The logic and engineering behind Facebook’s famous algorithm remain a mystery to most users of the world’s largest social network. Facebook-loving brands, businesses and other individuals have a long history of interested in how Facebook News Feeds are categorized and personalized.
But with every update Mark Zuckerberg and his team make, it seems like the mystery of the Newsfeed is always getting more and more elusive. Even when trying to decipher the news stories provided by Facebook about how the algorithm works, many social media marketers are still in the dark and trying to adjust their Facebook marketing strategies as best they can.
In this article, we’ll try to help you see things more clearly, by covering everything you need to know about the Facebook algorithm, from its inception to the most recent updates in 2020. We’ll go over the key factors and elements that Facebook uses to rank content in news feeds and let’s see how you can create posts that will keep your brand visible on the global social network.
What Is The Facebook Algorithm?
For starters, the term “algorithm” makes things a little more complicated than they actually are. Of course, the Facebook algorithm has a certain level of complexity. But basically, this “series of rules and elementary operations on a finite number of data” is nothing more than a method of processing a user’s news feed.
On Facebook, there is an abundance of content: information, posts, stories, links and much more from hundreds of different sources. Friends, family, coworkers, brands, businesses and even journalists all post on Facebook. The order in which the messages are displayed, and whether or not to display them, is all up to the algorithm.
In a question-and-answer session in 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg brilliantly described the News Feed and the algorithm that governs it with the following phrase: “Our goal is to create a Perfect personalized news journal for every person in the world. As you’ve probably understood by now, Facebook seeks to maximize the time users spend on their app by showing them exactly what they want to see.
Why Is Understanding The Algorithm Important For Brands?
People who use Facebook for leisure are primarily concerned with the algorithm because they want as much control as possible over the information to which they are exposed. But for marketers, understanding the algorithm is an essential step in the goal of reaching their audience. Because he’s the one who controls what users see on their news feed, and especially what they see first.
Anyone who uses Facebook knows that a user’s attention usually gets lost quite quickly as they unwind their feed. Marketers should therefore ensure that their brand is present at the top of user flows, as often as possible. Facebook also started prioritizing close friends and family some time ago over brands and businesses. For this reason, it is up to each marketer to establish a friendly and authentic atmosphere with the users in order to be always present on the feeds. Additionally, brands need to make sure that they are creating quality content because users can easily control what they see. If they don’t like what you post,
So, if you want your brand to be seen by as many people as possible on Facebook, it’s important to understand how the algorithm works.
Before we dive into the specifics of the current Facebook algorithm, let’s take a look at its history and the major updates it has undergone.
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Timeline Of Major Updates
Facebook is constantly changing and adjusting the News Feed algorithm based on user feedback. To better understand the situation in 2020, it is important to observe how the algorithm has been developed and shaped over the years.
Here is a chronology of all the major changes that have taken place since 2006.
The First Modifications In 2006
In 2006, Facebook launched the news feed on its website and status updates. Prior to this update, Facebook operated very simply: logging in would take you to your profile page, where you could edit your own information. To view another person’s profile, you had to search for it directly. In a way, Facebook was a digital phone book.
The “Like” in 2007
In 2007, Facebook introduced a major novelty: the “Like” button. This button allowed users to interact with the publications by giving them a “Like”. After launching this button, Facebook started working on an algorithm that would be based on what people like.
A Story Of Meaning In 2009
Until 2009, Facebook used posts in the “reverse” chronological feed on its website: Internet users first saw the most recent posts and moved back in time as they scrolled through their content. In 2009, Facebook engineers introduced the first algorithm, and posts to the thread began to be popularity based rather than time-based. At the time, Facebook received a lot of backlash from its members who wanted their original feed to return. People were unwilling to adapt to the new changes that the platform had implemented.
More Relevance In 2011
Instead of focusing on the most popular Facebook posts, Mark decided to show users the most relevant posts at any given time. In addition, they introduced the “News Ticker”, located to the right of the News Feed.
In 2014, Facebook cracked down on posts that users didn’t want to see on their feeds. The algorithm has been changed to eliminate clickbait and engagement-baits.
In addition to these changes, Facebook has also reduced the amount of overly promotional content on user feeds. This meant that brands that regularly posted the content that looked like promotion weren’t shown as often as they once were.
2015 was another crucial year for the algorithm. On the one hand, Facebook has decided to post more videos on the news feeds. They found the video to be an interesting way to keep users on the app longer.
