Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Revealed
Facebook’s News Feed is at the core of its ad revenue and, therefore, marketers may be interested in how its algorithm works. That’s why what Seeking Alpha had to say on Tuesday will fascinate.
“In a sign that the company wants the public to understand how it approaches content, users and privacy,” SA’s Ryan Foster writes, “the team invited Slate.com journalists for a behind-the-scenes look at how Facebook's … core News Feed functions.”
Slate’s lengthy article on Sunday by Will Oremus requires the reader to plop down with a big cup of coffee. Here’s a synopsis.
“[Facebook uses] a sorting algorithm to order the set of all posts that could appear in your News Feed when you open the app,” says Oremus. “But that’s the trivial part — a minor subalgorithm within the master algorithm. The nontrivial part is assigning all those posts a numerical value in the first place. That, in short, is the job of the News Feed ranking team: to devise a system capable of assigning any given Facebook post a ‘relevancy score’ specific to any given Facebook user.”
Here are a few clues for marketers from the Slate piece:
- Prediction Algorithm. Facebook finds what’s relevant to one user, but irrelevant to another by looking at historical data and environmental factors, among others. A Facebooker likens it to picking the winner of a basketball game: keeping track of each team’s wins and losses, individual player records, injuries and winning streaks.
- ‘Relevancy Score’ Goes Beyond ‘Likes.’ The algorithm uses hundreds of variables detailed in the Prediction Algorithm to not only determine if users will like something, but if they will share it, comment, click on it, hide it or mark it as spam. This weighs into each item’s Relevancy Score and where it will appear in the feed. The more relevant it is, the higher it appears.
- Humans Work on the Algorithm. The algorithm isn’t just determined by data. For instance, people determine whether users are hiding articles simply as a sorting mechanism after they’re done reading them.
- Interactions Matter. While the Slate article is talking about posts, Oremus says Facebook’s ad dollars rely on whether posts get likes, shares, etc. So interactions drive everything. However, Facebook controls for spammy posts that urge users to like them before reading them. For instance, the social media giant checks how long users spend reading articles after clicking on them to determine if readers found them relevant.
How will marketers use this information?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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