The Facebook algorithm: Who sees what you post?

“Is anyone even seeing this?”

If you’ve ever managed a Facebook Official Page then chances are you have asked yourself this question. It would be overwhelming for every post from all of your Facebook friends or page likes to show up in your newsfeed, so Facebook uses an algorithm to determine which posts show up in your news feed, and the results are different for everyone! Therefore, the primary purpose of the algorithm is to increase the chances that a user will be interested in the posts on their newsfeed.

Recently, you may have heard some talk about Facebook changing their algorithm for Official Pages to favor paid and promoted posts over the free ones. Unfortunately, this is true. We’ll be blogging about that soon!

But before we can dig in to the reprecussions of ads being favored, you first have to understand what goes into the algorithm.

The basics of the algorithm.

Facebook’s algorithm used to be called the EdgeRank, and had three major elements:

  • Affinity score,
  • Edge weight, and
  • Time decay

As expected, the algorithm has changed and become more complex over time, but these three elements are still important to what shows up in your news feed. Here’s a brief overview of each of them.

The Affinity Score means how connected a user is to the post. If I have 75 mutual friends with Betty and we went to Law School together then I’m more likely to see posts from Betty because we are highly connected. If I have one  connection with Pete I’m less connected to him and am less likely to see his posts. Further, if Betty commented on Peggy’s post, I am more likely to see Peggy’s post in my feed because Betty commented and we’re highly connected.

Edge weight is the next element. This reflects the kind of content that is most engaging. If I comment on an article it has more weight than if I merely liked it. Posts with photos or videos tend to have higher Edge Weight than posts with just links. This however does vary user to user. If I comment on a lot of posts that are links and rarely comment on videos then Edge Weights for my user profile will favor links.

Time decay is the last element, and it’s pretty straight-forward. As a post gets older it is considered “old news” and is far less likely to show up in a person’s news feed again. However, say for some reason a person comments on a photo from a few years ago. That photo may show up in the news feed for someone who is highly connected and likes photos even though it’s old. If more people start commenting or liking that old photo then it is more likely to show up in newsfeeds again.

What else?

There are over 100,000 different weights that determine what you see on your newsfeed. Facebook won’t say what they all are (it’s proprietary) but it’s easy enough to  anticipate what many of them are. A few that have been speculated on:

  • Personal Connection factors:
    • Listed family relationships
    • Mutual workplaces or educational institutions on your profile
    • Interacting with someone on Facebook chat
    • Mentioning someone’s name on Facebook chat
    • Friend’s lists (Acquaintances, Close Friends, Family, etc)
  • Post type preferences:
    • Factors like preferences for photos vs. links, but far more evolved. Preferences for different post types are tracked on a friend by friend basis. For example: If you always comment on Don’s photos, but never on Don’s links then you are more likely to see photos from Don than links.
    • Hiding a certain type of post frequently
  • Devices: If you’re on your phone, Facebook may be more likely to show you things that will load more quickly.

So what does all this mean? Understanding how posts get to someone’s news feed is important. Interesting content that serves some purpose for your friends and fans is key.

Here are a few quick tips for how to approach improving your visibility.

  1. Post regularly. If you’re only posting for your page once a week then time decay will greatly reduce the chance someone sees your post from Monday on Thursday.
  2. If an article or link is posted, it needs some explanation as to why it is interesting and relevant, or some original reflection about the topic. Bare links rarely get interactions.
  3. Photos need captions to prevent people from simply scrolling past. Text with a photo makes them pause, and hopefully Like or Comment!
  4. Whenever possible, ask for input. Comments, likes, and shares all make it more likely that your post will show up in a higher number of newsfeeds.

Do you have any other tips for improving visibility? (See, I asked for input!)

4 thoughts on “The Facebook algorithm: Who sees what you post?

  1. Sees should not have an apostrophe.

    Nice article. Interesting that mentioning someone in chat makes their posts more likely to appear on one’s feed. Is that true of first names or whole names only, given that some first names may be common on one’s friends list?

    • My first comment! Thanks for the correction, I’ve fixed it.

      I also just clarified that section of the post, since Facebook is pretty quiet on exactly how the algorithm works, some of these newer factors are being “tested” and hypothesized about by users and social media specialists. My thought on how it functions is that if you’re using a full name (which would of course be somewhat rare) that it would impact your Affinity to that person. Linking to a user’s posts or photos within chat would likely have some impact too. I doubt the effect is large, given common names like you mentioned.

  2. This is just fascinating and explains in clear and accessible language what FB has become. For those of us who often post or respond based on what captures our heart or imagination, it’s helpful to know what happens post post.

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