By David Dorf on May 24, 2011
Although the term "news feed optimization" has been around since 2007, I didn't realize its importance until talking with Wade Gerten of 8th Bridge. Getting people to Like your brand is only the first step. Next the brand must leverage that relationship, typically via the news feed. But without some work, those fans will never see what's posted in their news feed. That's where news feed optimization comes in. NFO is to Facebook as SEO is to Google.
You'll notice at the top of your Facebook page there are two choices for your news feed: Top News and Most Recent, with Top News being the default. Facebook uses a secret ranking system, called EdgeRank, to determine which stories belong in your Top News, and of course many people have attempted to reserve engineer the algorithm.
While the exact algorithm is not known, Facebook has shared the basics of EdgeRank, the algorithm behind Top News. For any story, there are three things that determine its score: affinity, weight, and recency. The affinity is based on the closeness of the reader and the poster. Every time you like or comment on an item, that increases your affinity with that item and/or person. So if you comment on Bob's postings a lot, Bob's postings will score higher and be more likely to show on your news feed.
Posting types are weighted differently based on their level of engagement. Photos tend to be weighted higher than shared links or status updates because they have a higher engagement. Ever wonder why Coke posts tons of images? Things that have more comments are weighted higher than things with lots of Likes. It takes more time to read a comment, and thus the engagement level is higher.
Of course no one wants a stale news feed, so as postings age their rank decreases. But something that has very high engagement may linger on your news feed as people continue to comment, for example.
Just as retailers have learned how to manipulate PageRank to move up in Google search, they need to also think about EdgeRank so their social media efforts in Facebook pay off. That means using more images, getting fans to engage with comments and not just Likes, and keeping the posting fresh and relevant.