I will start this article by first asking a question, have you ever wondered how Facebook chooses what to put at the top of your feed? Secondly, like me, have you ever wondered what determines who has more prominence in my feed? In this article I hope to answer both these questions and further help social marketers better understand and make use of Facebook to gain visbility and presence.
All interactive actions on Facebook are called “edges”, whether that be liking a status/image/video/link, sharing content yourself or clicking on a viewing a profile. Unsurprisingly, edge rank then refers to the power behind your profile and is used by Facebook to determine how to compile not only your feed, but that of your customers or followers. The Edge Rank algorithm is considerably less complicated than those found in search engines, which means to a certain extent it permits best practices which can increase your posts visibility. At the time of writing, there are three main signals which make up the Edge Rank algorithm, these are affinity, weight and time decay.
Affinity is measured by how often you interact with someone’s profile. When you visit their profile page, interact with their posts or simply go through their photo albums, you indicate to Facebook a degree of closeness. It is this indicated proximity which is the reason why when you visit an old school friends profile or spy on an ex, their profile seems to always appear at the top of your feed for the following days. To a certain extent, affinity even works when you don’t have them added (ever searched for someone you know of but don’t know? Notice how they then appear in the drop down suggestions whenever you search for someone of that same name after).
It should be noted that affinity only works one-way. This means just because someone is appearing at the top of your feed, doesn’t necessarily mean you are appearing at the top of theirs. This is a useful realisation for the obsessed stalker, but not very useful for those trying to maximise the visibility of posts so to sell goods or their services.
The weight of your edge is determined by several considerations. To start, what the social action consists of will determine how much clout is given. It is generally considered that sharing photo’s, videos and links are given the most amount of weight. This means as an initial best practice, you ought to try to include one of these three actions in order to increase the weight of your edge.
You should keep in mind that edge rank is competitively relevant, which means if someone has a large number of one particular form of edge in their feed you will be in competition with everyone else, which may relegate you to lower positions in their feeds.
Whilst I am not particularly convinced by this next consideration, it remains a popular belief that political considerations of what Facebook itself is trying to push, may alter the weight of a certain type of edge. It does stand to reason that through simply increasing the importance of a certain edge in its algorithm, Facebook could drastically change how our feeds appear, but whether it does employ such tactics has yet to be unequivocally proven.
As a last point, it should be noted that whilst utilising certain types of edges will increase the weight of a post; variance is a best practice in itself. Through utilising several types of edge, you ensure visibility amongst all your followers and can potentially help to raise affinity amongst all followers.
The primary objective of your feed is to show you the most recent content, which unsurprisingly means the time when an edge is created will affect how prominent it is in your fans feeds. The more interaction your edge receives will result in your exposure at the top of feeds lasting longer. As a best practice it is recommended that you post your edge at the time best suited for visibility by your fans. If for instance you notice that you are getting more likes at 7pm, when people are returning home from work, you ought to time your important posts and edges for that time so to lengthen the amount of time you appear in feeds.
Now that you are aware of what Edge Rank is and how it works, you can begin to develop certain best practices so to increase your posts visibility in your fans feeds.
If you are planning on launching a new product/service/offer/promotion on Facebook you will first want to try and build affinity between your brand/organisation and their fans. Questions, competitions, proactive photography and artwork, offers which require a fan to like or comment to win something, etc all encourage your fans to like or comment on one of your posts, which will sneakily help to raise the affinity from them to you. Building constant interaction using this technique will help to build affinity with your fans and therefore should be considered a brilliant filler technique between important edge’s.
In order to give weight to your posts (see what I did there) it is another best practice to assure that you include photos, videos and links. This consideration can have far reaching implications, it can and should result in a culture of instead of trying to describe a post in words, instead taking a photo or recording a short clip so to give the post more weight and increase visibility. It should also be noted that this strategy intertwines well with other SEO and content strategies as this generally makes for more shareable content, win win!
As previously mentioned, knowing that time decay can have an effect on visibility allows you to time your posts for maximum potential interaction. In doing so you can give structure and timed precision to not only your main posts, but also affinity building weighted posts can also be used to increase visibility with more tact and science than simply posting at the time of writing or ASAP. For convenience, scheduled tweets can help to post during out of work hours, when your fans are most interactive. I recommend using Hootsuite for this, simply because it is my favourite at the moment and really simple to use.
My last point is that from a human perspective a variety of different formats make for a more enjoyable UX and build more loyal fans (which in turn takes a lot of difficulty in boosting your posts to the top of feeds). This should not be overlooked as at the end of the day the algorithm is what we are gaming here, not the fan or customer. UX in itself is a whole branch of branding and social profiles, which is why it ought not to be overlooked simply for the purpose of appearing at the top of feeds.