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The Facebook algorithm: what is it anyway?


A week ago, Facebook announced it’s changing its Newsfeed algorithm to reduce the organic reach of click-bait stories and misleading or ‘spam’ information. Don’t worry - unless you’re actively posting over 50 posts each day that contain poor information and spam links, this won’t affect you.

This update brought to my mind a bigger question I often get asked by business owners that are turning to social media to help grow their business:

What is this Facebook ‘algorithm’?

Great question. Adam Mosseri, the VP for the Facebook newsfeed defines a general algorithm as a formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem.

The best way I can describe it in relation to Facebook is: The algorithm is what dictates the content that each person sees on their newsfeed every time they go onto Facebook.

The reality is that over one billion people log into Facebook every day and each one of these people, yourself included, is shown content that is relevant and of interest to them - or at least Facebook believes it has a good chance of being interesting to them - which the algorithm determines. It’s no coincidence that the local businesses you see on your newsfeed are actually accessible to you and not halfway across the world. It’s also no coincidence that if you're getting married you’ll suddenly see links, ads and promotions everywhere for everything wedding related. Unfortunately it’s not a case of ‘it’s meant to be’ but a case of ‘algorithm-predicted content’.

How does the algorithm work?

In order to determine the most relevant content to show up on your newsfeed, hundreds of thousands of variables are considered through the algorithm. Adam Mosseri sums this up in his 2017 update of the Facebook newsfeed and algorithm that you can watch here, but here are a few of the key steps:

1. Facebook considers all the available information published from your friends, publishers you follow and publishers whose content you’ve engaged with in the past

2. Your likely level of interest in each piece of available content from those friends/publishers is then predicted by considering hundreds of thousands of factors including who posted the content and when, what type of content it is - such as a picture or a post, your current time and location, which device you’re currently using and the network connection available to you and so many more to make informed predictions

3. These informed predictions are also based on your likelihood to engage with the content - including the probability of you liking, sharing and commenting on the content, how much time you’re likely to spend reading or watching the content, the probability of you finding the content informative and many more variables

4. All of these predictions are consolidated into a relevancy score - a number that represents the best educated estimate of how interested Facebook thinks you will be in that content

5. This number is applied to all the available content from the people you know and follow every time you come to Facebook - that’s a lot of calculations!

6. These are then ranked, in order, going down your newsfeed each time you go to your home page.

I know - it's a lot to digest, especially if you're unfamiliar with the concept, but those are essentially the basics.

So, what’s the secret to getting straight to the top of the newsfeed?

I’m sorry to say, there’s no way to ‘beat’ the algorithm. It considers hundreds of thousands of variables and is constantly changing. Anyone claiming to teach you the SECRET to beating Facebook in just 15 minutes at a super low price is trying to swindle you out of your money because if it were true, they would have taken their strategy to a company that could pay hundreds of millions for it, not that the idea even makes sense given how personalised Facebook is.

While there may be no magic wand, you can become well informed about the above fundamentals of how this system operates.

And what does all of this mean for my business?

To sum it up, Facebook can be a great tool and strategy for growing your business and attaining new clients. The best way to grow the reach of your business on Facebook organically (that is, without paying) is through well-written, engaging, informative, interesting, timely, genuine and generally awesome content.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: But writing my own content takes time.

Yes! Yes it does. Writing your own awesome and engaging content can take even more time. But with the great capacity that Facebook has to reach the clients you want, it is well worth it and I love seeing businesses thrive from taking advantage of this opportunity.

The silver lining is that you have options and that’s where awesome content creators, like myself, come in and do it for you. Get in touch if you’d like to start growing your business on Facebook too by emailing hello@wordprescription.com and all the best for your Facebook business ventures!

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