Friday, August 30, 2013

Nothing is certain but death and Facebook algorithm changes

Yes that’s right – the algorithm has changed again. But unlike the changes made in September 2012 this round of changes has flown under the radar – perhaps overshadowed by the way more exciting (and easy to understand) announcement that pages can now run competitions without requiring a third party app.

That’s not to say that there isn’t still a place for the good ol’ app – which this infographic from allfacebook outlines really clearly. And of course there is still the minor issue of the law and the need to provide terms, conditions and privacy statements.

But I digress. The algorithm changes have flown under the radar because they are largely beneficial for most brand pages.

Previously Edgerank was based on three factors – affinity, weight and time decay – that determined whether any one status update would be seen by any one person. That’s now changed and there are reportedly a myriad of factors that are now taken into consideration. Two of the main ones being talked about are Last Actor and Story Bumping.

Last Actor looks at the last 50 interactions you’ve had on Facebook, then gives new posts from those people or brand pages priority on your newsfeed. Pages who post frequently will be rewarded – and those that are targeting the most active demographics need to post more frequently to stay visible.

But it’s not just about quantity. Facebook will also assess the quality of your post and demote content that is ‘engagement baiting’ just to get likes. Brands will need to come up with something better than ‘like this if you like fluffy kittens’ and the world will be a better place for it. Facebook haven’t quite said how they will do this, but brands that thrive on this type of content can expect to see engagement rates drop away.

The second factor – Story Bumping – works like this. If a page you regularly interact with posts some content and it’s getting good interaction, but you’ve found something more interesting to do than log onto Facebook every couple of hours causing that post to slip down your newsfeed – then don’t despair! Facebook will bump that post back up your newsfeed, givi
ng you a second chance to see content that it thinks you want to engage with. This is good news for brands – particularly those that still insist on posting status updates during business hours when only half of their fanbase is actually online.

There are many other factors that matter now. Anyone noticed Facebook prompting you to update sections on your info page? Yep, that’s taken into account too.

So how will these changes impact on brand page performance? We’ll probably never know because Facebook coincidentally rolled out their new insights platform just before the algorithm change. Virality no longer exists and has instead been replaced with the more all-encompassing ‘Engagement Rate’.
“What’s the difference?” I hear you ask. Quite a lot.

Virality took only the highest quality interactions – those that resulted in a story being created which shared your content with their friends – as being worth counting. All other interactions – usually called ‘other clicks’ in the exportable report – weren’t deemed valuable enough to include. Hence the rise of all those ‘like this if’ posts – unless people engaged in a certain way, they weren’t counted.
Image courtesy of Inside Facebook
The new Engagement Rate – defined as “the percentage of people who liked, comments, shared or clicked on your post after having seen it” is broader, but more worthwhile. If someone clicks on a link through to your competition app (oh, except we don’t need them anymore) or another piece of content you wanted to share – that wouldn’t have been included in virality, but is included in the engagement rate. Someone clicking on an image you have shared because they want to see it in more detail is counted as engagement, but wouldn’t have been included in the old virality metric.

The sound of page admins around the world patting themselves on the backs for a job well done last month was deafening (I wonder how many truthfully explained the reasons for the better results in their reports). But with all the changes Facebook are rolling out, they’ll still need to work hard to make sure Facebook continues to deliver results for their clients.