It’s the question with an answer that eludes many of us: why do some posts go viral with engagement, while others wither and die off without so much as a few courtesy likes?
If you produce content for social audiences and still struggle with Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, then you aren’t alone.
The good news is that Facebook’s new algorithm isn’t much of a black box anymore; Facebook has slowly leaked how exactly it ranks and prioritizes content in users’ News Feeds.
Here’s how Facebook’s algorithm works in 2020 with five expert tips on how to increase the lifecycle of your Facebook content.
Facebook and Instagram’s number one priority is to keep users engaged across their ecosystem. The algorithm is focused on serving content and messaging with the highest engagement and relevance. Emotional resonance and sentiment around content matters on the platform as well.”
— Lauren Guerrieri, Senior Manager of Paid Social at Tinuiti
“Instagram will see a higher velocity of advertising across both in-feed and stories in 2020 as Facebook works to balance the ad inventory and scale the commerce behavior that already happens on Instagram organically with Instagram Checkout.”
The Facebook algorithm ranks all available posts that can display on a user’s News Feed based on how likely that user will have a positive reaction.
Facebook now ranks and prioritizes content posted from friends over publishers, with a focus on what the algorithm determines as “meaningful interactions.”
Facebook’s algorithm for ranking content on your News Feed is based on four factors:
- The Inventory of all posts available to display
- Signals that tell Facebook what each post is
- Predictions on how you will react to each post
- A Final Score assigned to the content based on all factors considered
Understanding the basics can help your content stand out
Advertisers looking to become more effective in their content strategy, both paid and organic, stand to benefit from a basic understanding of the algorithm.
If you’re aiming to reach Facebook’s 2.2 billion + active users, you are up against some steep competition:
- 1.66 billion daily active users
- 4.75 billion pieces of content shares – daily
- 300+ million photo uploads – daily
- 510,000 comments – every 60 seconds
- 293,000 statuses – every 60 seconds
Since the data controversy erupted around the social network in late 2017, Facebook has worked to improve transparency around how it ranks content on the News Feed.
Facebook went public with changes to the algorithm in their post “Meaningful Interactions” update back in January 2018.
Updates to Facebook video ranking: loyalty, view duration, and more
One of the newest updates to Facebook’s new algorithm is its updates for video rankings.
While factors such as loyalty and intent, video and viewing durations, and originality have always been prized, Facebook is now placing an increased emphasis on these three items.
What does this mean for Facebook video creators?
- Loyalty and intent: Now, more than ever, Facebook is placing an increased value on repeat reviewers. If you can keep your viewership coming back, it’s safe to say that you’ll see an increase in your video rankings.
- Video and viewing durations: Facebook values user attention which means videos with longer viewing durations will see a bump in ranking. Videos must be at least one minute long, although Facebook recommends using video that is at least three minutes long.
- Originality: Facebook’s emphasis on unique content carries on. Repurposed or shared content will be penalized while original content from creators that people watch and come back to will receive a rankings boost.
Spam and misleading information penalizes pages
The new Facebook algorithm is also better than ever at recognizing biased content. In an effort to curb misleading health claims, as well as falsely advertised medical products, they’ve made the algorithm even better at detecting spammy or clickbait titles.
Pages that share content Facebook labels clickbait will find themselves penalized within the algorithm, resulting in reduced distribution within the News Feed. However, once the offending content stops posting this kind of content, their posts will no longer be penalized.
“Facebook continues to penalize those using deceptive advertising practices, recently filing a lawsuit in California against a brand that violated Facebook Terms and Polices. This action is one of many that Facebook is taking against advertising abuse on their platform.“
— Riley Spicer, Paid Social Strategist at Tinuiti
The goal of Facebook’s algorithm is to “show stories that matter to users,” according to Adam Mosseri, VP of Facebook’s News Feed Management.
With that in mind, you should know how Facebook’s different algorithm factors work together to determine which stories “matter” to a user.
Here are the four factors that determine if a story is relevant for a user’s News Feed.
Inventory represents the stock of all content that can display to a user on Facebook’s News Feed. This includes everything posted from friends and publishers.
Signals represent the information that Facebook can gather about a piece of content. Signals are the single factor that you have control over.
These are your inputs that Facebook interprets; type of content, the publisher, its age, purpose, and more.
You want your content to signal to Facebook that it’s meaningful and relevant to your target audience.
Predictions represent the behavior of a user and how likely they are predicted to have a positive interaction with a content piece.
“Predictions take authentic engagement like comments, likes, and shares from real profiles into account,” says Riley Spicer, Paid Social Strategist at Tinuiti.
Score is the final number assigned to a piece of content based on the likelihood the user will respond positively to it.
Meaningful interactions are valued highest
As advertisers, the only part of the process that we have control over are the signals of our content.
These signals can be divided into two categories: passive and active.
Passive signals include view time, story type, time posted, and other metrics non-active metrics.
Active signals include likes, shares, comments, and other active events that prompt engagement.
You should tailor your content to promote positive engagement, or what Facebook has defined as “meaningful interactions.”
Active signals drive meaningful interactions:
“In addition to ranking posts in people’s News Feeds, Facebook started making public comments more meaningful in June 2019, which can help show people relevant and quality comments,” explains Spicer.
Here are some guidelines for keeping your content meaningful in Facebook’s eyes, based on Matt Navara and Paul Armstrong’s coverage of Facebook’s News Feed webinar.
1. Be a conversation starter
Facebook’s News Feed algorithm favors content that fosters positive interactions between your followers and others.
Any piece of content, from products to education to entertainment — should provoke conversation.
You want your content to prompt people to stop their scroll, interact, and share with one another.
Sephora, which consistently ranks #1 in L2’s Digital IQ Index — always strikes a balance between advertising and conversation-starting with well-crafted organic and sponsored content.
2. Focus on your audience
Your content should always be relevant to your core audience — the people you want to build a community around.
Products, education, lifestyle imagery — it should all build on your identity as a brand answering to a specific audience.
3. Put ad dollars behind content with organic momentum
The new Facebook algorithm values content that performs well organically, and you can build off that momentum by boosting or promoting that content with ad dollars.
Content that already has strong organic traction means lower CPCs — which combined with ad dollars can act as a snowball effect for your content.
“Identify opportunities for ads based on organic post engagement and tap into Facebook Ads Manager tools by leveraging these posts in ads,” says Spicer.
Conversely, don’t waste ad dollars behind poor-performing organic content. It will have higher CPCs and cost you more while offering less in return.
“If a post is performing well with engagement, likes, and shares — then there’s an opportunity to place additional ad dollars behind to drive that performance even further.”
— Nii Ahene, Chief Strategy Officer at Tinuiti
4. Avoid clickbait
Remember all of those “like if…” and “share if you are…” posts?
This is considered engagement baiting, it doesn’t add value or interaction for users.
Stay away from asking people to “please comment, like, and share.” Your content should inspire them to engage without having to ask.
“Facebook penalizes brands who encourage comments, likes, and shares on organic and ad posts. Keep this in mind when developing content for Instagram and Facebook,” says Spicer.
5. Track your content performance
After you’ve published your content, remember to use Facebook Insights to track the performance of your content.
Keep track of how your different content pieces are performing engagement-wise.
Learn from your Insights data and then optimize from there.
The new Facebook algorithm is sophisticated and there’s no way to “hack it,” but there are simple steps you can take to make the algorithm work for you.
- Keep your content meaningful by being a conversation starter
- Advocate for your audience
- Stay away from clickbait
- Boost your best-performing organic content
- Track your performance with Facebook Insights and other tools
Want to learn more about driving performance with Facebook advertising?