Facebook tweaks Newsfeed to ‘bump’ up popular content

Facebook is making a change to the algorithm that governs News Feed to resurface popular content users may have missed in the hope of encouraging them to browse on the site for longer and improve its proposition to advertisers.

Facebook Verified Pages
How Facebook’s Verified Pages will look

The roll out of “story bumping” makes content – such as updates from pages or check-ins to places such as restaurants – have a greater chance of being seen by more people. Facebook uses “signals” such as the amount of recent interactions a user has had with a page or other users and the number of likes, shares, comments and clicks to determine a post’s popularity.

AB testing of the update found previously Facebook users used to read 57 per cent of the updates in the News Feed on average, because they did not scroll down far enough to read the remainder. When unread updates were resurfaced, the fraction of stories read increased to 70 per cent, an indicator they were also spending longer on the site.

The testing also found the change resulted in an 8 per cent increase in the likes, comments and shares on organic stories they saw from Pages – even if those updates were a few hours old.

The update does not impact how paid-for advertising appears in the News Feed, as often adverts already appear a multiple times over a number of days if they are “relevant” to that user and the advertising algorithm is slightly different to that for organic posts, Facebook says.

Facebook has also made another tweak to the News Feed algorithm called “Last Actor”, which keeps track of a users’ most recent interaction with another user or page and pulls more content from them to the top of the screen that day. The social network says the change has driven a 1 to 2 per cent increase in interactions with those updates. In addition to Last Actor, Facebook is also making changes so a series from updates from the same person – about a football game, for example – appear in chronological order, rather than in order of popularity.

The company also revealed the average user could be served a potential 1,500 “stories” – ranging from page posts to updates from games to birthdays – per day, but it filters these down to a more manageable average of 300.

Alongside announcing the updates in an informal “whiteboard” session in its Menlo Park headquarters last night (6 August), Facebook launched a new blog to keep its users and businesses up to date with future changes to the News Feed algorithm. The company said the blog was designed to “dispel rumours about the changes we do” and signifies Facebook being more “open and transparent” about the work it is doing.

Facebook has always asserted it makes changes to improve the user experience ahead of updates to improve its offering to advertisers. The recent changes, however, should make Facebook more attractive to advertisers because it is likely to increase the amount of time users spend on the site.

The company’s share of the $104bn global digital ad market reached 4.1 per cent in 2012, according to eMarketer. The market research firm forecasts it will increase its share to 5 per cent this year as digital ad spend continues to grow globally.

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