2015 also saw the emergence of huge changes for marketers. So, Facebook started to prioritize family and friends over promotional posts. Changes have been made to reduce the visibility of ads and to place posts about family and friends at the top of the feed.
Facebook also began to give users more control, and the “See First” button was introduced.
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“The Reactions” In 2016
In 2016, Facebook introduced the concept of “audience optimization”. This feature allowed content publishers to target audiences based on their interests but also based on geolocation, gender, language or age.
In addition to this functionality, Facebook has taken a step towards transparency by revealing the core values of the News Feed.
Here are the main values of the news feed announced in 2016:
- Priority to close friends and family
- Facebook wants to be a platform open to all ideas
- Priority is given to authentic communication
- The user has the means to control his experience, with functions like “See first”, “Hide”, and “Unfollow”.
- Facebook wants to make sure its algorithm evolves based on user feedback
Finally, 2016 saw a huge addition: the reactions.
Facebook recognized the need to add more reaction emoticons, so they introduced an “anger” button, a “sadness” button and a “love” button.
Speed In 2017
Throughout 2017, Facebook continued to modify the algorithm based on comments. Each post with links that took too long to load was less likely to be displayed. Plus, longer videos started to rank higher. Finally, pages known to share fake news were no longer allowed to serve ads.
In January 2018
Mark Zuckerberg has promised that Facebook will work on more social engagement on relevant content. Facebook really wanted people to participate in meaningful interactions. Posts capable of triggering a conversation between users have been prioritized. The goal was to increase the quality of time spent by members on Facebook.
It should also be added that 2018 was a difficult year for marketers who used the platform. Because Facebook had already started its transition to its new values (family, friends, etc.). This year has therefore seen a significant decrease in the visibility of brands, content editors, and marketers on the news feed. Instead, there has been a shift in focus towards “trustworthy, informative and local” sources of information for internet users.
Fringe Content In 2019
Last year, Facebook realized that “fringe content” was on the rise in news feeds. “Marginal” content is mainly made up of articles whose subjects are so controversial that they cause members to react and disseminate information quickly. The typical case is fake news.
To fight against this phenomenon, Facebook has favoured the distribution of content closer to members. They also continued their efforts to have more original, high-quality videos shown on the streams.
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How The Facebook Algorithm Works In 2020
Today, Facebook is more than ever determined to engage in transparency. Social network No.1 really wants its members to understand the algorithm and be able to control their feeds.
Facebook currently uses four main factors to determine the ranking of posts on a user’s feed:
This term refers to all available content that can be displayed on a user’s Facebook feed/feed, from posts by friends to posts by publishers.
Signals are data that Facebook collects from all content. These can be comments, likes, engagement, or shares.
This factor is based on a user’s profile and past behaviour. Facebook uses this information to decide what to show a particular user, what type of content they are most likely to interact with.
4. Relevance score
This is a value assigned to content based on its relevance to a user. This means that the scores are different for each user.
Facebook also takes into account the frequency with which a user interacts with a profile, group or Facebook pages; friends and family always occupy a preponderant place. They look at the type of content they interact with, such as photos, videos, links, or date of the post, and finally the post’s overall engagement level and likes.
To give Internet users ultimate control, Facebook has added News Feed Preferences to the Content Settings in Facebook. Thanks to these settings, Internet users can choose which they see first, put a page or a person on hold, or hide someone or even stop following them. This means that marketers need to understand not only Facebook’s algorithm, but also what their audience wants to see.
Here’s a quick recap:
Facebook prioritizes these types of posts on a user’s feed:
- Posts that generate a lot of engagement (likes, shares, comments)
- Content with which the user often interacts (photo, video or link)
- Messages that a user’s friends interact with
- Articles that refer to a trending and relevant topic
Facebook is reducing the amount of these posts on a user’s feed:
- Spam links
- Frequently reported messages
- Content with a tendency to be too promotional
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What Does This Mean For Marketers?
As you can see, the Facebook algorithm has become a real nightmare for marketers. If your brand isn’t working consistently to genuinely engage and connect with your audience, your posts will fall into the depths of the Newsfeed, where few users risk it, that’s a fact.
All the changes Facebook has decided on that aim to build a more authentic and quality social engagement mean that brands have to brainstorm to have a better chance of being seen. It’s the brand that has to prove to the algorithm that the posts that land on the user’s page are likely to create real links.