and about 40% of a company's fans.
This helps explain why Mindjet, a software producer with almost 19,000 “likes” on Facebook, makes sure to spread its efforts across multiple channels and link them all together.
“It all starts with great "snackable' content on Facebook,” said Parker Trewin, director-global communications at Mindjet.
“We choose our channel based on the form of the content and then look to leverage other channels to support this content,” he said. “For instance, we'll have a Facebook ad that links to a Facebook post with an invitation to either "like,' vote or comment.
“Ultimately we look to have our Facebook followers increasingly link and interact with our blog and website,” Trewin said.