11 Oct 2013

Avoid the new Facebook Penalty Algorithm!

Facebook recently detailed an algorithm change to its News Feed, aiming at resurfacing older updates that it thinks are relevant, even if they’re not as fresh, because they think you’d appreciate not having missed it. It’s based on something simple: if Facebook registered that you never saw the item and it’d be an item that you’re statistically more likely to engage with, it’ll bubble the item back into your “current” news.


Image source: Facebook

They specified 4 types of signals that indicate a News Feed item is important to you:

  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

If you’re familiar with the algorithm that used to be called Edgerank (now just the News Feed Algorithm), this list should be familiar to you. The first three points represent the gist of Edgerank as Affinity, Weight, and Decay.

Take note of last bullet point: the behavior of hiding a post is specifically called out. Call this fourth factor the Penalty factor – a new component of its algorithm.

In fact, Penalty as a metric is so important that it’s got its own category in the newly released Facebook Insights for Pages. Understanding and monitoring the Penalty Factor is critical to the success of your Facebook Page! Go into your Page Insights, switch to Post view, and choose Post Hides, Hides of All Posts, Reports of Spam, Unlikes of Page by post.

(1) Christopher S. Penn

If you see anything other than zeroes, you need to retune your Facebook content strategy immediately because what any one Facebook fan does impacts what their friends see. Facebook clearly stated that what one person likes impacts what their friends in particular see bubbled up in their News Feeds. A hide is likely to not only impact the user that hides but also reduce the impact of that post among all of their friends. Based on the strength of the wording in Facebook’s announcements and documentation, Affinity, Weight, and Decay play second fiddle to Penalty. Your goal is zero Penalties first and foremost.

This, by the way, is the answer to whether you’re posting too much on Facebook or posting the wrong kind of content. Anything that triggers a hide – cadence, content, etc. – is bad news and calls for an immediate reassessment of what you’re doing. Track carefully any post, any content, that incurs a News Feed Penalty and avoid doing that sort of thing ever again to maximize engagement, performance, and visibility.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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