The problem with any social networking website is that the larger your personal network grows, the more content you get exposed to on a daily basis. On Twitter, I follow around 200 different people, and in the time it took me to write this paragraph, there were 5 new posts. At certain times of the day, there might be 20 or 30 new posts in a couple of minutes.
Admittedly, people don’t use Facebook in the same way as Twitter. Status updates in Facebook tend to be a little bit more considered and less immediate than in Twitter, but when you include the greater variety of different items that can be incorporated into the individual streams, – likes, app updates, photos, comments and so on, the sheer volume of updates that fit into the average stream is huge.
The Facebook stream can be read in two ways – most recent, and Top News. What’s really cool about both though is that they are optimised for the individual. Even if you and I both had the exact same group of friends, the chances are that our feeds would be different because of the differences in the way that we would interact with those groups. Facebook use a complex ranking algortithm to determine what we should see in our streams. In a way, it is every bit as advanced as Google’s relevancy algorithm. It is called EdgeRank.
Why you should care?
EdgeRank is a relevancy metric that considers the way in which a particular user is regarded by their network of friends. You can have a million friends on Facebook, but unless you are close to them, you will rarely appear as a top news item in their stream.
As competition for attention within Facebook grows, optimising EdgeRank for your posts within your network is likely to become a major activity for businesses who are serious about marketing through social media.
You can simplify the EdgeRank calculation to the following:
Affinity x Age x Type
Affinity represents the strength of the relationship between you and the individual reader based on both the direct relationship between both people, and the wider shared network.
Age is the time since the item was posted. Newer is better.
Type is the kind of item that has been posted – a news item, a comment, a like etc. More authority is given to direct items, and less to comments; less still to likes.
As with all social marketing, it’s primarily about the relationship between individuals being aggregated across a network:
Know your audience and what they appreciate – focus on marketing products and concepts that you kow work within the medium. Use posts to start a conversation, and use that conversation to attract likes. Post photographs that can communicate your brand effectively. Use polls to encourage interaction – ask questions of your network and encourage them to respond. Often, user response is base don the concept of what’s in it for me? Make this explicit.
Be consistent in the frequency of your posts, and engage with different areas of your network with them.
Be engaged. A lot of social activity – too much? – is reciprocal, if you take an interest and respond to what other people are saying, they will have a greater propensity to do the same.
Be social everywhere. Facebook base the EdgeRank calculations on the wider social graph, and all interactions count. Place the like button on your website appropriately, and encourage users to click it. Treat being liked as a primary conversion goal, and use tools like Website Optimiser to ensure that the button is placed in the most conversion friendly position on your website. Treat your community page as being an extension of your website, and apply the same level of care to it as you would any other content under your control.
Most importantly, respect your audience. You will never be appreciated for spamming people, and you will never gain from just posting and publicising it. Social Media is about people, and it is about relationships. One sided relationships simply do not work.