The Facebook Black Hole
In recent weeks we have had multiple conversations about the desire to use Facebook as a viral machine and whether it really works. Few were aware of the discouraging reality that, on average, only 17% of a pages fans will ever see a post and about 2% of fans ever react to posts (thus fulfilling the viral-machine vision). But wait, there’s more doom and gloom: Your fans rarely visit your page. If your fanpage is like most, the percent of your fans that actually come back to your fan page after they become a fan is in the low-single digits. Some examples: Coca Cola: .16%, Oreos: .08%, BestBuy: 6% (from Comscore)
More surprising, too many were unaware of key algorithms like EdgeRank and GraphRank, the important metrics that drive it, and the role they play in determining how many of your facebook fans actually see your posts.
If you are a New Market Entrepreneur attempting to leverage social sharing to bolster your marketing and drive viral traffic, and you are not focused on the dynamics driving EdgeRank and GraphRank, your facebook efforts may be falling into a black hole.
This post is intended as a quick primer on the basics that matter most. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Luckily, Facebook provides a strong array of tools to help you measure, interpret, analyze, experiment, learn and- ultimately- grow through Facebook virality.
First, there are the two above-mentioned Facebook algorithms that are largely misunderstood: EdgeRank and GraphRank. For a thorough definition, click on the links. Note: If you are not leveraging a Facebook App leveraging your Brand as part of Facebook’s social graph (think Spotify or Washington post and how your friends’ activities in these apps are showing up in your newsfeed), you do not have to worry about GraphRank. GraphRank only applies to Facebook app developers. Any custom Facebook developers (and the New Market Entrepreneurs relying on them) out there need to understand how GraphRank impacts the tools they are building. Here is an oveall summary…
Graph Rank and EdgeRank are what the social network uses to organize the massive amount of activity generated by people, pages and apps and to decide what stories to show whom. Graph Rank applies to Open Graph applications, not page posts or friend’s status updates. Those are affected by EdgeRank, which determines what shows up in your News Feed. Neither of these is a global score. Every bit of activity on the site has a different rank for different users. And because time and affinity plays a role, the rank of each object is not constant.
EdgeRank is the algorithm that determines what items populate your News Feed. With all the friends people have and pages they like, most users would be overwhelmed to see all of the activity generated by these connections. Facebook, therefore, assigns a value to every possible story that could end up in the feed. This value is based on affinity, weight and time. Affinity is the relationship between the user and the page or friend that created an item. Weight is affected by the type of story, for instance, whether it is a photo upload or a comment on another person’s status. Facebook tends to value rich media content and often when it introduces something new like Questions, it temporarily weights activity from that feature higher. The third factor affecting EdgeRank is how recently an action was taken.
The more users interact with the page, however, the greater the affinity score becomes and the more likely they are to see page posts in the future.
Graph Rank is a new algorithm Facebook is using to determine how Open Graph application activity will be distributed through News Feed, Ticker and Timeline. Graph Rank was introduced at F8 with the announcement of a new type of app that can continuously publish user activity to Ticker and Timeline. Because Facebook expects a proliferation of sharing through these Open Graph apps, it developed a system to manage the amount and type of activity that each user will see. Graph Rank seeks to show users highly relevant application stories based on the other connections they’ve made on Facebook. So if a user plays Words With Friends, they are more likely to see a friend’s story about another word game than a story about an arcade shooter.
Together, EdgeRank and Graph Rank help personalize Facebook for each user. Marketers and developers who understand the way the platform ranks content can find ways to optimize their efforts there.
Next, here are key metrics you should be checking frequently for all of your posts (easily found behind the ‘insights’ link at the top of your page if you are an admin):
Reach – the number of unique people who see your post over the first 28 days. Click on that number and see how it breaks down btw Organic (your fans saw in their feed, Viral (you earned a new impression due to a fan’s like, comment or share), or Paid (you bought it).
Engaged Users – The number of unique people who clicked on your post over the first 28 days.
Talking about this – The number of unique people who like, comment, share your post or answers a question or responds to an event over the first 28 days.
Virality – The percentage of people who “talk about this”
Here are some additional factors about which to be aware, excerpted from this post:
A Facebook post typically lives for about 3 hours - For most Facebook admins, each strategically placed post will only live for about 3 hours. Each individual Facebook page has a different average post lifetime, but understanding this can help to achieve a deeper understanding of time decay. Waiting for your last post to die is important so that engagement is not cannibalized. Understanding your Daily Optimal Post Frequency can be used with understanding how long your posts’ live. If your average post lifetime was 9 hours, and your Optimal Post Frequency was 2x/day it’d be best to post early morning and sometime in the evening. Sticking to this strategy will most likely increase your engagement, which ultimately builds your EdgeRank.
Comments are about 4x more valuable than Likes – Facebook marketers have always believed that comments were more valuable than likes, but now recent studies are shedding light onto how much more valuable. This means that an emphasis on comments will most likely result in better overall performance than focusing on likes. Marketers can use this to their advantage by asking fans to “Comment if they disagree” or “Suggest an alternative in a Comment”. Using tactics such as these can help provide a Call To Action for your fans, which also boosts the EdgeRank of these updates. Likes are still important. It is always better to have some likes than no likes at all.
Facebook tracks everything to determine affinity – To determine affinity, Facebook must analyze anything and everything between a user and a page. Every click, every Facebook share, comment, like, and wall post builds affinity between the user and the page. This means getting users to consume your content and interact with your page is vital. Facebook is monitoring these interactions and increasing the affinity. An increase in affinity is going to help you leverage EdgeRank to your advantage. Facebook even monitors listed relationships between users. For example, “Cousins” on Facebook would most likely have a higher starting affinity due to their family listing. All these interactions and more are being monitored. We assume that anything that can be monitored, is being monitored, and if it’s being monitored, it’s being used.
Clearly, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that determines the degree to which your hard work to post great content is getting seen. The more you understand how Facebook decides what to publish into your fans’ newsfeeds, the more successful you will be at achieving your goals for Facebook viral marketing. For extra-credit reading on how you can avoid the Facebook black hole while increasing your EdgeRank score and adding fans, click here for some great tips. For even more help in understanding your page’s edgerank dynamics, check out this new analytics dashboard offering even more valuable insights for free!
Measure, Manage, Rock-on!