Facebook is changing the way it ranks organic posts that are eligible to show up in its users’ News Feeds.
The company announced two new factors — “Story Bumping” and “Last Actor” — during a media session today, and also promised more transparency in the future about how and why certain posts show for certain users.
The changes are emblematic of Facebook’s ongoing challenge to make the News Feed a “personalized newspaper” for each user. Facebook’s user base continues to grow, those users are making more connections, more brands are creating Facebook Pages and pushing content, etc. — making the News Feed something of a complicated balancing act. Consider that the average Facebook user, Facebook said today, has about 1,500 stories on every visit that are eligible to show up in the News Feed and some have many more — i.e., in the tens of thousands.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the two new factors.
When deciding what to show in the News Feed, Facebook is now considering not only new stories since the user’s last visit, but may show older stories that are new to that specific user.
In other words, if you miss stories on one visit — because you ran out of time, or didn’t scroll far down your News Feed — they may be eligible to show on next visit if others are still interacting with the story/content.
This slide from today’s presentation shows how a previously missed “below the fold” story may be inserted later nearer to the top of a user’s News Feed:
Facebook’s Lars Backstrom says the company tested this with 80 percent of its employees and expected that it might be confusing for them to start seeing older stories at top of the News Feed. But engagement increased. Facebook saw
- a five percent increase on interaction with stories from Friends
- an eight percent increase in interaction on stories from Pages
- an overall increase in stories read from 57 percent to 70 percent
Story Bumping is launched now on the web, Backstrom said, but hasn’t fully rolled out to mobile devices.
With this change, Facebook is adding more real-time signaling to help decide what should show in the News Feed.
Backstrom explained that Facebook tracks the last 50 interactions you do on Facebook on a rolling basis and uses those as signals to rank your feed. The ranking bump from this factor is temporary because Facebook tracks those last 50 interactions on a rolling basis.
Facebook’s internal testing showed only a minor increase in engagement with this change, but enough for the company to roll it out into the News Feed algorithm for all users.
This factor is now launched on both the web and mobile.
Goodbye, EdgeRank (The Term, Not The Idea)
One of the other news items that came out of today’s event is that EdgeRank, as a term, doesn’t exist any longer.
Chris Cox, Facebook’s VP of Product, shared that news during his introductory remarks, and Backstrom later clarified that Facebook hasn’t been using the term for about 2.5 years — ever since the company began using machine learning to drive the News Feed.
Backstrom did say, though, that the three primary EdgeRank factors — Affinity, Weight and Time Decay — are still important pieces of what is today a much more complicated News Feed ranking algorithm.
What’s It Mean For Brands & Marketers?
The changes Facebook announced today are user-based, but have obvious impacts on brands and marketers using Facebook.
First, it’s important to know that all of the above applies only to organic Facebook content. The ad system is separate, and Facebook uses different algorithms once content is being promoted via its advertising products.
Second, the Story Bumping change could potentially open the door for some brand/Page content to get extended visibility even in front of users that may have missed it when the content was first posted. And the Last Actor change could create added visibility over shorter time frames.
Ultimately, Backstrom told me that he doesn’t think today’s news should lead to any changes in how brands and Page owners do business on Facebook. The goal, he said, should still be to create interesting, relevant content that produces interaction in the form of shares, comments, like and clicks.