Originally launched in 2013, the Facebook algorithm uses machine learning to analyse what content each user engages with – be it through Likes, shares, comments – and aims to show more content similar to those identified interests.
The goal is to make each person’s Facebook experience more compelling, and to keep you coming back to Facebook more often.
Despite criticism of that system, it’s clearly delivering better results for users. When Facebook introduced the first iteration of the algorithm Back in 2010, (then called ‘EdgeRank’), the average session time, per user, on Facebook was around 13.5 minutes a day.
Earlier this year, as part of Facebook’s first quarter earnings announcement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that on-platform engagement was now up to 50 minutes, per user, per day, across The Social Network.
However strange it may feel to have a computer system detecting your interests and delivering content to you based on them, the numbers show the system works, and it’s improving in accuracy and relevance every day.
What does this mean for my business?
It’s important to understand the core elements of the News Feed algorithm, as it’s the key factor that’s going to dictate how far your posts reach on the platform – and reaching your audience is, of course, crucial to maximising the success of your messaging.
In order to determine whether a post is shown to each individual user, the News Feed algorithm takes into account several key factors.
Who posted it – How often the user engages with content from this user/Page
Type of content – How often the user engages with this type of content – e.g. photos, videos, links
Interactions with the post – The amount of interactions a post has had infers a relative level of importance/relevance of the post
When it was posted – Recency is an important ranking factor, as people want to be kept up to date with the latest news – though it’s not the most important factor. An example Facebook’s provided on this is if a relative has announced his or her engagement, that’s likely to be highly relevant, even if it was posted a week ago, so that type of announcement would get higher priority, despite it being older.
Facebook uses a range of signals to determine these key factors, though much like Google, they don’t reveal these signals up front to avoid helping people cheat the process (i.e. if you knew all the factors, you could work out how to beat them).
The steps you can take to improve reach
The main engagement elements are clear – the actions you take on Facebook dictate how the algorithm works for you, but others are less obvious. There are rumours, for example, that using certain words, like “baby” or “congratulations” will give your posts an automatic reach boost – and research has shown that’s likely the case.
The key elements to keep in mind are the engagement factors, the interactive elements of the platform that form the key ranking signals that dictate how much reach each of your posts gets. If you’re not prompting engagement from your audience, if you’re not sparking interaction through comments or shares, then your reach, inevitably, will be lower.
Remember that social media is ‘social’, it’s a conversation – it’s an interactive medium, not a broadcast channel. If you can keep that in mind, and create Facebook content around these core principles, you’ll be on your way to maximising and improving your on-platform performance.
And, of course, paid ads are always another option to boost your Facebook reach.