During a press event this Tuesday Facebook gave some insight into the algorithms that determine what a user gets to see in his or her ‘news feed’.
The news feed is the page where user’s get to see photos, status updates and other posts from Facebook friends; this is the place where Facebook users generally tend to spend most of their time. In the early days of Facebook, this used to simply be a chronological list of all messages from all Facebook friends. But as Facebook grew rapidly – there are now over one billion users worldwide – this showed to be a less convenient way of showing updates to users.
The average user could potentially get about 1500 posts per day in the news feed. But because no one has the time to check out everything, Facebook created an algorithm that filters the results. Thanks to this change, users will only see about 20 percent of all those posts. How Facebook exactly determines which messages and can not be shown, was unknown before this Tuesday.
During the event in Menlo Park, California, Facebook gave the public a peek into its algorithm for the first time. Every status update, whether it’s a text, a picture or anything else, automatically receives a score, Facebook engineering manager Lars Backstrom explained. The status updates with the highest scores are shown at the top of the news feed.
The score is not only based on the number of likes, comments and shares for a particular post, but also on the relationship the user has with the person who posted it. Furthermore, the score is also based on the Facebook friends that interacted with the particular post, and how often the user has already interacted with previous posts on this Facebook user.
Facebook announced a number of changes in this algorithm, so that not only the most recent posts are shown at the top of the feed. With the changes, older posts the user had not seen will also appear. Facebook shows these older posts on the basis of the last 50 interactions (likes, shares, posts, hides, etc.) that the user has performed on the social network.
Tests have shown that these changes ensure that the number of status updates being read increases from 57 percent to 70 percent. The number of likes for older status updates increased with 5 percent, according to Facebook. Even brands that advertise on Facebook benefit from it: on average their Facebook pages receive 8 percent more user interaction.
Promoted posts in Facebook
In 2012 Facebook introduced algorithms for paid updates. Users can pay to get promote their updates. This way they ensure that the message appears in the news feed of friends, and it avoids getting ‘buried’ by the algorithms. The amount to be paid depends on the location and the number of people that will see the update. According to Facebook nothing changed as far as ads in the news feed are concerned.
If you would like to know more about changes in Facebook algorithms, you can check out Facebook’s business blog.