If you’ve decided to embark on a journey of Facebook marketing, the first thing you’ll want to do is understand the ins and outs of the Facebook algorithm.
To many of us, all social media algorithms (aka not just Facebook’s) are (excuse my French) a pain in the ass. We don’t know much about them. But we do know one thing: they change all the freaking time. And it’s annoying.
We’ve all had this eureka moment when it felt like you’ve ALMOST cracked the algorithm code; when you were getting all those likes and all those followers, seeing all that beautiful Facebook traffic on your website… until, all of a sudden, Facebook had a change of heart, making us all feel like we went from hero to zero in a split of a second.
How does Facebook decide what to show and what not to?
Why are my Facebook posts not getting any likes?
How can I get people to see my content on Facebook? Preferably, without robbing a bank?
In other words: what IS the Facebook algorithm and HOW does it work?
If you’re looking for answers to these questions, read on. Because in today’s post, we’re collecting all the relevant Facebook algorithm factors. We’ll be updating this post in the future for the upcoming Facebook updates — so bookmark it for future reference!
How does Facebook algorithm work?
Now, before we even start delving into the complexities of the algorithm, let’s go back to the beginning of time for a sec.
Facebook was created in 2004. It had no feed, no timeline, no nothing. The only thing you could do is create a profile, connect with other profiles, and poke each other. Because yeah, this is as much fun as we had on the Internet in 2004.
But then in 2006 Facebook introduced News Feed — which ultimately became the way we see Facebook now. Now, roughly a decade later, we check out smartphones over 150 times a day and scroll more Facebook content per week than the height of Big Ben. That’s about 96 meters of content.
And the thing is, people aren’t just scrolling more — they’re scrolling faster. Our attention spans are decreasing, and yet the volume of content is increasing disproportionally.
For this reason, the goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them — otherwise, we’d all be drowning in content. So, if Facebook, for some reason, thinks that your content isn’t right for your audience, it’s simply not going to show it. That’s the key thing to understand — it’s not like your content is necessarily bad, but there might be a bad content/audience fit to begin with, which runs against Facebook’s values.
So in other words, you should market less.
Understanding the Facebook algorithm thus starts with understanding Facebook’s core values — the key factors that Facebook uses when it adjusts the algorithm formula. Knowing the values well can give you a hint of what content is pushed down the feed and what isn’t.
Here’s a brief overview of Facebook’s News Feed Values
1. Friends and family come first
The common misconception when we approach Facebook as a marketing platform is, well, to approach Facebook as a marketing platform. Facebook was created as a place to connect with friends and family — and even today, this is still the driving principle of the Facebook News Feed. Facebook’s top priority is to keep you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to. Every time you like something, or comment on something, or follow something, Facebook learns what you like and adjusts your feed.
Also important: the News Feed should be informative and entertaining.
2. A platform for all ideas
As Facebook says itself: “We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about. […] We don’t favor specific kinds of sources — or ideas.” Their goal is to connect people with relevant stories — despite what these stories might be. So if you like kittens, Facebook will feed you more stories about kittens. If you support Trump, Facebook will feed you content on Trump and how great he is. You get the point!
3. Authentic communication
Authentic stories are the ones that resonate most! Genuine stories with a strong storytelling aspect get shown more in the News Feed, and anything misleading, sensational, spammy or salesly is found on the very bottom of the feed — aka that dark place nobody ever reaches.
4. You control your experience
Every user should have control over his/her feed — that’s what features like “unfollow”, “hide”, “see first” and “snooze” (as of late) have been designed for. The Facebook algorithm makes its guesswork on your behavior, but it’s ultimately users themselves that design their own experience. For instance, if you hide a story from someone, that means you’re less interested in hearing from that person in the future.
5. Constant iteration
As we speak, the Facebook algorithm is improving along the way, through collecting feedback and analyzing user behavior. It never stops improving, striving to create the most personalized experience for everyone on the platform.
So how does Facebook determine its algorithm?
To decide what to show and what not to show, Facebook relies on its Feed Quality Program, which includes “global crowd-sourced surveys of tens of thousands of people per day, as well as people who answer more detailed questions about what they like seeing in their feeds”.
In other words: people ask — Facebook listens.
Then, in addition to this massive feedback processing and the 5 above-mentioned values, Facebook also has these 4 important factors that are taken into account as well:
- Who posted the content, aka what is the relation between the publisher and the consumer (remember: friends and family come first)
- What type of content it is, aka photos or links?
- When it was posted, because recency is often an important signal for relevance (but not always)
- What interactions it has, aka the number of likes and comments
In this video, Adam Mosseri, VP of Product Management for the Facebook News Feed, explains more about it:
The Facebook algorithm likes it when:
- You know your audience very VERY well
- There’s a good audience/content fit
- Your posts are informative (useful) or entertaining
- Your posts are time relevant
- Posts have a lot of likes, interactions, comments and shares — preferably in a shorter period of time
- Link preview posts
- Links from web pages that load faster
- Post types that your audience interacts with often
- Posts from friends and family, as they are prioritized above content from brands
- You share positive news, like seasonal greetings
Facebook algorithm doesn’t like it when:
- Content is spammy
- There are clickbait titles (e.g. “I looked under my bed and saw THIS… My sister was SHOCKED!”)
- Your posts are salesly trying to push products
- You post overshared, sketchy posts that have been frequently circulating on Facebook
- When you only post text-only status updates
- When you link to low-quality sites
There are a lot of different aspects to the Facebook algorithm, and it can be hard to tick every box and to keep on top of all the changes. Hopefully, though, this article has given you the key things to look out for when creating content on Facebook. It’s all about playing the game, you just have to try to learn the rules! If you want to learn more, check out this ebook below (might be helpful 😉):
Major Facebook algorithm updates
Here, we’ll be posting the latest updates to the Facebook algorithm that might affect your Page.
11 January, 2018: Facebook News Feed will show more content from friends and family 1
People complained, Facebook listened. In early January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook wants to do everything possible to make sure that time spent on the platform is time well spent. As people have been complaining that they’ve been seeing more and more content from brands, and less and less content from their friends (the main reason a user is on Facebook in the first place), Facebook decided to roll out a major change to its algorithm to ensure that it’s the content that sparks meaningful social interactions that dominates the feed from now on. After all, “Facebook has always been about personal connections”, Zuckerberg says.