Facebook Opens Up On News Feed, Makes Relevant Stories More Visible

Facebook opened up to provide an update on the new News Feed today, and specifically why users see stories from friends and brands.

New Facebook News Feed

700 million people access News Feed every day, and they expect to see the most relevant content. Marketers are laser focused on making sure their content is part of that most relevant content at the top of people's feeds. Many use tools like Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, a Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer, to make sure their Facebook content is getting maximum engagement and distribution.

Facebook News Feed optimization is such a popular topic with marketers that we’ve invested in providing lots of content on the topic. We even hosted a session at Dreamforce devoted to the topic last September.

Facebook last made a big announcement regarding News Feed this past March, when it laid out three main themes for a redesign: choice of feeds, rich stories and mobile consistency.

Much of today’s event was geared towards demystifying the News Feed as opposed to just announcing new features.  As Lars Backstrom, the engineering manager for news feed ranking wrote in a blog post: “every time someone visits News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see, and most people don’t have enough time to see them all.”

  • Here is how Facebook determines what you see in the News Feed:
  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

The one new feature Facebook announced today helps engaging content get in front of people, even though they may not have seen it because it was at the bottom of the News Feed when they logged in. The early results of this feature, which some are calling "story bumping," are promising:

  • 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
  • Previously, people read 57% of the stories in their News Feeds, on average. 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%.

The emphasis is ours. This is good news for social marketers, as Facebook tests show content from pages is being seen by more people. Facebook also mentioned two other features coming soon:

  • Last Actor: This keeps tabs on the most recent "actor" people have interacted with. As Rachel King at ZDNet explains, “For example, hitting ‘Like’ on a particular update/story at 8AM published by another user ‘signals’ that you like what that friend is doing in particular that day. Thus, the News Feed will bump up that user's stories in the rankings for the rest of the day.”
  • Chronological by Actor: This new feature is still being developed and won't launch to all users immediately. This feature attempts to better integrate and sort stories based the competing factors of rankings and time published related to a particular user/friend/contact.

Many marketers are asking us – how does this new Facebook news feed change my Facebook publishing strategy? The answer is that it does not. You still want to focus on listening to your audience, publishing relevant content that they will engage with, and then amplify that content to new audiences via social advertising.
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