Will the real Facebook newsfeed algorithm please stand up?

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It’s the trendy topic to either bash on Facebook for declining reach or to pretend to “crack the code” on the newsfeed.

They’re often dressed in pseudo-math, like the pretend science of rapid weight loss supplements and get rich quick schemes. They neglect the realities of good nutrition, exercise, and sleep. People want shortcuts. But having a great product, posting killer content, and taking care of customers are hard to quantify.

Here are the real factors behind the newsfeed, which mathematically tie your fan base to the number of stories your page generates:

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Try this on your own page and you’ll see the numbers tie.

Fans: self-explanatory. However, more fans doesn’t automatically guarantee more reach and engagement. Definitely not proportionally. There is a clear relationship between a declining engagement rate and fan base, largely do to higher usage of contests, a more diffuse fan base (the initial fans are always more hard-core), gimmicky content to attract a like (click LIKE if you enjoy dancing), and un-targeted paid media.

Organic newsfeed coverage: What’s your daily reach divided by your fan base? You can get this from your post-level insights CSV file, which you download from your page. 5-10% is average, but it varies by industry, post frequency, fan page size, and external factors (if you’re a sports team and won the game, more people will participate, independent of your social media efforts). You can be well over 100% when you reach more folks than you have fans.

Viral factor: Divide viral reach by organic reach. “Passion pages” get a factor of 5 or more, meaning that more impressions come from people interacting than the initial reach of the page posting directly. The viral factor, as you’d imagine, has the highest correlation with total impressions and engagement. Note that reach x frequency = impressions.

Paid factor: It’s no secret that you can promote posts to drive more engagement, which also creates a residual effect on future organic posts.

Engagement rate: Engaged users divided by reach. So of the folks who saw your content, how many clicked on at least one item? Most of these interactions will be photo views and navigational clicks. Passion pages often get 10% here. What’s yours?

Applause ratio: Of those who engaged, how many were storytellers? In other words, what proportion of these users liked, shared, or commented? Stories generate exposure in the newsfeeds of friends, while other types of engagement (called consumptions) do not.

Sharing ratio: How many stories per storyteller? You’d think that the ratio would be higher on viral posts, but it’s actually lower. When a post has enough power to penetrate to friends of friends of friends, the people it reaches at the outer edges, who rarely get content from your page, are less likely to engage. This reduces your weighted average.

Here is the model applied to a professional sports team that has over a million fans:

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You can see their paid factor is 100%, meaning that they’re not running ads.

Their sharing ratio is about 1.1, which is actually normal.

The viral factor is dramatically higher at the end of the season during playoffs. So be careful to separate out the impact of what the social team is doing vs the franchise’s own efforts. You can benchmark all teams in the league to create a monthly baseline.

WHAT TRULY MATTERS CAN’T BE MEASURED AND WHAT CAN BE MEASURED DOESN’T TRULY MATTER

What can’t be modeled out, but is critically important is how much love your customers have for you. Are you taking good care of them, as opposed to just reducing your average response time?

Are you creating quality engagement, as opposed to posting more silly cat photos on a Friday afternoon? Don’t mistake quantity for quality. Even NPS (Net Promoter Score) can be gamed.

Now go download your insights file and take a hard look at your data. Or you can hire me to help you do it!

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