How does the Facebook algorithm work (and work around it)?

Let me start this article with two questions. Do you think your posts on Facebook get the visibility you want? Would you like to appear more often in people’s news feeds?

If your answer to any of these 2 questions is yes, keep reading because this article was written for you.

First, if few people see your publications, that’s normal. In fact, it’s possible that just 10% of your fans see your latest posts.

You know why?

It’s Facebook that decides and more precisely, its algorithm previously called Edgerank, Facebook’s algorithm dictates who sees your publications and who does not see them.

Why?

When Facebook implemented its algorithm 7 years ago, in 2010, Facebook faced several challenges
• More and more people were registering on the platform and publishing content, which means an overabundance of content and therefore a denser news feed.
• The desire to offer personalized content adapted to the interests of its users and
• Find a solution to make its users addicted to its platform.

From there, was born the algorithm of Facebook, nicknamed Edgerank at the time.

Like Coca-Cola, Facebook has not made public the operation of this algorithm, which uses thousands of factors to classify publications! Obviously, marketers and other Facebook professionals have managed to understand some of the factors that allow Edgerank to post and rank your posts in the news feed.

The purpose of this article is to show you how the Facebook algorithm works, and most importantly, how to optimize the visibility of your publications in the news feed.

Now, Facebook’s algorithm is called the “News Feed Algorithm”. This is how I will mention it in this article.

How does the Facebook algorithm work?

At the F8 Summit, Adam Mosseri made a very interesting analogy with an example of everyday life to illustrate how the News Feed Algorithm works. And he chose as an example, the choice of a meal for another person at the restaurant, to illustrate the operation of the News Feed Algorithm. Suppose you had to choose a dish for your wife at the restaurant, how would you do it? According to Adam, this “process” is done in four steps:

• First, look at the menu to know its options.
• Think about all the information available to us (i.e. what does she like to eat, is it lunch or dinner, what are the good dishes in the restaurant).
• From there, make predictions (i.e. would she like salmon for lunch, would it be odd to order a croissant in the evening, etc.)
• Comes the moment to pass order: the conclusion.

Facebook’s algorithm works the same way, in 4 steps:
• Inventory (What’s on the menu?)
• Context and Signals (What time is it?) Is it lunch or dinner?
• Predictions (Would she like salmon?)
• Score (order now)

Let me explain in more detail these 4 steps.

Inventory
When you log in to Facebook, Facebook’s algorithm takes an inventory of everything that has been published by your friends and the pages you follow.

Signals
Facebook then analyses all the data at its disposal to precisely predict the publications that interest you the most. These data, Facebook calls them the ‘signals’.

Facebook uses thousands of signals to classify all content, such as:
• Who has published (a friend, a page, a personality).
• On which device the user is connected (phone, tablet, desktop).
• What time is it right now?
(Signals later in the article).

Predictions

Facebook then uses these signals to make predictions about the content that might interest you, we speak:
• Content you would like to read
• Content that you find useful or informative.
• Content that you would like to interact with (like, comment, share, click).
• Content you would like to stop (like a nice photo or a video).

Score

Now it’s time for Facebook’s algorithm to choose and rank the posts in your news feed.
For this, it assigns a relevance score (which evaluates your supposed interest for a publication) and this, for each of the publications. This is how Facebook classifies publications (in a very simplified way).

If you understand correctly, the News Feed algorithm determines:
• When a publication needs to be served or not in a user’s news feed
• If so, in which position to rank this publication in the news feed.

As you might expect, Facebook’s algorithm gets better over time. At most, you spend time on Facebook and the more you are active (like pages, interact, etc.), the better its algorithm is able to predict the publications you would like to see. As a result, Facebook makes sure your news feed is as personalized as possible, for your enjoyment… and Facebook’s.

The 5 factors that Facebook’s algorithm uses to classify your content

The “signals” that Facebook uses are extremely important because they allow the Facebook algorithm to determine the visibility (or range) of your publications.

As I said at the beginning of the article, the secret formula of Facebook’s algorithm for classifying your publications is secret and, is based on more than 10000 parameters. However, we can still decrypt the most important.

First, one thing Adam mentioned at the F8 Summit is that the pages you choose to love and the people you choose to be friends with are extremely important. This information allows the algorithm to have a basic idea about the content that might interest you.

So far, I’m not teaching you anything. But that’s not all. Many other criteria (signals) refine the ranking of publications in your news feed.

Here is an equation simplified by Tech Crunch:

The interest of a user compared to its creator (= commitment)
This is perhaps the most important criterion and that is why we always say that we should focus on the relationship with your community, rather than the number of fans.

Specifically, the more you interact with a page, Facebook will tend to show you the publications of this page in your news feed. Hence the importance of having interactions on your publications.

Not all interactions have the same value on Facebook. Indeed, Facebook assigns a “weight” to your publication. For that, it takes into consideration:
• The number of people who interact with your content.
• The type of interaction.

For example, a comment will have more weight than a simple “Like”. The Holy Grail on Facebook is sharing. This is a strong signal for Facebook when a user shares your content on his news feed.

Also note that the reactions (emojis) have a weight greater than the likes.

What changes in 2018: With the update of the algorithm on January 11, 2018, the Person-Page interactions will have less value for the algorithm than the Person-Person interactions.

The performance of your publication with other users

If the publication is successful (= feedback, comments, sharing, etc.) from other Facebook users, the Facebook algorithm will conclude that this publication is interesting and will show it in the news feed and other users.

In fact, if your publication receives commitment from the beginning (mentions likes, comments, likes, shares), chances are that it will be successful.
Concretely, here is how it happens:

• You post a publication on Facebook.
• The algorithm starts and analyses your content. What kind of content is this? An image, text, video, live or link?

