What Brands Need to Know About Facebook Edgerank

Posted on April 11, 2013

To the average consumer, advertising has become ubiquitous. If they don’t hate it, they have trained themselves to ignore it. It’s become an easily acquired skill thanks to advertising’s level of predictability and lack of interactivity. Very few people are moved by ads, especially online, and that’s mostly due to the fact that the majority of ads fall short of engaging the audience. As we all know, brands have been infiltrating consumers’ Facebook and Twitter feeds with marketing messages for the past few years now.

What is actually happening?

The truth is, for Facebook to continue to be successful it needs to satisfy the users more so than the brands. There’s a conflict, though. Users want a communication platform that works on their terms by showing them what they want to see, exactly when they want to see it. Conversely, brands want their content in front of everyone all the time.

As a Facebook user, you want more of the stuff that matters to you, and less of the stuff that doesn’t. Right? You want more stories from friends and brands that do a great job of delivering funny, timely and interesting content. You don’t want a cluttered Newsfeed filled with irrelevant marketing messages. Luckily, that model doesn’t benefit Facebook either. Not every message from even your most favorite brand in the world is relevant to you.

To prove this point, click here to get a taste of what unfiltered Newsfeed insanity looks and feels like. It’s overflowing with stuff you don’t care about.

By tweaking Edgerank and introducing Promoted Posts, Facebook is pushing for true, meaningful, and brand-aligned content to be delivered to the right people. They don’t want people’s Newsfeeds to be swamped with six different brand posts asking “What are your plans this weekend?” that are obviously less important than the creative awesomeness that brands like Oreo and Coca-Cola churn out.

The key is that marketers aren’t going to spend money on lazy filler questions that every other brand is asking too. As a brand, quality over quantity needs to be reinforced in everything it does. Wouldn’t you rather reach your most loyal fans with targeted content for free rather than pay to reach all your fans with sales-y messages?

These changes preserve the social ecosystem of Facebook, keeping brands on their creative toes and having to do some serious soul-searching and aligning from time to time. As a Facebook user, you probably go out of your way to like a brand for a very specific reason−you have some kind of expectation of that brand. If the brand doesn’t behave as expected and posts irrelevant and uninteresting content, then you won’t engage with them. (Oh yea, we also call this spam.)

With social media, it becomes less about advertising and more about creating relationships through interactions and giving. I don’t necessarily mean giving in materialistic sense; instead, make life better for your audience in some way that makes sense to your business. If that means giving away your product or service, then by all means. Brands that succeed in social are the ones that use a combination of story-telling and relevant content, alongside memorable, helpful and personal interactions. This is where Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm comes in.

Edgerank Explained

The new Edgerank updates on Facebook benefit the users by sorting, hiding and suggesting updates and posts for them. Edgerank helps replace boring Newsfeed content from brands that don’t garner interactivity with posts that resemble messages from friends and family that you actually care about. (finish thought – what does this mean? Allows brands to interact on a personal level, squeezes by consumer’s ad filter, increases engagement, etc.)

Let’s back up. What is Edgerank?

If you aren’t familiar with Edgerank, let’s take some time to understand the components. Basically, it’s a formula that attempts to “reward” the Pages that consistently produce great content by letting their posts appear in peoples’ Newsfeed.

Edgerank-rank-affinity-weight-decay

Breaking Down Edgerank

Affinity Score

Whenever someone engages (action) with a piece of content (object) whether it’s hitting like, commenting, sharing, etc., they create an edge, or some type of flag or weight. Over time, and on a per-user basis, Facebook is able to assign and adjust what’s called an affinity score for a brand-to-user and user-to-user relationship. This score is determined by how often, and in what fashion a person interacts with a particular Page or another user.

Weight

The second piece of the Edgerank puzzle is how weight is determined for a piece of content. Have you ever seen a status that multiple friends have commented on repeatedly pop up in your Newsfeed? That’s Edgerank at work. Basically, Facebook is saying, “hey, several of your close friends are interested in this information, perhaps you’ll find it relevant, too.” The key is that the more effort someone exerts towards interacting with an object, the more weight it should be given. Therefore, sharing and commenting have higher weights than a mere click on the Like button.

Let it be known that all objects are weighed equally by Facebook; however, certain types of objects, such as photos and videos, are significantly more likely to catch the attention of a user thus driving them to like, share, or comment on it.

Decay

The final piece of the algorithm is simply a measure of freshness. The more recent your post, the more value it has to your users. Remember when every single person in the world was talking about the date being 10/11/12? No? Exactly. Because it doesn’t matter anymore. Facebook wants to make sure that when you log on you’re seeing the most important, relevant, and recent posts. Edgerank is also smart enough to know that after Halloween, we probably don’t care to see your Pomeranian dressed up as a Velociraptor anymore. Or at least until next year.

Why Should I Care About Edgerank?

You need to understand Edgerank for two main reasons. One, you have the opportunity to spend a lot less money on reaching a highly targeted audience and providing them with amazing and relevant content. Two, you can take those dollars and reinvest them in the product, company, customers and employees.

However, for the majority of brands, Edgerank means you’ll probably start having to invest in Promoted or Sponsored Posts, at least occasionally. This is not a bad thing. And don’t believe those twisted bullshit rumors that Facebook limits your brand’s reach to 16% of your Page audience, either. While great brands can work wonders with free WOM, Facebook and other social channels are ginormous, thriving hubs that, like every other medium needs to get paid in order to deliver impressions. That’s how paid advertising works. Social media can be a great platform to leverage WOM, but it’s a hybrid called converged media that is comprised of paid, owned and earned media that works best. Those are simply the facts.

Facebook introduced a way to give brands the opportunity to reach a larger percentage of their network by placing their content in their follower’s Newsfeed for a fee. Before you get too riled up about that, let’s back up for a moment. The truth is that brands have never been able to reach all of their followers with a single message because user checking habits vary drastically from person to person. Not everyone signs on multiple times a day, or even on a daily basis, and there is a good chance that only around 10-20% of your audience will organically see your post in their feed on a given day.

Not every digital marketer is thrilled with Edgerank, and they’re usually the ones that simply don’t understand the basics of creating relationships. One argument is that banishing posts from the Newsfeed is an attempt at forcing brands to pay to reach their hard-earned followers. If it is, it is very well-disguised and actually protects the most important part of Facebook – the users. But like we said before, Facebook has to make money to deliver impressions.

The other argument is that this might encourage more posts that instruct users to take an action – “Like this post if the sky is blue today.” Or those posts that beg you to help the brand game the system by adding them to Interest Lists or to click on “Get notifications.” (Thankfully, this fad has somewhat subsided, but I sure loved unfollowing those poor confused brands.)

Oreo Daily Twist Campaign

Oreo is one smart cookie.

We were just starting to get away from those lazy posts thanks to Oreo’s addictive ‘Daily Twist’ campaign. Now, it’s entirely possible that brands will continue to turn to these absurd, yet engaging (for some strange reason) filler posts more often to increase affinity scores with their audience. Not cool, brands. Not cool.

So that’s a basic overview of Edgerank and why it’s critical to understand your fans needs and deliver great content. As with almost everything, there are ways to beat the system, but realize that black hat techniques will only get you so far. If you get one thing out of this post, the best thing you could do is be honest, measure everything, focus on your fans and deliver experiences that people will talk about. Following those principles will keep Edgerank on your side. It’s really that simple.

What Brands Need to Know About Facebook Edgerank by

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