Decoding the Facebook News Feed

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Blog | No Comments
Decoding the Facebook News Feed

It’s official. Facebook is now big enough and influential enough for us to be affected beyond thinking, “Ugh. Facebook looks different,” when they change something. Sure, learning where to find certain menu items can be frustrating, but not nearly as critical as missing news updates because your feed is omitting stories.

Many businesses rely on certain functions of the news feed to interact with their customers and share important information. They might introduce a new product, share a contest, or provide information about a promotion. All of these things are great, but only if their customers see their posts. Businesses need to understand the Facebook news feed in order to make sure that their social media marketing is reaching the widest possible audience. It can be the difference between a promotion flying or flopping.

This increase in influence recently prompted Facebook to announce that they will be releasing details about their major updates similar to how Google lets us know when they roll out changes to their algorithm.

(For details about recent Google algorithm changes, head to our post “Mobile Unfriendly: Google Might Be Punishing You”.)

Josh Constine from TechCrunch posted:

“The News Feed team’s Lars Backstrom says that the ‘News feed is one of only places where Facebook is doing things on the scale of complexity of what Google is doing or Bing is doing in search.’ But in some ways it’s a harder problem because relevance is subjective. Google can show a bunch of people a set of ranked search results and ask if they’re accurate, but the only person who can tell if your feed is relevant is you.

In its early days, the News Feed ‘algorithm’ was really just VP of Product Chris Cox and Director of Engineering Boz ‘twiddling knobs,’ says Cox. They’d take a ton of anecdotal feedback because Facebook hadn’t built out a better A/B testing system or way to measure impact. Cox says ‘You didn’t need to be super sophisticated. There wasn’t that much content.’

…But since then, content production has exploded. The average person today has about 1500 stories they could see, ranging from one of your good friends getting married to bottom of the barrel updates like your friend from high school who you haven’t heard from in years became friends with someone you’ve never heard of.

The goal of the Facebook News Feed team and algorithm is to figure out what stories out of those 1500 will delight and fascinate you. Luckily, the team now has dashboards to look at big data about exactly how people are responding the latest News Feed tweaks…

When the News Feed team succeeds, you see things you care about, have a good time on Facebook, and use it more. When it doesn’t, Facebook seems like a boring waste of time. This team makes or breaks Facebook’s engagement level.”

Story Bumping

The first change Facebook is announcing publically is Story Bumping. Essentially, Story Bumping means that your news feed will show you stories you haven’t seen before stories you have. For businesses, this could ensure that more of their posts are reaching their audience.

“Initial tests showed the Story Bumping led to 5% more likes, comments, and shares on stories from friends, an 8% boost in interactions for stories from Pages and public figures, and an increase from 57% of potentially visible stories read to 70%. People are reading a larger fraction of their stories thanks to this algorithm change.”

If you want to keep up with these changes, check out the Facebook For Business blog posts!

Considering that we’ve been talking about Facebook, make sure you visit us over there. We’re also on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumbler!

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