We hear a lot about Google’s PageRank and other ranking factors for search engines, but we don’t hear nearly so much about the factors that influence whether a brand’s posts on social media will appear to their followers.
That’s surprising because understanding EdgeRank is important to anyone engaged in social marketing on Facebook.
EdgeRank decides what people see on Facebook. It is an algorithm that determines which content appears in the follower’s streams. Many Facebook users, especially brands, are under the misapprehension that everything they share will find its way to all of their followers. This is not the case. In some cases, as little as 15% percent of followers will receive a particular update. Unless that is, the sharer pays for it to be promoted.
EdgeRank has generated some attention in recent days. George Takei, the actor who played Sulu in the original Star Trek, and who has become something of a social media star in recent years, is soon to publish a book in which he apparently dedicates an entire chapter to how Facebook filters his posts. It seems he is not happy that his followers don’t get to see everything that he posts and goes so far as to claim that EdgeRank is Facebook’s way of strong-arming its users into paying for promoted updates, which are displayed to more users.
RackSpace‘s Robert Scoble, in the guise of a pot accusing a kettle of being similarly colored, responded critically, saying that EdgeRank is necessary for the reduction of social media ‘noise’ and that Takei is being rude in insisting that his every word is placed in front of his followers.
Whether Takei or Scoble is on the side of the angels, it’s instructive for social media marketers to take the time to understand the issues involved in EdgeRank.
The first thing to note is that no one really knows what’s happening behind the scenes or exactly which criteria Facebook use to surface content. Much like Google, they are secretive about their algorithms. However, it’s possible to develop a fairly good idea about the sort of signals that Facebook considers when making a decision. No one can measure your EdgeRank, and if someone says they know your score and how to improve it, send them on their way. They are being disingenuous.
An ‘edge’ is what Facebook calls the content that users generate on the site: status updates, wall posts, pictures, and the like.
We do know that three factors are involved in determining EdgeRank:
- Affinity Score
- Edge Weight
- Time Decay
Affinity score is a measure of the connectedness of a user to an edge. Connectedness depends on a number of factors, including mutual friends, liking their content, commenting, etc.
Edge Weight is how the relative value of particular classes of edges is measured. Comments are worth more than likes, and so on.
Time Decay simply refers to how old an edge is. The older it is the less relevant it is.
Facebook uses a combination of these factors to generate a running score for each edge, which then determines whether it will appear in your follower’s streams.
If we consider these factors, the obvious take-home message is that in order to increase EdgeRank, social media marketers should just keep doing what they’ve always done, which is to encourage engagement. The more engaged followers are with a brand page, the more they like, comment, encourage others of their friends to like, the more likely it is that content from that brand will appear regularly in their stream.
What do you think? Is Facebook using EdgeRank to increase their income from promoted content, or do you think Robert Scoble has it right that filtering of noise is the motivation? Let us know in the comments.