How does Facebook decide what you see?

Shane's picture
Social Media Marketing Cork

Organic reach on Facebook is declining all the time due to the increasing number of brands who are have joined the social media channel. As users like more and more pages, the amount of posts they see from your Facebook page gets diluted downwards all the time. This drop in the organic reach of your page's posts is making it increasingly hard to get traction on Facebook. Read my blog post about the drop in organic Facebook reach.

Outside this general drop in reach, there is another serious factor in how many of your page's followers will see your posts. Have you ever noticed that some Facebook posts get much more traction then others and wondered why that is? There is an Algorithm, unofficially called EdgeRank, which Facebook uses to determine which posts get served to who and for how long.

On a fundamental level EdgeRank is what differentiates Facebook's usability from Twitter. By filtering your Newsfeed with this sorting algorithm, Facebook analyses every single post to determine the relevance of that post to each user. There are rumoured to be 100,000 or so different factors which determine a posts relevance to you and whether you want to see it. According to Facebook's News Feed Director Will Cathcart, the most powerful factors that determine whether a post will be shown to someone are:

Your Page's Popularity - Does your page have a track record of making popular posts? Do your posts generally get a lot of likes, shares, clicks and/or comments? If so then Facebook will show your future posts to more people.

Your Post's Popularity - How many likes, comments, share and clicks has the post already received from the people who have already seen it? The more popular each post is, the more people it will be shown to.

Your Track Record with each user - Has this user interacted with your posts in the past? If so, they are more likely to see your future posts.

Your Track record for this kind of post with this user - Has this user interacted with this type of post from you in the past? for example, if this user likes your photo, then Facebook will be more likely to show them more of your photos in the future.

Time - How recently was the post published - this is pretty self explanatory but you are more likely to see recent posts then older posts. Here's a simplified breakdown of the Edgerank equation from Techcrunch:

There are many many more factors which determine what you see, according to Will Cathcart, Facebook assigns a rank score to each post that a user could see. On top of that Facebook will add some advertising but otherwise they put the posts in rank order as determined by EdgeRank, Facebook doesn't differentiate between a Page or a Friend, it will simply try to determine what you want to see based on your previous interactions with people and pages. What does that mean for Businesses? It means that you need to have a coherent & consistent strategy, that if you stop providing engaging content then your page will start to suffer as a result.

The less interaction you receive from people, then the less people will see your posts and so on. It is a slippery slope, especially as you factor in the increased competition which is already leading to a decrease in organic reach of each post you make - then you will see that it is increasingly important to have a coherent and ongoing Facebook strategy. Facebook will continue to make tweaks to the EdgeRank algorithm without doubt, in fact they have recently made tweaks which penalise pages who "Like Bait" too often, also pages which publish genuine content have held their reach better then page which post too many marketing messages or post too many generic image memes.

What is the solution?

Maintaining the overall health of your feed is the main aim. Having a well thought out Facebook Strategy is paramount, DIY Facebook pages tend to post irregular posts which often lack relevance or any kind of schedule. You need to post things which your Facebook fans want to engage with, that they will find interesting, on a regular basis. Don't overdo the marketing messages but don't forget them either, that is what your Facebook page is for after all. Of course your overall digital marketing strategy should be based on your website, with Facebook used as a just one tool to help promote your business.

Your website is still the single most important element of your on-line presence, as it always was, in all the hype about social media a lot of people have lost sight of that fact. Including some so called web professionals!. If it is going to get increasingly hard to get heard on Facebook, as appears to be the case, then it is well worth considering diversifying to other rapidly growing social media channels as well as maintaining and clarifying your Facebook page strategy - remember the fundamental goal is that all of these social media channels should lead back to one place = Your Website - that is where people will decide whether they want to move from a "looker" to a "booker" or "buyer".

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Shane O'Donnell
Shane is passionate about Web Design and Social Media, he is a graduate of IADT Dun Laoghaire, he holds a Diploma in Visual Communications and Animation. Shane has been working in Web design since 2001 when he joined Fever Interactive, an award winning Dublin based Web Design studio. Shane decided to go freelance in 2003 and has worked on many projects; from simple brochure sites to major bespoke Content Management Systems such as the ERC Rugby site. Shane has yet to seek help for his social media addiction.

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