How to Outsmart Facebook’s News Feed

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You’re using Facebook to grow awareness of your camp and connect with participants, but is it working? Are you using it correctly?

Unfortunately, time you spend on Facebook doesn’t always translate into immediate results.

It’s estimated that 96% of fans NEVER return to your page after the initial Like.† That means your best chance of having your message seen is to get into the News Feed of your fans. The catch is that the News Feed is the electronic equivalent of a busy street during rush hour and only about 1 in 6 fans see your Facebook page updates.‡

To increase that percentage, you need to create posts that rank high on the News Feed algorithm. Let us explain:

What is the News Feed algorithm?

Facebook uses an algorithm, previously referred to as EdgeRank, to score and rank content (posts) for display in the News Feed. The score and resulting rank of your content is measured by how, and how often, your fans interact with it. This algorithm is not a static thing—it’s constantly being tweaked and improved by Facebook. In fact, it’s now estimated that over 100,000 data points go into determining what is shown in the News Feed.

In a way, this algorithm is Facebook’s “secret sauce.” It’s constantly working in the background trying to determine which stories will be most interesting and relevant to users. If you think about how many people and organizations are on Facebook, there’s just not enough real estate in the feed to show everything that is posted. In fact, Facebook says that the typical user has about 1,500 stories that could show up in the News Feed on every visit. The algorithm is needed to sort through all that content and deliver only the most interesting stuff without overwhelming users.

How the News Feed Algorithm Scores Content

The three primary categories that Facebook’s algorithm takes into consideration are called Affinity, Weight, and Decay. Here’s what’s important for you to know about each:

+ AFFINITY is the measure of the relationship between the user and the content creator (for our market that means your event or brand). The closer the relationship, the higher the score. The relationship is measured by repeated interactions. So, it’s natural to assume that posts from a user’s best friend will get a higher ranking than a post from your camp, because the user is interacting with them much more often.

While that’s a pretty simple description, Affinity is one of the strongest and most powerful influencers in the Facebook world. As the algorithm has evolved, many new categories and sub-categories of Affinity have been added. But the most important concept to understand is that the more your followers engage with your content, the better your Affinity score.

Two new aspects of Affinity recently announced by Facebook are Story Bumping and Last Actor. Story Bumping will show older Facebook posts in a user’s News Feed if those stories are still getting a lot of engagement (likes, comments, shares) and if they haven’t already appeared in that user’s News Feed. This gives some stories a longer lifespan if they prove to be popular. Last Actor tracks a user’s last 50 interactions and adds weight to those more recent comments and likes. This goes on and on continuously…interaction #51 will elbow out interaction #1. So, recency matters!

+ WEIGHT scores news stories by type. Generally, photos and videos have the highest weight, followed by links, and then text-only updates. That being said, people engaging with any type of news story can increase its Weight (and don’t forget to consider the Affinity attributes we just talked about). So focus on creating quality, timely content for your audience rather than worrying as much about which type of content. The way people respond matters most—for example, comments are given more Weight than likes.

+ DECAY (or RECENCY) scores the relative freshness of your content. The newer it is, the higher the score…the older, the less “valued.” But let’s keep in mind the Story Bumping mentioned above—it’s important to consider that here too. Remember that the more interaction you can encourage the better, because it will prolong the life of your content and overcome the Decay factor.

How to Make the News Feed Algorithm Work For You

You may understand what the algorithm is and its importance, but how do you actually increase your ranking? For the most part, people “like” or follow event pages because they want to learn about special offers, they want insider info, or they want to be part of a community (AKA the “social proof” of wanting everyone to know their affiliation). You can use these motivations to your advantage—here are a few tactics to outsmart the Facebook News Feed algorithm:

+ Reward social sharers. When fans share your content, you benefit as much as they do. Dream up simple, yet creative ways to engage them and offer a reward for the comments, likes or shares they give you. For example, start a contest for “most embarrassing photo” or highlight a participant of the week and offer a camp t-shirt or a sponsor’s product as a reward. The buzz you can generate may far exceed your investment!

+ Be visual. It’s very important to use lots of images and eye-friendly content. Some brands, like the NBA or NFL, are inherently engaging because of their media-rich content—your camp falls within the same category. All of your camp photos and videos give you an advantage and are in demand, so use them! Post them, ask fans to share or comment on them, and use hashtags to create a movement. ASK for engagement. Don’t be afraid to just ask for it—“like this photo,” “share this coupon,””comment on this!” You’ll be surprised at how many people respond.

+ Post on a regular schedule. Consistently posting helps fans know when to expect a message from you and also keeps your camp top of mind. If you post sporadically, it’s much easier to lose attention. Create a content calendar and plan out a posting schedule in advance. This will help you be more strategic and regular in posting.

What is the Top Takeaway?

Create authentic content that is visual and relevant to your fans, but also remember that’s only half the battle. Getting your fans and followers to interact with that content is key to outsmarting Facebook’s News Feed algorithm and building your camp’s visibility.