A beginner’s guide to Facebook’s EdgeRank

invader cube by Jared Tarbell

Facebook is becoming an increasingly popular social media marketing tactic for many businesses as they look to take advantage of the 650 million+ user base the social network has built up since its launch in 2007. With 1 in every 13 people in world with an account, Facebook is by far the world’s biggest social network and is still growing fast at a rate of 10 million users per month.

However, setting up a branded Facebook page is not going to set the world alight and send the cash registers ringing unless you have a clear idea of how you’re going to use the page and where Facebook will fit in as part of your social media strategy.

To get young people to hit the ‘like’ button you need to give people a compelling reason to do so. But once they’ve done that you’ve still got another hurdle to jump: getting your content into their News Feeds. And that’s where EdgeRank comes in.

What is EdgeRank?

EdgeRank is Facebook’s algorithm that determines what content gets shown in a user’s News Feed. Different types of interaction (status updates, videos, pictures, links) are known as ‘Edges’, all of which are ranked in order of importance according to each individual user’s preference. Facebook wants to keep users engaged and visiting the site and to do that the most relevant content needs to be displayed in their News Feeds. Too much, not enough or irrelevant content could frustrate users and send them away – perhaps to a competitor like Twitter or Google+!

So EdgeRank is a very important tool for Facebook to keep things running smoothly for the people that matter – the users. Although the specifics of the EdgeRank algorithm have never been fully disclosed, Facebook has provided some insight as to the make up of the formula. There are three key elements:

Affinity

The affinity score is based on how friendly you are with someone (or something in the case of a brand page) on Facebook. The more you click on, view and engage with a person or brand’s content, the higher your affinity score is toward them.

The affinity score is designed to pick up on these signals of closeness and establish connections between users. Viewing somebody’s profile, commenting on their posts or checking out there photos are all signs of affinity.

For example, as a result of checking out photos of an old school friend (whom you’ve rarely had contact with either on Facebook or in real life) you may suddenly find that more of their photos begin to appear in your News Feed. That’s the affinity part of EdgeRank kicking in!

Marketing implications: Three simple words: content is king. It doesn’t matter how may ‘likes’ and fans you have, if your content sucks nobody is going to comment, like or engage with it and it will then be far less likely to get your messages into your target’s News Feeds.

Edge weight

Every interaction, type of content or ‘Edge’ is attributed a weighting. Facebooks wants users to stay on the site and interact with relevant for as long as possible (thus increasing the chance that users will share branded content, make a transaction or click on the revenue-driving ads to the side of the page).

Although there is no official ranking, it is widely understood that videos, photos and links have a higher Edge Weight compared to other things like basic status updates or likes.

But regardless of the amount of videos and photos you post, once again the quality of content is key. Facebook sees engagement as the most important factor when judging Edge Weight and therefore the number of comments each post receives is a leading indicator of how engaging a particular update is.

Marketing implications: Create content that is varied, interesting and most likely to generate engagement amongst your audience. Syndicating your blog posts or tweets will not cut it!

Time

Edges and interactions ‘decay’ over time. The newer the content, the higher it is likely to be ranked. Facebook wants the freshest news and updates to appear in users’ News Feeds and so time is of the essence.

Post content at times when your audience is most likely to be using Facebook so that it reduces the time decay and gets into their News Feeds.

Marketing implications: Frequency is important but it’s also important to be aware of when and how often your audience want to receive updates. There’s no point posting updates at random times of the day but it’s likely to be even more annoying if you decide to post lots of updates constantly!

Why EdgeRank is important for brands

It’s important for brands to understand what EdgeRank is and how it affects their marketing efforts on Facebook. It’s unlikely that fans of a Facebook brand page will go back to the page itself unless they are prompted to do so from content in their News Feeds, so establishing genuine affinity with customers is key to getting through to them.

For me, it’s all about great content. The Facebook brand pages I ‘like’ are ones that provide me with something new and different and encourage me to interact and comment. And I also like variety. If a page is just posting bland updates, I won’t be engaged. But a mix of photos, videos and interesting links are much more interesting.

For a more definitive guide to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, check out this very good post from TNW or visit my Delicious bookmark page for further advice.