When the king or queen of England dies, the official announcement is made in a way that reassures people of the continuity of the monarchy: “The king is dead! Long live the king!” In other words, “Don’t worry, guys, the old king is dead, but his successor is already in charge – everything’s gonna be okay.”
We think a similar announcement should have been made regarding the recent algorithm changes at Facebook. Yes, EdgeRank as we knew it is dead. But don’t panic – the monarchy will go on. EdgeRank’s successor is different and more complex, but not drastically so.
The main factors for its News Feed rankings are still the same: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay. What’s different? The addition of the Story Bumping Signal and the Last Actor Signal.
Officially, this new algorithm doesn’t even have a name yet – sort of like little Prince George in the first couple days of his life. But we do already know a lot about it, because Facebook has decided that they are going to be more open about their algorithms going forward. And with that new openness will come a better understanding of how businesses can use these changes to their advantage. Here’s how things have changed:
Story Bumping is a new factor that decreases the effect of Time Decay in the algorithm. Usually, a post “decays” after about 3 hours, which means most people’s news feeds do not contain old content, whether or not they had a chance to see it. But now, Facebook records which updates people have seen and which they haven’t, so they can still have access to those older posts in their news feed – if they have a high enough EdgeRank value.
Facebook describes it like this: “When users load up Facebook in the morning, a finite number of stories are shown on screen. They can scroll to view additional stories, but inevitably users leave some unread before clicking elsewhere.
Story bumping ensures that when the user logs-in to Facebook later in the day, some of these unread stories are brought to the top of their News Feed alongside whatever has been posted since they last accessed the social network.”
In tests, Story Bumping increased engagement significantly: 70% of stories were read, as opposed to only 57% without Story Bumping. So far, Story Bumping has been rolled out on the web, but is not yet available for mobile.
So how can we harness this change for online marketing purposes? For one thing, good posts will now probably be able to attract more engagement for longer periods of time, since the effects of Time Decay will be weakened by Story Bumping. On the other hand, posts without a high EdgeRank value will disappear from news feeds much more quickly. It’ll be vital to know how long any given post is likely to last, in order to determine when to post your next update.
The other change to Facebook’s algorithm is the Last Actor Signal. Facebook is now tracking the last 50 people and pages that users have interacted with, and then giving them a higher Affinity value. What we as marketers want is to be one of those last 50 pages! How a company achieves this will vary, but increasing post frequency, or simply delivering excellent content, are two approaches that might just work.
So don’t mourn too long for EdgeRank – long live the new algorithm! Story Bumping and Last Actor can definitely benefit you in your Facebook marketing efforts.