Facebook News Feed Algorithms & Content Quality

Facebook currently has 1.5 billion active users, and 699 million of these users log on to Facebook daily. This makes the site and ideal location for nonprofits to promote their mission and create awareness and conversation. Since Facebook is a free tool, many nonprofit organizations want to capitalize and use this platform to create awareness, educate the community and share their story. Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 10.22.06 AM

The most recent Facebook statistics show that nearly 4.5 billion likes are generated daily as of May 2013; that is a 67 percent increase from August 2012. While this may seem to be a positive for nonprofits hoping to get their page seen and followed, it could be a problem. With so many pages available on Facebook, it’s hard for viewers to sift through all the traffic and distractions, especially for local or smaller nonprofits with less of a public presence. Unless the viewer specifically searches for the local nonprofit page, it’s unlikely the page will show up in their news feed.

According to a blog by Beth Kanter, Facebook recently updated their news feed algorithm ranking. Facebook says it’s a movement to continually improve the News Feed. Facebook now posts blog updates on news feed updates. Their most recent blog post on News Feeds says, “It’s the goal of the News Feed 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. Ideally we want News Feed to show all the post people want to see in the order they want to read them.”

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This is how the Morgantown Ronald McDonald House Charities page appears on Facebook. They have a little over 2300 likes.

In theory, this would be great, but is it working? Facebook claims the news feed algorithm responds to signals from you such as how often you interact with the friend, page, or public figure, 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, and whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post. This sounds like it would be a great tool for users to keep their news feed tailored to their interests and needs, but there are problems.

As Beth notes in her blog, memes can be an example of a low-quality post. Memes are popular among some users, but less popular among others, but does this mean they’re ineffective? And how can Facebook determine what a low-quality or high quality post is? A person may be really interested in a local nonprofit organization, but never interact with them on social media. Aside from content issues that should promote two-way communication, the person may miss new posts and updates frequently since Facebook views their sign of no interaction as a lack of interest. Smaller nonprofit organizations are also at a disadvantage when it comes to the number of likes, shares, and comments. Local nonprofits affect less people than larger nonprofits or corporations. Therefore, less people follow or like the page resulting in less comments, shares, or likes. This in turn causes the organization to show up in a person’s News Feed less and less.

This new Facebook news feed algorithm can be seen two ways: 1) A problem or 2) A positive step. Local nonprofits may get lost in the shuffle depending on how Facebook determines a low-quality post from a high-quality post. On the other hand, it challenges smaller nonprofits to push the creative envelope and really be innovative with their content. Working to produce higher quality content will only benefit local nonprofits and their viewers. Passionate followers of the nonprofit will appreciate the better quality of the posts and the creativity which may ultimately encourage them to share more producing more likes, shares, and comments.

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