The power of social media swept through the Middle East as the Arab Spring brought democracy and freedom to previously deprived people. It’s now apparent that the Middle East is socially savvy and exploring the intricacies of using social media for business. I was recently asked to speak at the 2013 Digital Marketing Arts Conference in Cairo about my knowledge of the news feed and how to best take advantage of it.
I’ll use this space to touch on the topics I discussed to help further educate those who were unable to attend.
How Do People Use Facebook?
The typical Facebook user spends most of their time in the News Feed. The News Feed is a living breathing space of constant change as users create and contribute content. For brands, this is where you want to be. This is where you want people seeing, engaging with, and sharing your content. The News Feed has finite space, just like real estate, and isn’t getting bigger anytime soon.
Where Did The News Feed Come From?
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the first wave of students using Facebook. I joined as an incoming Freshman when Facebook opened up to all universities. Back then, Facebook was not what it is today. We had Profiles, no News Feed, and people actually used Groups.
Facebook knew there was a greater opportunity at hand. There was too much information coming, and it had to live somewhere. What better place than a News Feed? Facebook needed a way to connect people with the most interesting content, that was more complex than just showing everything at once.
Facebook invented EdgeRank to do this.
Why Invent An Algorithm?
Facebook didn’t do something completely original, EdgeRank was the result of a process started long ago. The large and successful social network platforms have all strived to connect users with the most interesting content. Let’s take a look back in time:
In the early days of the Internet BBSs reigned supreme. For those who don’t remember, BBSs represent Bulletin Board Systems. Just as their name implies, they acted like the online version of bulletin boards. These systems structured digital information in a way where people could access and consume the most interesting content. This was done with a traditional table of contents and categorization.
Yahoo looked at BBSs with a different lens. BBSs would not suffice. A platform that enables users to find the best content would require a directory of web pages. Human curators would dive through web pages and determine their value within existing categories. This was a monumental task, yet sufficient at the time. Users were happy finding the best content.
Google looked at this and realized the task on hand would be much, much larger. They were looking at millions of web pages, if not billions. They needed a way to deliver the best content to users who could custom define their category while sifting through web. Google invented PageRank, which is an iconic algorithm that enables Google to automate—and dominate—the process of users finding the best content.
Facebook looked at their platform and realized that the level of objects that would live in their world would be immense. Trillions of objects would come and go. How does one best sort through that flow of data? They did this with an automated algorithm unveiled as EdgeRank.
What Is EdgeRank?
EdgeRank is an algorithm developed by Facebook to determine what a user sees within the News Feed. EdgeRank is made up of 3 components: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay. Affinity is the measurement of the relationship between two objects. Weight is the value of the object (a Comment is more valuable than a Like, etc). Time Decay keeps the news feed fresh with current content.
Improve The Average EdgeRank of Your Content
Use Call To Actions
This is a classic example of how to improve the average EdgeRank of your content. However, it’s often taken too literally. It takes creativity to do this effectively. I recommend thinking about how to induce engagement through positioning, as opposed to blatantly begging for engagement.
Use the structure of your content in a way to induce the appropriate engagement type. An example would would be to post a photo with a hidden object in it. Ask your fans, can you spot the hidden object? This structure inherently drives comments. This is a well thought out and clever Call To Action. Using a Call To Action can greatly increase your engagement per post.
Test & Monitor Your Content
Many social media managers fly by the seat of their pants, without doing much analysis. For some brands, this can work well, however, for many brands they are missing out on subtle improvements that could be leveraged to their advantage. Use Facebook Insights to gather basic analytics, and leverage a product like EdgeRank Checker if you want to dig deeper with automation.
Reduce Negative Feedback
This past Fall many Facebook Admins were experiencing a decrease in Reach. Facebook announced that they had made a significant change to EdgeRank which ultimately increased the weight of Negative Feedback. The bottom line is to understand and reduce your Negative Feedback to make sure you’re not being penalized. EdgeRank Checker has a great feature that dives deep into Negative Feedback: Negative Feedback Analyzer.
So get out there and drive engagement while reducing negative feedback, that’s what it’s all about. It was a pleasure to share my knowledge at the Digital Marketing Arts Conference 2013 and I hope to return to Egypt soon! If you have any questions regarding my presentation, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.