Facebook News Feed for Small Business Owners

By Rickey Helsel & Dr. Todd Bacile | August 6, 2013

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How do I get my posts to show up in my Facebook audience’s news feeds?” It’s a question that is often asked by many small business owners. The following is a simple and concise explanation that the non-technical business person should understand.

The first step to optimizing your social media content is recognizing that Facebook is also a business. Facebook stays in business by keeping users engaged. And its success is attributed to the EdgeRank algorithm.

What is EdgeRank?

EdgeRank is a formula that Facebook uses to predict which posts a particular user (i.e. your customer) would like to see in their news feed. All of the components of this proprietary formula are not made public; however, we do know that it contains three main variables:

  • Affinity
  • Weight
  • Time Decay

Focusing your content creation in these three areas will optimize your posts to appear more often in news feeds.

Affinity – Who posted it?

An affinity score is Facebook’s numerical value assigned to how much a user likes your brand’s page. Affinity is unique for every relationship. For example, the affinity score between Johnny and your Facebook page is different from the affinity score between Sally and your Facebook page.

Affinity is important because it is tied to engagement. Facebook measures engagement (and thus affinity) through actions such as:

  • Clicks
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Wall posts
  • Shares

Actions requiring more effort result in a higher level of affinity between the customer and your brand’s page. For example, a “like” is valued less than a comment on a post, because typing a message requires more effort than simply clicking “like”.

Brands stimulate engagement by asking customers to act upon posts on the brand page as a means of increasing the customer’s affinity score with the brand. Asking questions, asking for comments, requesting pictures to be posted, and asking people to like a wall post are all popular calls to action used by brands. Taking this one step further, creative brands build contests or promotions around these engagement activities.

Weight – What kind of post is it?

Different types of posts are weighted higher, and therefore have a better chance to appear in a news feed. Posting videos, photos, and links are reportedly the heaviest in weight.

Also of relevance to engagement is that Facebook users vary in which types of posts they prefer to engage. Some of your customers may prefer text, while others may prefer pictures. It is important to spend time analyzing your Facebook Insights to see which post type is most popular before tailoring your content.

As a general rule, post type variety is important. If you see that your users engage pictures more, it isn’t wise to only post pictures. Solely posting pictures alienates those who prefer to engage text or video. Find the right post type balance based on Insights.

Time Decay – How old is the post?

Think of Facebook posts as potato chips: new chips are crispy and fresh, while old chips grow stale. Facebook keeps our news feeds “fresh” by adding the element of Time Decay, which is simply a fraction of 1/X. As the age of a post grows, so does the denominator (X), which results in a smaller value.

The strategy for time decay is simple: post often (but not too often as to be a nuisance). The more fresh, quality content you put out there, the better your chances are of appearing in your audience’s news feed.

Rickey Helsel (@rickeyhelsel) is a rising new media star, with experience in mobile application development, social media advertising, electronic marketing business plan development, numerous programming languages, and management information systems. Find out more about him at RickeyHelsel.com. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans, where he teaches Electronic Marketing and Advanced Marketing Strategy. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter.

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