Beginner Guide

How the Facebook algorithm works and how your brand can improve it

Is the Facebook algorithm confusing and frustrating you?

you are not alone With the algorithm going through frequent updates, brands are very concerned about how these changes affect their organic reach.

And marketers at Facebook are right to be concerned, given that Facebook is the most popular social media platform for consumers and brands. According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index, 71% of consumers and 65% of marketers plan to make the most of Facebook over the next 12 months.

Fortunately, defeating the Facebook algorithm can be as simple as understanding how it works. That’s exactly what we aim to address in this guide. Let’s find out how the Facebook algorithm works and how you can use it to boost your Facebook marketing strategy.

  • what is facebook algorithm
  • How Facebook Algorithm Works
  • Facebook algorithm update timeline
  • Tips to beat the Facebook algorithm

what is facebook algorithm

Facebook is a set of algorithmic rules that decide which posts people see in their feed. Essentially, it decides the most relevant content to show to each user based on a number of factors. Each user’s feed will look very different as it is personalized just for them.

The Facebook algorithm has gone through many updates and improvements over the years. One of the most recent updates focused on assessing the credibility of news articles. The goal of this update was to curb misinformation by promoting reliable and high quality news sources.

How Facebook Algorithm Works

While the earliest algorithms prioritized the posts with the most likes, the algorithm we see today is much more sophisticated. Specifically, it considers four factors to decide which posts to show to which users.

1. Inventory

First, Facebook takes a list of all the content that may appear on your feed. This includes posts coming from people you are friends with. This also includes content from the Pages you follow and the groups you have joined.

2. Signal

The algorithm then assesses the relevance of each piece of content based on thousands of cues. This includes hints such as who posted it and how often you interact with them. It also sees when they published the post and what time it is for you.

Facebook also considers cues like the type of content and how you’ve interacted with similar posts. In other words, it tries to assess relevance by understanding the nature of the content and your behavior.

3. Predictions

Next, it uses the signals above to make predictions about what you want to see. The algorithm will analyze past behavior and try to understand how likely you are with a piece of content.

Let’s say you regularly interact with a friend’s post. The Facebook algorithm will take this as a sign that you like to see content coming from that friend.

Similarly, let’s say you regularly watch and join one-page videos about eco-friendly living. It will understand that you enjoy watching videos on that page and that you are interested in the topic.

4. Relevance Scoring

Ultimately, the algorithm will score each content based on how relevant it is to you. The higher the score, the more likely it is to appear in your feed.

Facebook algorithm update timeline

Fast forward to the present time and the Facebook algorithm is still evolving. Below is a quick snapshot of some of the recent changes Facebook has made.

March 2019 – “Why am I seeing this post?” Update

Facebook began to reference why users were viewing certain posts and Facebook ads. Users can now see a list of reasons why they fit the target audience for a certain Facebook ad. So brands need to fine-tune their audience targeting to reach the most relevant users.

April 2019 – The fight against misinformation continues

Facebook’s fight against “fake news” and misleading content is well documented. In April 2019, Facebook detailed its manual efforts to fact-check content to fight misinformation. This involved the use of a metric called “click-gap”. It analyzes clicks and links on the platform and compares them with other parts of the Internet. Using this metric, it began to limit the reach of posts that seemed to be popular on Facebook only.

This does not directly impact brands, but highlights the importance of trust and transparency on the platform. Anything that comes across as unnecessarily controversial or spammy can quickly land you a strike, so to speak.

May 2019 – More personal experiences

Personalization and relevant content remains the top priority of the Facebook algorithm. In May 2019, Facebook announced the widespread use of surveys. This helped collect feedback from users to ensure that they were viewing relevant content.

The update evolved Facebook’s algorithm into what we see today. It started prioritizing relevance when deciding which posts to show to users. Along with surveys and relevance prompts, it helped better connect users to the posts, pages, and people they cared about.

May 2019 – Pay more attention to originality and quality of videos

Around the same time, Facebook also developed updates to promote original and high quality videos. This began to reduce the distribution of videos that used the lure of engagement. Videos employing the built-in sharing strategy also had limited access.

