For the first time, in a long time, Facebook has addressed more details regarding the EdgeRank algorithm. Facebook’s news feed product manager Will Cathcart simplified how the news feed works with the following:
1. Prior interaction with an author’s posts: If you like every post by a page that Facebook shows you, it will show you more from that page.
2. Other people’s reactions to a specific post: If others on Facebook are shown a post and ignores it, or complains, it’s less likely to show up on your news feed.
3. Your interaction with posts of the same type in the past: If you always Like photos, there’s a better chance you’ll see a photo posted by a page.
4. If a specific post has received complaints by other users who have seen it, or the page who posted it has received lots of complaints in the past, you’ll be less likely to see that post. This factor became a lot more prevalent with the EdgeRank update in September 2012.
We’re going to break down each component to help provide deeper context into what that means for your brand.
1. Engagement History (Affinity)
Has this fan engaged with your page’s content before? Facebook wants to determine the likelihood that a fan will engage with your future content. They use historical Engagement to understand the affinity between a fan and a page. This is confirming a long standing concept of EdgeRank.
2. Engagement Totals (The Sum of Edges)
Facebook is looking at a few things on this one: first, they specifically mention people who ignore a post. This metric is ultimately counted within Facebook’s definition of Virality. Are the people who are seeing this post taking the time to engage with it? Facebook’s definition of Virality is often questioned, however in this example it makes sense why they report it the way they do. It should be noted however, that we haven’t typically seen a strong correlation between Virality and Reach.
Facebook also confirms they are looking at Negative Feedback to determine the quality of the post. Mathematically, we look at Negative Feedback as simply another Edge, but with a negative value. We hypothesized that the weight of a Negative Feedback Edge was increased significantly with the most recent EdgeRank change in September 2012. Brands that tend to receive a lot of Negative Feedback might have been impacted more drastically because of this.
3. Historical Content Type (Weight)
Facebook implies that the weight of an initial object also carries historical Engagement significance. For brands, it’s imperative to know how your audience likes to consume your content. If links for your brand tend to struggle, try using a link within a photo’s description and monitor the results.
4. Negative Feedback (Weight / Sum of Edges)
This point somewhat mirrors point #2, however, there is one additional piece of information. To paraphrase Cathcart, pages that have received a lot of complaints in the past, will struggle with Reach today. This is an incredibly interesting piece of information. There have been rumors of a Page’s Quality Score or Authority, similar to Google’s PageRank. We often look at PageRank’s evolution as an analogy to EdgeRank’s. It’s difficult to differentiate exactly what’s being said here, but for now it must be assumed that receiving Negative Feedback in the past impacts Affinity with those particular users, thus resulting in the decrease in Reach. However, it could be argued that there may be a Page Quality Score. For the time being, we’re going to chalk it up to decreased Affinity with the users who reported the Negative Feedback, therefore creating a Page Quality-like affect. Either way, Negative Feedback needs to be taken seriously to reduce any damaging affects to your Page’s Reach.
Cathcart went on to explain “we started penalizing things that had an above average rate of complaints, and rewarding things that had a below average rate of complaints. Facebook believes the change was a success because engagement went up” and “complaints went down in the double-digit percentage.”
What Is New About This?
Ultimately, the only new revelation is the increase in the weight of Negative Feedback. Even with the inception of a potential argument regarding a Page Quality Score, the point is moot. Regardless of how it’s currently calculated, the ultimate effect remains the same. Historically receiving high Negative Feedback will result in decreased Reach. Similarly, receiving high Negative Feedback on a current piece of content will also cause poor performance on the news feed.
These insights confirm that Facebook has indeed made a significant change to EdgeRank, and the change is rooted in the impact of Negative Feedback. It’s interesting to see that they’ve achieved the result they’re looking for by reducing complaints within the news feed. The rest of the points are more or less confirmations of previously tested concepts.
We believe that these changes will hopefully continue to make the news feed more relevant to users. This increases the value of the news feed, an also challenges brands to continue to engage their audiences. As long as Facebook is rewarding the brands that engage their audience, these changes will be welcomed.