Chances are you are here because you have been hearing about this thing called “Facebook EdgeRank” more and more frequently over the last few months, yet you have no clear grasp on what it is– and more importantly, why you should care. This post will serve as your crash course in EdgeRank – what it is, why it exists, how it affects you, and how understanding it can help you succeed in your Facebook Page marketing starting today.
What is Edgerank and Why Does it Exist?
The average Facebook user has over 245 friends and 100 other “connections” (e.g. pages, events, groups, etc.). With the average amount of stories being produced by each connection per day, for each story you are seeing on your Newsfeed, there are actually 500-750 other stories created from your connections within your social graph.
Unfortunately, not every one of those stories on your Newsfeed will be relevant or important to you, because you probably don’t care about – say – a status update from a Facebook friend you accepted two years ago after meeting them very briefly at a party. Imagine if Facebook showed you this irrelevant update in your Newsfeed rather than pictures from your best friend’s wedding—you’d probably be quite upset, and rightfully so.
Fortunately, Facebook understands this problem and wants you to see stories that are the most relevant and important to you in your Newsfeed. It’s in their best interest to serve you this content during your daily visit (or visits?) to Facebook so that you’re more likely to be engaged (like, comment, share, etc) and come back to the site. This is exactly why Facebook developed EdgeRank – the algorithm that determines which “edges” or stories are displayed (and in what order) on your Newsfeed.
Facebook EdgeRank, as you would imagine, is much like Google’s PageRank – in showing the most relevant content to the end-user. However, unlike Google, Facebook officially revealed its formula factors in April 2010. This has paved the way for many social media marketers and data analysts to explore what it takes to get a post into the Newsfeed of as many fans as possible through the Post Optimization process, which was labeled by Justin Smith as Newsfeed Optimization (NFO).
Facebook uses EdgeRank (aptly named and pictured above) to rank every edge, or potential story, for each user. Facebook then displays the edges with the top scores—computed as the product of the three factors—in the Newsfeed, with the highest scoring edge at the top, followed by the second highest, then the third highest, etc. Edges that don’t make the cut are withheld from the Newsfeed, although they may make a brief appearance in the Ticker.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the three factors that make up EdgeRank.
Affinity is the strength of the relationship between a user and one of their connections (friend, Page, group, etc.). Because Facebook can’t read a user’s mind (yet) to determine their affinity for a specific connection, they rely on a user’s engagements to construct the affinity score.
What engagements are they tracking? Simple answer: every single one.
Not-so-simple-answer: There are the obvious, story-creating engagements—likes, comments, posts, and shares; and the non-story-creating engagements— link clicks, video plays, photo views, profile browsing (like I said—everything!).
The most important thing for Facebook Page marketers to understand is that this score is unilateral for every user and each one of their individual connections. Let’s consider an example to make this extremely clear:
Ashley and Matt are Facebook friends. Ashley has a crush on Matt– she browses Matt’s profile and views his pictures every week. She occasionally ‘likes’ his updates. Matt, on the other hand, hasn’t ever viewed Ashley’s profile, pictures or engaged with her posts since she added him a year ago. Ashley will see most– if not all– posts from Matt on her Newsfeed because she has a high affinity score for Matt, while Matt will probably never see any of Ashley’s posts because he has a low affinity score for Ashley.
This same logic applies to other connections users have—like Pages. This is why it is so critical to provide value for fans and keep them engaged. A fan who liked your Page two years ago when you ran an advertising campaign on Facebook and hasn’t engaged since is nothing but a vanity metric for you—they add to your fan count but your messages never actually reach them. Don’t panic though, as a lack of engagement for one fan has no effect on whether or not any other fans of your page see your updates.
Weight is the value of a certain story, as Facebook values each type of story differently. For example, a “like” on a post weighs less than a “comment” on the same post. This plays a large factor in optimizing for virality of your Page’s posts—but more importantly, the type of your Page’s post.
As a Facebook Page marketer, you know the name of the game is to reach as many of your fans with a post so that there are more people who can engage and also who are influenced by your message. The type of the post you create will determine the weight of the “edge” or story you are creating—and thus, play a large role in determining how many of your fans will see it in their Newsfeeds.
Although there isn’t a significant difference in the reach of a text-only status update (the least-valued post type for “weight”) compared to a post with a video, there are several reasons why the most engaging Pages only post photos, links and videos (and almost never text-only status updates). The analysis and reasoning behind this will be explained in an upcoming post on “The 4 Factors of Post Optimization”.
This factor is the only one of the three Edgerank factors that is sometimes mistaken with a wrong definition. Time Decay has nothing to do with the time since the “connection” was created (ie. the date of Pages liked or the date of when a friend request was accepted). Hope this brings relief to some marketers.
Time Decay is simply the “freshness” of the post. It’s all about how much time has passed since the story was created. This is the reason you won’t see posts from yesterday sitting at the top of your Newsfeed when you log in. It’s also why the posts in your Newsfeed are in (approximately) reverse-chronological order. The simple solution to battling Time Decay—post consistently so that new posts replace older posts as they ‘decay’. More details on how you can factor in Time Decay into your Post Optimization strategy will also be explained in detail in an upcoming post on “The 4 Factors of Post Optimization”.
Takeaways and Notes
To the chagrin of most Facebook Page marketers, EdgeRank stands between your messages and your fans. With EdgeRank in the way, fan engagement is everything. You can’t reach every single one of your fans through a single post as you (potentially) can with your followers on Twitter. Remember that you’re competing with – on average – 350 other connections for a spot on the Newsfeed. With that said, before you press the ‘post’ button—ask yourself if you’re providing value to your fans—so that they engage with your posts and continue to see them in the future.
Update 9/13/12: Like Infographics? We do too! We published one on EdgeRank. Check out the preview below or the full infographic here:
Interested in learning more about what we do at PostRocket and how we can help you battle EdgeRank? Join our waiting list and we’ll send you an invite soon– or check out a free report on your page’s performance!