Thoughts on the Facebook Newsfeed, EdgeRank and Advertising

Back in October of 2012 I noticed many Facebook pages I follow encouraging fans to add them to interest lists to make sure they keep seeing updates from them in their newsfeed. Rumor had it that Facebook was changing again and going to make page owners start advertising to reach their fans. While this was neither true nor false there was more to the story.

Bob Schneider

For the most part I ignored these posts. I made sure I had liked and selected “Show in Newsfeed” for the pages I wanted to see. And when browsing Facebook, I look at the most recent stories and not just top stories.

But recently I have heard rumblings again about drops in organic user interactions. One story I recently heard about, thanks to Connie Schultz, comes from New York Times Columnist Nick Bilton. In his article, Nick explains:

“From the four columns I shared in January, I have averaged 30 likes and two shares a post. Some attract as few as 11 likes. Photo interaction has plummeted, too. A year ago, pictures would receive thousands of likes each; now, they average 100. I checked the feeds of other tech bloggers, including MG Siegler of TechCrunch and reporters from The New York Times, and the same drop has occurred.

What changed? I recently tried a little experiment. I paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company’s sponsored advertising tool.

To my surprise, I saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours. It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for.”

Facebook stands behind their EdgeRank algorithm that determines the content users see. What EdgeRank leaves out though is advertising, which is playing an increasingly important role in what appears in the Newsfeed. Are more ads in the feed going to dilute the personal Facebook experience? If so, this could be the beginning of the end of Facebook.

I love James McQuivey’s, an analyst at Forrester Research, wisdom here:

“It’s not just that people will feel nickeled and dimed by this, it’s that ultimately the value of the product disappears as the stream of information in your social network, one that used to be rapid and friction-free, is no longer there and now consumed by advertising.”

Suggested reading:

EdgeRank: Doing the Right Things Doesn’t Solve the Bigger Issue
Calling Facebook Edgerank What It Is: Censorship

Image credit: Hugh Briss

Image credit: Hugh Briss