August 6, 2013, 3:08 PM

Facebook makes a change that may provide more visibility to retailers’ posts

Facebook revamps its news feed algorithm so consumers miss fewer posts.

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Consumers see only a portion of the content that their connections post on Facebook. But Facebook Inc. is seeking to help users see more of the content posted by their friends and businesses they Like.

The social network today announced it is updating the algorithm it uses to rank stories in users’ news feeds so that non-promoted posts that consumers did not scroll down far enough to see may reappear near the top of their news feeds if Facebook considers the posts important. The social network considers posts to be important or relevant to a consumer based, in part, on whether it receives Likes and comments. The news feed is the first page a user sees when logging on to the social network.

Previously Facebook only posted the newest stories at the top of the news feed.

Early tests show an 8% increase in Likes, comments and shares on the non-promoted stories users saw from pages, including retailers, and a 5% increase in the number of Likes, comments and shares on the non-promoted posts users saw from friends, Facebook says. A page is a business’ identity on Facebook, where consumers go looking for information and deals.

Previously, users read 57% of the posts in their news feeds, on average. That means they didn’t scroll far enough to see the other 43%, according to Facebook. When the unread posts were resurfaced, the fraction of posts read increased to 70%.

“The goal of the news feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them,” wrote Lars Backstrom, a Facebook engineer, in a blog post. “Ideally, we want the news feed to show all the posts people want to see in the order they want to read them. This is no small technical feat.”

Every time a user visits the news feed there are, on average, 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and pages  for them to see, Backstrom wrote, and Facebook’s algorithm aims to rank them so that consumers see those most interesting to them.

Facebook’s algorithm also relies on its users’ actions to assess the relevance of posts, including:

  • How often a user interacts with a friend, page, or public figure on the social network.
  • How many Likes, shares and comments a post receives.
  • Whether a consumer has interacted with a specific type of post in the past.

For instance, if a consumer clicks to Like a page’s photo of a bike, Facebook believes the user will likely want to see similar images in the future. If he clicks to hide a brand’s post about its employees, the social network figures he probably doesn’t want to see that type of content the next time he logs on to the social network.

The blog post announcing the change is the first time that Facebook has detailed the thinking behind one of its algorithm updates.

“We are continually working to improve the news feed and from time to time we make updates to the algorithm that determines which stories appear first,” Backstrom wrote. “We’ve heard from our users and page owners that we need to do a better job of communicating these updates. Starting today, we’re going to try [to] change that.”



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