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Hints for working with the Facebook algorithm

The algorithm. {scary music plays…. feet scampering …. shrieking and screaming …}

‘The Blob’ was a sci-fi horror B-movie released in 1958 about an alien lifeform that grew bigger and bigger as it devoured and dissolved anything in its path. It was quite literally … a Blob made from silicon. And, sometimes it was a balloon covered in gloop. Hey, cut it some slack. It was low-budget in its time. It has enjoyed the usual sequels and remakes. And, there’s the annual Blobfest which is still held in Phoenixville, Arizona the town where it was filmed.

Photo credit: Blobfest, Philly Voice, 2017

The Facebook algorithm devours and churns through data just as The Blob consumed whatever lay in its path. Data is its fuel and with commercial imperatives in the mix, it's far from low budget. It began in 2004, the following year .com launched.

  • 2005 - Facebook.com is launched including photo features and the ability to tag 'friends'
  • 2006 - Creation of ‘news feed’ is algorithmicaly generated
  • 2009 - ‘Like’ button is activated
  • 2012 - Advertisments as 'Featured posts' begin
  • 2013 - Emoticons appear
  • 2014 - 'Trending topics' begin
  • 2015 - ‘See first’ button and 'On this day' memory is launched
  • 2016 - Prioritizing content based on the amount the time spent with it
  • 2017 - ‘Reactions’ are valued more than ‘Likes’
  • 2018 - Posts that receive comment are prioritized; Greater value placed on local news in proximity of user
  • 2019 - ‘Why am I seeing this post?” tool created

There's more to the algorithm's story than that of course, but you get the idea.

Facebook relies on people creating their own content and multimedia productions and then uploading, sharing and commenting on each other’s creations. The algorithm prioritizes posts that earn a lot of ‘high-value engagement’. There are ranking signals (which are data points) about people's current and past behaviour as well as the behaviour of everyone else on the platform. Popularity resides in friend stats. ‘Friends’ can like, react, share and promote.

There are three major categories of ranking signals:

  • who a user typically interacts with
  • the type of media in the post (eg, video, link, photo, etc.)
  • the popularity of the post.

Up until 2013, Facebook used EdgeRank (the name of its algorithm) to determine what articles should be displayed in a News Feed. It now uses a ‘machine learning algorithm’ that it says takes more than 100,000 factors into account.

Among it all, you want to get your story out and connect with the right people meaningfully.

Hints for working with the Facebook algorithm:

  1. Popularity

Get people talking, tap into emotion. Posts that spark conversation and interactions are ranked high. Knowing what your audiences' interests are is key to posting good content. They're more likely to React.

  1. Post when your audience is online

Facebook values ‘now’ so work out what that is for your audience. Schedule posts to suit. Keep in mind that you need to break through the noise as others also compete for your audiences' attention.

  1. Don’t post content that will get you down-ranked

This includes borderline content, misinformation or misleading information, particularly health-related information.

  1. Share exclusive content

Post content that incites Reactions, which is high value ranking. Use multimedia, high-quality images and high-quality videos that are about three minutes in duration.

  1. Post regularly and consistently

Frequency is ranked high. Aim for daily posts, if you can. Where that's a challenge focus on other high value activites. That is, high quality video and photos, exclusive content and posts that incite a Reaction, or that invite the audience in.

  1. Leverage groups that are meaningful for your audience

Build engaged online communities and connect with others who are engaging with your audience. It can help boost your credibility and build trust.

  1. Reply

Engage and interact with your audience. High value is placed on 'getting people talking'. Conversations are two-way.

The Facebook algorithm organises the way interactions are structured. Every interaction is a data point and provides insight into the audience - their likes, dislikes, interests, mood and behaviour.

It's by understanding the fundamentals of the way the algorithm operates, and even a little of its evolution, that you can increase the success of your campaigns.

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