SMB Madison welcomed the founder of EdgeRank Checker, Chad Wittman, who scoffed in the face of our lack of spring weather by going fashionably sockless to bring insight into Facebook’s News Feed and Graph Search.
Leveraging the News Feed
“Optimizing for Facebook’s EdgeRank is the new SEO,” said Chad. The EdgeRank algorithm determines how often your posts actually appear in your fans News Feed. This is the single most important determining factor to achieving organic reach in FB. Wittman commented “most brands only reach 12% of their fans per post, however brands that are leveraging the power of the News Feed reach +40% of their fans per post.” EdgeRank checker is a tool to help marketers analyze and understand the effect of EdgeRank on their posts to increase exposure and fan engagement, the currency of FB we all seek.
Signal vs. Noise
Once Facebook made the change to the News Feed layout, their focus shifted to how to make all the content that was being posted most relevant to their users. “They wanted to be your everyday newspaper,” said Chad. EdgeRank was invented by FB to determine what a user sees within their News Feed. Chad noted they typically tweak it about every two weeks. What it’s trying to do is separate “signal” vs. “noise.” EdgeRank essentially became the next step in the evolution of search engines following the progress made by Yahoo and Google to point users away from “noise” to the direction of the content (or signal) they want.
EdgeRank is the sum of three variables. The first factor is Affinity. Affinity is the relationship between users. When a person is using FB and liking, messaging, commenting, FB is tracking (gasp!) all of that to determine how connected the two users are. “This is a one-way relationship. If I’m always commenting on someone but they aren’t commenting back, I’m building affinity with that person or page, but they aren’t with me” explained Wittman. This is important for brands as there are only so many ways you can reach out to users. “Ultimately your goal is to get them to engage with your content; that is the only way you can affect this variable. You want to create content that drives likes, comments, clicks and shares. Increase engagement=increase affinity.”
The second variable is Weight. Weight is the quality of interactions on an edge. What is this thing and how important is it? Facebook gives a value to status updates, photos, likes and comments. One of the goals of EdgeRank Checker was to understand the differences in value FB gave to the various means of interacting. “We found that comments were four times more valuable than a like.” The key is realizing how much effort does a FB fan have to do to interact? A comment takes more effort than just liking a post, so that action has higher value.
The final variable is Time Decay, defined as how long a post actually lives on a News Feed. “What we found is that a typical post lasts (meaning continues to have engagement) about three hours on a News Feed.” Marketers should take note of this and perhaps reconsider posting three rapid fire posts in one shot and calling it good vs. pausing and mindfully adding content with adequate time in between to let them marinate properly. Of note is Wittman’s comment “You never want to post while another post is still alive. Facebook gives you a visibility of one. It cannibalizes your posts. If two posts are out there, one will kill the other, and it isn’t always the first post that goes down.” He did comment that paid media will extend the life of a post if you need it to go beyond the typical organic lifespan.
How to Improve your EdgeRank
Brands that are doing engagement well get three to four times the amount of average reach vs. the average user. How do they do it?
Call to Action
A basic strategy is click if you agree/disagree. Take it further by thinking how the user would consume this piece of content and how you are inviting them to interact with it. Are you only asking for likes? Are you following the same format with questions?
Test and Monitor Content
Export the FB Insights and look at who you are reaching and how you are reaching. EdgeRank Checker is a tool to help you go through process of analyzing the effect of different post content, day posted, even time posted.
Reduce Negative Feedback
Keep post content in line with the expectations of the audience. Looking at negative feedback, or those posts that are hidden, can provide insight to what content is valued.
What About Graph Search?
Graph Search is Facebook’s technology for finding people and things that are socially connected. It can be used to find people who share your interests, explore your world through photos, or find recommendations for restaurants, music and more.
Graph Search uses the nouns of FB (people, places, pages, apps, groups) to help users discover tailored results that are most relevant to them. It even takes into account slang terms such as “homies” and “peeps.” A fun fact from Chad’s WhatisGraphSearch.com page states that when social results are minimal they are supplemented by results from Bing. Check out that website for a deeper explanation of the mathematical guts operating in Graph Search.
Users are primarily searching for friends and photos, with places next in line. This is an opportunity for businesses to leverage Graph Search. While at this point you can’t advertise on Graph Search you can optimize your brand by adding Open Graph meta data to your website. Step by step instructions are on WhatisGraphSearch.com. Chad also advises completing your company Facebook page 100 percent and filling in all available fields. The tried and true strategies of continuing to build your fan base and posting engaging content still apply to the social connectedness Graph Search is built around. “Creating social connections between users is key to receiving search results exposure” said Chad. “Do it by understanding your audience and doing things they would like to like, comment on or share. Facebook will reward you for posting positive things that get people excited.”
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