Facebook Messes With News Feed Again, Presents New Visibility Challenges

    August 20, 2013
    Chris Crum

Facebook has been messing around with the way the News Feed works again, even as many people are still waiting to even get access to the “new” News Feed design the company unveiled all the way back in March. This has implications not only for users, but for businesses who rely on reaching customers in one of the most-viewed spots on the Internet.

Are the changes Facebook has been making to the News Feed good or bad for businesses? For users? Let us know what you think.

Facebook announced that it has made an update to the News Feed ranking algorithm, making organic stories that people didn’t scroll down far enough to see reappear near the top of the feed when they’re getting a bunch of likes and comments. This is being referred to as “story bumping”.

Facebook has been testing the change, and shared some data points surrounding it.

“In a recent test with a small number of users, this change resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages,” says Facebook’s Lars Backstrom.

“Previously, people read 57% of the stories in their News Feeds, on average,” says Backstrom. “They did not scroll far enough to see the other 43%. When the unread stories were resurfaced, the fraction of stories read increased to 70%.”

Well, that sounds pretty good for both users and businesses, no? This way, as a user, you’re going to see more content you missed, some of which you might actually be interested in. As a business, it means you have more chances to get in front of users, which has become increasingly hard to do (at least without paying Facebook). While we say the News Feed is presenting new challenges, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more challenging to attain visibility. It just means there are new factors to consider.

But make no mistake. It will still be a challenge to get in front of users. Facebook reportedly said that 1,500 potential stories are filtered from your News Feed on any given day.

The company also announced some other interesting changes called “Last Actor” and “Chronological By Actor”.

The first looks at the 50 most recent people you engaged with on Facebook, and shows more of them in the feed. The latter aims to put updates from friends in chronological order when they post a series of updates, which makes sense in the case of live-Facebooking events, TV shows, games, etc.

Story Bumping is reportedly live on the desktop and is rolling out to mobile, while Last Actor has rolled out, and Chronological By Actor is coming in the future.

Ari Rosenstein, VP of Marketing for Facebook PMD Adotomi says, “The News Feed has clearly been the key to Facebook’s success over the last two quarters. It seems like such a natural feature to be in a social network, but it has truly revolutionized our personal communication and proved to be the revenue driver that Facebook was searching for since it’s IPO. The News Feed is where we instinctively go to get the latest information about our friends, but also about the world. Often we find out about greater news events because of the reactions to news stories by our friends and family. If YouTube is our custom picked media channel, then the Facebook News Feed is the media channel our friends pick for us. All of the content is picked by others yet it retains a very high degree of relevancy to us, making one of the best information recommendation and discovery engines out there.”

“News Feed improvements like ‘Last Actor’ and ‘Story Bumping’ are going to make newsfeed content even more targeted and relevant for users which is a great benefit,” Rosenstein adds. “For advertisers they should look to focus more on ads in the News Feed and less on page posts to Fans as ads will allow for better targeting, larger reach, and the ability to better control the duration of the message.”

EdgeRank, which has historically been the foundation for Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, is apparently no longer a thing, at least in name. Now it’s just the News Feed Algorithm.

“While the name ‘EdgeRank’ may be disappearing, News Feed content will still be ranked based on weighing factors like user affinity and the number and types of engagements a post receives; factors that are already in use with EdgeRank. However, the importance of optimizing for previous EdgeRank factors like time decay is changing significantly,” writes Adam Greenwald at marketing firm iCrossing.

“These changes highlight a distinct difference: it’s now not just how recently a story was posted that matters, but how recently you engaged with that user or Page,” he notes. “With these new adjustments to Facebook’s algorithm, the winning strategy for brands will include optimizing not only for the timing and frequency of Page posts, but for frequent Page engagements. Optimizing for maximum engagement should continue to be first and foremost in the minds of social marketers.”

In other words, don’t just expect to say things on your Facebook Page, and expect them to be seen by a large number of people. The more you actually engage with your fans, and expand combinations, the more likely you will have a successful post, visibility wise.

Facebook is discussing the ongoing changes it makes to News Feed in a new series of blog posts. This began this week with one about Story Bumping (though it’s not actually referred to as that in the post). You can expect others to appear on the Facebook For Business blog.

Facebook also completed the roll-out of Graph Search in the U.S. This also has very significant implications for businesses, particularly local businesses. The implications will only expand as the feature’s functionality does. The company reminded us that it is still working on features like the ability to search for posts, comments, and of course Graph Search for mobile.

The company is also testing Trending Topics in its apparent efforts to become more like Twitter – a place for public conversations. There are going to be marketing opportunities on that front as well.

Do you like what Facebook is doing with the News Feed? Do you consider the updates improvements? Let us know in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.