Then the algorithm will show your content to some of your fans. This is where you will appreciate what I will tell you next. If these people react positively to your content, the algorithm will extend your content to the rest of your subscribers.

If someone clicks on “I like” or “I love” or clicks on your link, if people comment, if they share then for Facebook, for the Facebook algorithm it means that people are interested by your content. That’s how the algorithm will decide to extend your content to more of your subscribers.

It’s that simple!

And frankly, if you understand that, you’ve understood a lot about the Facebook algorithm. Facebook favours the user experience and it is the commitment that shows Facebook that your publication is interesting.

You understand why a page that much commitment does not have, is doomed to see its publications fall on deaf ears. An exceptional post may need to have more visibility.

What changes in 2018: The success of a publication was dictated by the commitment in general (reactions, comments, sharing, clicks, time spent on the publication.

Now, the success of a publication will be determined by the comments it raises. The more these comments are long and thought, the more the algorithm will give you a boost.

The creator (Who publishes?)

It’s simple, if your page generates few interactions, it’s cruel but the scope of your future publications will be limited. Hence the importance of producing very qualitative content! Remember the user goes before anyone else on Facebook.

If you have few interactions on your page, you will have to give a boost to your publication so that we see your publications.

What’s changing in 2018: No change since the update! Always use your Page to interact with your community, not to promote yourself! Facebook has warned us, pages that are self-promotion will be punished.

Content type

Is it text? A link? A picture? A video? A live?
Facebook is gradually becoming a platform cantered on video. It is thus the video content (published in native) which is privileged by the algorithm of Facebook.

Then come the images and the links. Currently, the content that gets the most important reach and harvest the most commitment is the Live Facebook. It was introduced over a year ago.

Note that Facebook will focus on the content that interests you the most. So, if you like and often comment on images, Facebook will put more in your news feed.

What changes in 2018: Before the update, the pre-recorded videos benefited from an organic boost. At present, this is no longer the case. Facebook prefers that you leave comments on the publications.

The time spent watching a video was appreciated by the algorithm, now it is seen as a passive interaction. It is therefore necessary that your videos are commented to benefit from a boost (it’s up to you to ask questions!).

With the update, it seems that we will have to focus on Live that creates “meaningful interactions” as said Mark Zuckerberg.

The recency

The age of a publication is also considered by the Facebook algorithm. A post that is several hours old will have more trouble appearing on the news feed when you sign in, unless you have received a high engagement rate.

Hence the importance of publishing when your fans are here!

So much for the main signals used by the Facebook algorithm. And these are just some of the signals that are used by the News Feed algorithm. You see the complexity of such an algorithm!

What changes in 2018: Always the same logic, publish if possible when your fans are online! Feel free to boost your publications that worked well but are less recent.

How to bypass the Facebook algorithm

Encourage engagement – the number of people interacting with your Facebook page. Fortunately, there are effective and free ways to boost interactions on your Facebook page.

Here are some tips you can apply today.

Favour visual content (photos, animated GIFs, videos, etc.)

Visual content is more likely to attract attention than just textual content. Take a tour in your news feed. You’ll find that most of the content is visual, but only a small part of that content is in video format (at least that’s what I see in my news feed).

There are places to take with the video.
Making videos is not just for everyone, but it’s what produces the most interaction on Facebook.

Publish your videos in native

If you make video, publish your videos natively.
Posting natively means loading the video directly from Facebook. Facebook will naturally give more visibility to your video if you publish it directly from Facebook rather than share a YouTube link.

Buffer also recommends publishing your videos in square format because they take up more space on mobile. You then have all the attention of the user with your video.

Make a live!
If you are comfortable on video, do not hesitate to make a Facebook Live. Facebook has introduced the possibility of making Lives in 2016. The least we can say is that it works. No need to switch to TV to be live. It’s now possible on Facebook and at your fingertips…

According to Facebook, users comment 10 times more on live video than pre-recorded videos.

Live video has other advantages:

• Organic reach and commitment are far more important than a conventional publication;
• Some of your fans will receive a notification to tell you that you are in Live;
• You can even predict the event in advance (to avoid being alone in Live!).

Eurosport regularly posts Lives on its Facebook page.

In my opinion, Live has enabled Eurosport to significantly develop its Facebook page and engage its community. Eurosport journalists give their opinion and play on humor.
In the end, I think we even want to read their articles on the Eurosport website because we have this impression of better the team.
This even gives them an advantage over other football media that are just content to relay Football news.

Post when your fans are online

To see your publications, you have to publish them at the right time. When your fans are online preferably.

Remember, Facebook’s algorithm reinforces the reach of publications that get interactions fast. So, publish when your fans are connected.

To find out, there are several solutions:

• Either you play the riddles to find out but you may be wrong …;
• Either ask Google when your fans are online. Be careful, you may find a different answer in each article;
• Either you use the audience statistics of your Facebook page to determine when your fans are online.

This is the last solution that I recommend!

Go to “Statistics”, then “Publications” and finally to the “When your fans are online” section.

Produce “shareable” content
It is the most important. If nobody wants to share your content, it will only appear in the news feed of some of your fans. Here’s what I found by managing the Facebook page of my old blog. People share photos and videos much more than links.

To increase the sharing of your publications, you can play on:
• The emotions.
• Storytelling.
• Social value.

Conclusion

In my opinion, what’s important to remember from this article is that, as always, the important thing is to produce as much engaging, useful and informative content as possible, rather than producing mass content but low quality (less more!)

Make the most of multimedia, especially video and Facebook lives. I recently read an interesting statistic that 80% of web content will be video in 2019!

You can also boost your publications (pay a few moneys to Facebook to show your posts to more people) to increase engagement on your Facebook Page.

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