What is Facebook EdgeRank and why does your business need to understand it?

If your business has a Facebook Page you need to know how its algorithm EdgeRank decides what your fans see. Startups takes a closer look

It all sounds so simple. You join Facebook and set up your own business page on which you can talk about your products and activities. Anyone can look at the page and on that level it operates like a website. By encouraging people to like you, you build a community of ‘fans’ and ‘followers’. And from that point on your updates appear on the newsfeeds of your followers. All so easy. But there’s a bit more to it.

The average member has more than a hundred friends and would feel bombarded if absolutely every post appeared in their feed. Facebook ‘EdgeRank’, the system the social network created within its algorithm to limit the number of posts a user receives each day, doesn’t mean your business shouldn’t bother posting on its Page.

Customer engagement and working with EdgeRank

It’s just that EdgeRank, which was first launched in 2011 and has since been updated, favours recent content its algorithm classes as engaging – just as Google PageRank generates search results based on your usage. Critics say this is a ploy by Facebook to coerce users into paying for services, something the social network denies strenuously and has shared independent data to back-up its response.

Either way, a ‘fan’ who regularly visits your page or views, shares, likes and comments on content that you’ve generated is more likely to see subsequent posts than one who habitually ignores it. Put simply, relationships (or affinity) between sender and recipient count.

So the key is to encourage interaction – which some believe are referred to as an ‘edge’ by Facebook, hence the name (in actual fact Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t have a name and don’t use the word ‘edge’ internally, but it has nevertheless been dubbed EdgeRank by the technology and marketing industries).

Seamus Fahy, founder of Dublin-based jewellery business Voltaire Diamonds, points out, one of the best ways to ensure you are not filtered out is to actively encourage interaction by putting a call to action on all posts. “Whenever I send out a picture of, say, a ring, I will always say ‘what do you think of this?’. That encourages people to make a comment.” So, open questions with a ‘who’, ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, or ‘how’ work. Other tried and trusted ways to encourage interaction include:

  • Surveys (using tools such as Survey Monkey)
  • Simple competitions (entry into a prize draw for everyone who shares a picture)
  • Exclusive offers (special deals, first sights of products)

But interaction and affinity isn’t just about overt sales messaging. Helen Dawson of Rainbow PR uses Facebook to promote her client Steptronics Footwear and she is careful to put strict limits on the commercial messaging while at the same time playing an active role in her segment of the social network community.

Limiting the hard sales message

“I try to follow a rule of 70% 20% 10%,” she says. “70% making comments, interacting with others, sharing their content, engaging with people. 20% content about Steptronics – photos etc. Then 10% sales message, I believe this helps keep fans engaged, does not put them off.”

Jacob Hill founder of the Lazy Camper, also believes in contributing as well as messaging. His company provides camping gear for festival goers that can be picked up at the event and left behind afterwards.

“One of the things I do to boost engagement is to blog regularly about things that will be of interest to my customers. For instance, I provide updates on the festivals that we provide equipment for. Whenever an artist is added to the bill, I will post that as an update.”

EdgeRank also favours some forms of content and according to Rebecca Ray, head of social media at Manchester-based full service media agency Photolink there is a very definite hierarchy “Video trumps, photography, which in turn trumps links, which in turn trumps status updates,” she says.

It’s worth nothing that while it comes at a cost, the use of marketing agencies specialising in Facebook is increasing in order to ensure brands get seen. “There’s been a rise in third parties who promote businesses,” says Facebook’s SMB marketing manager for Europe and the Middle East Felicity McCarthy.

There are also online tools dedicated to managing your messaging around EdgeRank, such as http://edgerankchecker.com/, which has free or ‘Pro’ versions. Whether or not you opt to employ an expert, pay to use a tool, or devise your own approach, doing nothing is becoming less of an option.

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