March 14, 2012, 11:35 AM

Facebook offers a new way to cut through news feed clutter

The social network allows online consumers to organize their connections.

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Facebook Inc. wants to help consumers get their news feeds in order. That’s why the social network is rolling out Interest Lists to all its users in the next few weeks. The tool enables consumers to organize the pages and public figure profiles that they Like.

Shoppers can organize their Likes using Interests already listed on the social network, such as Recipes. Or a consumer can click an Add Interests button to label her own List; for instance, a shoe hound might want to create a list for shoe retailers. Once a shopper organizes her connections via Interest Lists, the top stories from each group will appear in the user’s news feed, the first page she sees when logging on to the social network.

“Interest lists can help you turn Facebook into your own personalized newspaper, with special section—or feeds—for topics that matter to you,” writes Eric Faller, a Facebook software engineer, in a blog post.

For a shopper who organizes the retailers she Likes into different Lists it could improve the odds that she’ll see those merchants’ posts in the “Top Stories” section of the shopper’s news feed. The curated assortment of posts that a consumer sees in the “Top Stories” section of her news feed is based on the social network’s algorithm that uses her interactions—her posts, Likes and other actions on the social network—to present her with what Facebook deduces are the posts most relevant to her.  The more interactions a post garners—from friends or strangers—the more likely it is that Facebook’s algorithm will place the post in the news feed’s “Top Stories” section. 

If a shopper doesn’t engage or interact with a brand she Likes on Facebook, odds are she won’t see the brand’s posts in her news feed. In fact, on average, consumers see only 16% of the content their connections post on the social network, said Mike Hoefflinger, the social network’s director of brand product marketing, last month at the Facebook Marketing Conference.

Retailers can  improve the reach of their posts with a service Facebook launched last month called Reach Generator, an algorithmic tool that determines the placement of ads, including Sponsored Stories. Sponsored Stories enable advertisers to highlight posts or actions, such as when a consumer’s Facebook friend Likes a product, checks into a store, plays a game or uses a Facebook application.

Facebook guarantees that the tool will expose a marketer’s posts to at least 75% of its fan base in the course of a month. An advertiser pays a fixed fee for the service; the fee is based on a brand’s number of fans. Facebook declined to disclose the exact price structure.

Marketers are already seeing the benefits of Reach Generator, says Facebook. For instance, over the past 28 days, soft drink brand Dr Pepper has used the tool to reach 83% of its 11.6 million fans. Moreover, its People Talking About metric, which gauges how many people interact with a brand’s Facebook page in a single week, increased 140% compared to the week before it began using Reach Generator. Those interactions include Liking the page, posting to it or passing on content from it to their Facebook friends.

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