March 2021 – Users get more control over their feed

Facebook launches “Favorites” tool to give users more control over what they see. This will allow them to add up to 30 friends and Pages to their favorites. Your favorite’s posts will appear more prominently in your feed.

Favorites window with pages that users can follow and add to their favorites

Additionally, you can also select “Favorite” filters from the feed filter bar. It will only show you posts coming from people and pages you like.

3 Tips to Beat the Facebook Algorithm

These ongoing changes point to how the Facebook algorithm forces brands to adapt.

But it’s not that hard if you can identify the patterns behind these changes and arm yourself with the right Facebook tools. From what we can see so far, Facebook seems to be prioritizing quality and authenticity. As such, brands need to primarily focus on creating quality content that drives real interactions.

Here are some best practices to help you adapt to the Facebook algorithm and move forward.

1. Time Your Posts to Perfection

Timing is one of the major signals affecting the algorithm. Apart from this, it also looks at how much engagement a post gets. Hence, it is important to send your post at the right time. This will mean that your posts will be given time to stand out at the time when people are most likely to engage with them.

According to Sprout’s data, the best time to post on Facebook is between Monday and Friday, specifically, Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and noon time is great too.

Facebook Global Engagement Report shows the time slots with the most engagement

But keep in mind that this time is not necessarily ideal for everyone. The best thing you can do is use Sprout’s social media publishing suite to analyze the optimal dispatch times for your brand. You can then use the scheduling tool to automatically send your posts at the right time.

Sprout Publishing Tool With Optimum Send Time Window Open

2. Focus on making original videos

Beating the Facebook algorithm involves creating content that the algorithm likes. This would mean more high-quality and original videos.

Ideally, you should share videos that you have created and recorded yourself. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be big budget ads. Short clips of long YouTube videos will work just fine. Similarly, short videos you shoot on your phone will also do the trick.

The main focus should be on the originality and quality of the content itself. In other words, your audience must benefit in some way from the video. This can be informative, educational or entertaining, depending on what your brand does.

The Milwaukee Country Zoo regularly shares short clips of its animals. They are entertaining audiences, often garnering hundreds of thousands of views. For example, the following video had 11k shares.

Annual Smash and Squash

It’s the elephant’s annual smash and squash!

Posted by Milwaukee County Zoo on Wednesday, October 26, 2022

You can use Sprout’s Facebook analytics tool to see which videos resonate with your audience. This tool gives you a breakdown of engagements for each post, so you can see which ones your audience has engaged with the most. Then you can understand what kind of videos they want you to see.

3. Rope in Employees and Brand Advocates

From the day you started marketing on the platform, the key to overcoming the Facebook algorithm is right under your nose. Yet so many brands ignore it—your employees.

Employee advocacy has never been more relevant than it is today. Facebook is prioritizing content from friends and family over businesses. Thus, this is the perfect time to start your employee support program or modify it if you already have one.

The reach of your Facebook page is already somewhat limited by the number of fans/followers you have. And when you deal with these new changes to the algorithm, the number of people viewing your content is going to drop even further.

Encouraging your team to share your content with your network on Facebook immediately increases your reach. Getting employees to share your content is challenging. Often, just sending an email asking people to share an article from your company isn’t enough. It requires a lot of time and effort on their end to visit Facebook, type a message and share it. Plus, some employees will forget to share and never see the email again.

Sprout makes it easy for your employees to quickly find and share relevant brand content. The employee advocacy platform lets you keep all your shareable content in one place. Then your employees can easily share these approved positions. You can also include pre-approved message ideas to give them an example.

Sprout's Employee Advocacy Platform with Share Story Window

time to beat the algorithm

Frequent changes to the Facebook algorithm can harm the brand. Having a strong Facebook marketing strategy will help you stay on top of these updates and ensure that you are always two steps ahead.

Additionally, start using a powerful social media management platform to execute your strategy. It can help with scheduling, management and analysis. Sign up for a free 30-day trial with Sprout Social and see how it can help you beat the Facebook algorithm.

How the Facebook algorithm works and how it can improve your brand This post first appeared on Sprout Social.

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