Facebook's News Feed algorithm, also called EdgeRank, is an anomaly to many. Because it's so complex and because so many businesses rely on knowing how it works to market their brand, getting a better understanding of the changes to it would be great, right?
Yesterday, Facebook decided to do just that when it announced it would be giving regular updates about its News Feed algorithm as it changes.
“We are continually working to improve News Feed and from time to time we make updates to the algorithm that determines which stories appear first. We've heard from our users and page owners that we need to do a better job of communicating these updates. Starting today, we're going to try and change that. News Feed FYI blog posts, beginning with this one, will highlight major updates to News Feed and explain the thinking behind them.”
Up first on the agenda? An announcement about a change that resulted in a “5 percent increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an 8 percent increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages,” according to early tests from Facebook.
This algorithm update, referred to as “story bumping,” changes the Facebook news feed from the chronological order of stories we're used to seeing. Now when users log in, they have the ability to see stories that might be important to them even if they don't scroll down all the way to find an older update.
“For page owners, this means their most popular organic page posts have a higher chance of being shown to more people, even if they're more than a few hours old,” Facebook said in its announcement.
This applies only to the organic side of status updates – so advertisers need not worry – and Facebook said stories are selected to be shown in this way if they are still receiving a lot of likes and comments. This is classic EdgeRank prioritization, just in a new way.
And while the algorithm will now be busy prioritizing certain stories out of chronological order, it will soon work to prioritize certain updates inchronological order. Confused yet?
Facebook is calling this “chronological by actor,” and once again, looks like Facebook is drawing inspiration from Twitter. TechCrunch reported on this planned algorithm update, which was discussed at this week's Facebook event. The update is aimed at real-time discussion and isn't live yet as it undergoes internal testing.
Josh Constine of TechCrunch said Facebook's current weakness is the ability to connect with real-time events, which this planned update will address.
“If you want up-to-the-second information about what's transpiring in a sports event or breaking news story, Twitter wins. You look at the top of Twitter and you see what just occurred. Tweets don't get hidden because they didn't receive enough favorites or @ replies. You can watch things happen as they unfold. Twitter works best when you're glued to it in the moment, whereas Facebook excels at giving you the most interesting retrospective of what happened while you were gone.”
Constine reported this new update will determine “which posts by a specific person are about a certain real-time event, and then sequences them in chronological order with the most recent at the top like Twitter, but leaves the rest of the feed as is.”
Regardless of what changes Facebook decides to make to its algorithm, the company says it's doing so for the benefit of all users. Love them or hate them, at the very least, transparency in those updates will help marketers and brands do their job better as they continue to engage in Facebook.