Timely Change? Facebook Adjusts News Feed Algorithm To Surface More Trending Stories
Facebook took a lot of heat last month about the timeliness of the news it was showing its users. While Twitter’s unfiltered feed was churning out a steady stream of information about a racially charged police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., Facebook was filled with videos of people dumping cold water on their heads for charity.
At least that was the anecdotal conclusion that launched a slew of blog posts with the Twitter-is-for-news-Facebook-is-for-ice-buckets refrain.
Now it appears that Facebook is responding, at least in part, to that criticism, today announcing changes to its News Feed algorithm that it says will push more timely posts to users. And not just for major news events; Facebook is hoping to increase the amount of engagement surrounding the shared experiences of TV show and sporting events, a environment in which Twitter has also held the advantage.
“We’ve heard feedback that there are some instances where a post from a friend or a Page you are connected to is only interesting at a specific moment, for example when you are both watching the same sports game, or talking about the season premiere of a popular TV show,” software engineer Erich Owens and engineering manager David Vickrey wrote in a blog post. “There are also times when a post that is a day or two old may not be relevant to you anymore.”
After the algorithm adjustments, which are being rolled out gradually, Facebook will boost stories that are trending:
This means that when a friend or Page you are connected to posts about something that is currently a hot topic of conversation on Facebook, that post is more likely to appear higher up in News Feed, so you can see it sooner. Early testing of a small percentage of posts has shown that this update on average leads to a more than 6% increase in people engaging with these stories (e.g., more people share, comment, like or click).
Facebook will also start taking into account the rate at which people are engaging with a post, favoring posts that are currently getting a high number of likes, comments and shares rather than merely judging the quantity of that engagement:
If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date. Based on this signal it is more likely to appear higher in News Feed earlier on and lower at a later date.
We are also going to start taking this signal into account when considering which stories we bump in News Feed. Bumping is when we resurface stories that people did not scroll down far enough to see but are still getting lots of engagement. This is one more way that we’re working to identify timely posts so we can show them nearer the top of your News Feed sooner.
How Will This Affect My Page?
Facebook is making assurances that the adjustment won’t significantly change the distribution of posts from Pages: “If a Page posts about a trending topic or if a post sees a high velocity of engagement early on that then drops off that post may begin to see increased distribution early on and less distribution over time.”
But it seems obvious that targeting trending topics with relevant information could open a new front in the real-time marketing arena. One question is how far Facebook will turn the immediacy dial. Another is how will people react to what could be a more frenetic Facebook feed, with possibly more brands and businesses invading the stream.