Facebook, Edgerank and a brand's ability to communicate to its fans

29/10/2012

By: Gavin Sinden

With more brands turning to Facebook as a way to reach their audiences, Gavin Sinden looks at practical ways you can ensure more of your brand's posts get seen by fans and their wider circles of friends.

digital-strategy-facebook-edgerank-and-brands-ability-to-communicate-to-fans.jpgFacebook has changed the nature of social media marketing. Its unstoppable rise to become the dominant consumer platform means all marketers need a deep understanding of how to apply best practice - and overcome the pitfalls many brands tumble into.

As a consumer, your first experience of a brand starts with seeing content in your Newsfeed or through a sponsored story. As a marketer, by understanding the process that gets the content there, you're better placed to become a smart social media marketer.

When you see stories in your newsfeed most people (and most brand managers) don't realize that Facebook prioritizes what appears. You don't see everything that friends or brands publish, but only a tiny portion that Facebook "chooses" to share with you. Facebook has developed algorithms that try to prioritise the stories a consumer is most likely to find interesting and therefore to engage with. This means that the race is on to create content that genuinely engages with the consumer. The more consumers engage the more likely it is that Facebook will show that post to more and more people.

Facebook said in May that only 16% of a brand's posts are seen by its fan's, however studies by agencies since then have seen this number fall significantly. Social Bakers did a recent review, which found the following levels of reach depending on the size of your Facebook fan base:

digital-strategy-average-post-reach-of-your-facebook-page.png

What governs the chances of your post, status update, photo, brand "like", etc. (Facebook calls them all "Edges") being visible is decided by an algorithm called Edgerank. This is an algorithm that is calculated for every individual every time they log in to Facebook and combines three elements:

  1. Affinity Score - how often do you react (comment, click, like) to a brand or friend's posts.
  2. Edge Weight - not all edges are equal, broadly a comment is more important than a like, a photo more important than a comment. This is customized by the user, depending on the sort of content they engage with.
  3. Time Decay - Newer posts are more likely to be higher up the Newsfeed. Again this is customized to an individual by how often they log into their Facebook page and when they last logged in.

Mark Zuckerburg the CEO of Facebook has said in an interview that people were finding the algorithm "too spooky" in guessing what they would be interested in. So a random element was introduced, so that alongside the top "Edgerank content" any story could pop to the top. However this random element is a small minority of the content that appears in your Newsfeed.

This means that unless a consumer is VERY engaged with a brand, regularly viewing and posting content, it is unlikely that content produced by the brand will surface on their Newsfeeds naturally. This puts the pressure on brands to create content that is going to inspire and engage their fans. If they don't their Facebook posts will only address core brand fans that are likely to be reached through multiple methods, (on pack, website, etc.).

The chances of your fan's friends being able to see those fans engage with the brand in their newsfeeds is even more unlikely. This means that sponsored stories often become the only way to really promote your brand using your fans' brand advocacy - often cited as the main benefit of Facebook. This moves Facebook from owned to paid media when it comes to widening consumer reach.

Brands are now facing a number of significant issues. The basic approach of posting regular content on your Facebook page, whilst an absolute necessity and a hygiene factor for any Facebook strategy, is unlikely to be enough to deliver significant value anymore. Facebook, by using Edgerank in pursuit of a better consumer experience is trying to force the marketer into conducting more Facebook paid advertising. This creates both an opportunity and a threat. The threat is posts being seen by smaller and smaller numbers of your fans. The opportunity for brands is to create really fabulous content that will stand out from competitors who just don't get it!

This puts additional pressure on brand marketers and their agencies to come up with fabulous content. Engagement has to be both deep and sustained to ensure you are seen regularly in the consumers' newsfeed. The more often they are encouraged to interact with the brand, through deeper and more complex content, the more chance there is of Edgerank working in your favour. Content needs to be interactive encouraging comments and include elements such as video to increase the "Edge Weight" component of the algorithm and make it work for them rather against them. Another area that can help with the regularity of contact to the brand is having posts form part of an on-going story or theme with a consumer understanding that they should check back often to keep up to date and see the latest content.

One element that Facebook introduced this year that may help a brand cut through is Facebook Page Post Targeting.

digital strategy - control who sees your facebook posts.jpg

This enables a brand to specifically target a post at users based on:

  • Gender
  • Relationship Status
  • Education
  • Interested in
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language

The implication is that by using Page Post targeting you can help your engagement and Edgerank for those of your fans that particular post is targeted at. However it only seems to contribute a certain positive amount to Edgerank for that particular target group, certainly not guaranteeing visibility in the newsfeed.

Tips from the strategists
To help you get more from your digital budgets, here are a few quick tips for getting the most out of Facebook moving forward:

  1. Agencies need to be challenged with creating really engaging Facebook content encouraging fans to generate content with the greatest "Edge weight" (Photo's, Video's, etc.) to heighten the chances of appearing regularly both on their fans' newsfeeds and their fans' friends.
  2. Agencies or Brand Managers who are actually posting should make sure they use Page Post Targeting to help hit the bulls eye target group.
  3. Think why would I care, why would I share? Challenge your team to get into the mindset of the consumer. If our content is truly engaging - really informative, really useful, or really fun - then people will comment and share through their networks of friends. It's all about the quality of the experience you create.
  4. Keep on strengthening the conversation: Plan another review in 3 months so you can improve the effectiveness further.
  5. Track what works and what works best: Look back at your last 3 months of conversation starters and visual postings. Identify the top 10-20% of posts in terms of the level of engagement through the comments, shares and likes that they get. Then identify the weakest 10-20%. Look for the patterns to identify the topic areas, type of post and timing that is getting the best results - that's how you optimise social media. Use this to brief your team and your agency more effectively in the future.

Further Facebook resources:

Best Facebook fan pages
A selection of our favourite fan pages written up as simple case studies

News about marketing on Facebook
Regular news on latest developments at Facebook

Social media marketing tips
Additional tips in the social media marketing classroom at the Digital Training Academy

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