Facebook’s Algorithm, and How the EdgeRank Works

Remember this? You posted a video on your Facebook business page, and you're convinced that this post will go viral. Hours later, the posts’ reach is still at 8 people. EdgeRank has struck again. The News Feed Algorithm decides if and who of your fans will see your content. But how does it actually work?

EdgeRank – Facebooks’ News Feed Algorithm

Remember this situation? You posted a video on your Facebook business page, and you’re convinced that this post will go viral. Hours later, the posts’ reach is still at 8 people. EdgeRank has struck again.

Because of what many people don’t know: Only a small percentage of your fans – more precisely 2% – sees your content in their news feed. The so-called organic (= unpaid) reach is virtually non-existent. Facebook wants to prevent that its users are flooded with content. But why does the platform do this?

Well, on the one hand, Facebook is a company like any other. To continue providing us with a multitude of free features, Facebook requires companies to invest in advertising. By reducing the organic reach of pages, companies need to invest in Facebook Ads to get their content seen.

On the other hand, Facebook is growing steadily. Meanwhile, more than 2 billion people are registered on the platform. Each of these users has an average of 155 friends and is connected to around 80 pages, groups or events. I’ll leave the math to you, how much content pounces on their news feeds.

More users, more content, same amount of news feed space

Facebook’s primary goal was and is to connect people. That’s why content from friends and family is prioritized in the news feed.

But, if your content is good and well received by people, your reach can also exceed the number of your fans.

What is the EdgeRank?

The Facebook algorithm, or EdgeRank, works in a similar way to Google’s PageRank. It rates content and shows how popular a page currently is. In short, the EdgeRank indicates how many users see your content and how many interact with it.

There are thousands of signals that influence the Facebook algorithm:

  • The time you spend reading a post.
  • How many times has this post been posted or shared by other people?
  • Is your profile information complete and correct?
  • Do you upload videos natively to Facebook?

However, the EdgeRank can be defined as the sum of the following 3 factors:

𝛴 U W D

What at first glance looks like higher algebra is, in reality, the basis of everything that happens on Facebook. The EdgeRank of a post consists of the sum of the affinity of the user (U), the weight of the content (W), and a time decay factor (D).

Affinity

The affinity is evaluated from the perspective of a user. It depends on which Facebook page has just posted. Has the user already interacted with articles of this page in the past? How long has it been since the user was in contact with the page?

But not only the author but also the type of content has an influence on the affinity of a user. The more a Facebook user interacts with a particular type of content (text, photo, video, link, etc.), the more she sees this type in her news feed.

However, a small test shows that the affinity score can be easily manipulated. Give it a try. Ready? For 2 days, only interact with a specific type of content, such as football videos. While the videos appear only occasionally in your newsfeed in the first two days, you will be flooded by them on the third day.

The Facebook algorithm recognizes that you are interested in this type of content. That’s why it shows you, after a short period of adjustment, a variety of such posts.

Weight

Your posts are objects. They grow with time and become heavier. But what makes them grow? Interactions. And the heavier a post is, the further up it gets pushed in the news feed of a user.

The more users interact with a post, the more people see this post. For Facebook this is the signal: “This content is interesting!”

But not every interaction has the same weight. For example, a “Like” is just the starting point for more reach. Studies have shown that the weighting of interactions is distributed as follows:

Like < Reaction < Comment < Tag < Share

A click on the “Share” button is the most powerful way to make your post “heavier”.

Time Decay Factor

The EdgeRank’s final piece of the puzzle focuses on a time factor. When was the content posted? The decay factor also checks when a user logged in the last time.

If a post was already interacted within its initial phase, chances are higher that it will be seen later by other users who were not online at the time it was posted.

In general, however, it can be said that more recent content is usually provided with a higher EdgeRank.

Conclusion

If you want to understand the Facebook algorithm, you have to deal intensively with it. And even then, you will never fully understand, or even calculate the EdgeRank. Nevertheless, you can control the algorithm. (For how this works, read in my 5 tips for a higher EdgeRank.)

But beware: Facebook updates its algorithm almost weekly. What works today can be obsolete in a few days. Stay up-to-date on the Facebook NewsRoom.