Since its launch in 2006, everyone has wondered, how does the Facebook News Feed Work?

Facebook has been on a mission to create a news feed that caters to EVERYONE.
With more than a billion people on Facebook, that is quite a task. With so much news and content created every day, we are flooded with information.
So trying to find the perfect balance between seeing stories from our friends, family or pages is a tricky game.

“The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them.”
– Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, News Feed 29/6/2016

So how does Facebook News Feed work?

Facebook recently held their annual F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, with a huge range of new tools and updates being announced.

One session held during the two-day event was a talk held by Adam Mosseri, Facebooks VP of Product for News Feed. The session (You can watch here) went through how Facebook’s News Feed works and showed helpful insights into understanding the driving force that decides what users see on the platform.

Adam Mosseri explains “if you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would it be? The answer should be your news feed.”

Here is a basic look at how the news feed is determined:

How Does the News Feed Work? Mosseri states that when you post on Facebook, “…at that moment, nothing happens. It’s not until the people that follow that publisher open up Facebook that we look at that story and all the other stories that we could show them and then try to figure what they’re most interested in.”

How Does the News Feed Work?

Once a user logs on, this is when Facebook looks at all the stories that have been published by everyone the user is connected to.  Facebook then needs to determine which stories matter to you most from that selection.

For each of these posts that could be served to you based on your interests, Facebook tries to determine how likely you are to ‘Like’ each one, how likely you are to share it and to spend time reading it. Facebook predicts the likelihood of these actions based on several factors

How Does the News Feed Work?

  • Who Posted it – How often does the user engage with this user/page?
  • Type of content – How often does the user engage with this type of content?
  • Interactions with the post – How many interactions the post already has helps to determine the importance of the post
  • When it was posted – Was this a recent post, users want to be up to date with the latest news. Keep in mind, this is not as important as the other factors, for example if a friend got engaged two days ago, the News Feed is meant to determine that this is of more importance than the latest post from anther user.

So to break it down, if you were to post on Facebook & no other competing content was posted between the time you pressed ‘post’ and a user logged on – there is a good chance your content will be served to that user. If there was competing content from a publisher that the user engages with more, the chances of your content being seen are lessened.

This proves the point that the system used in user-centric. Which means it is built by each individual’s preference and actions, not by the actual content.

From these factors, your Facebook News Feed is created. Once you finish your Facebook session and come back again later, the process starts all over again, ranking each story that’s been posted since your last visit.

Whats new on Facebook? 

At the end of last month, Facebook announced yet another update to the ever-changing News Feed. Facebook stated..

“Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to – starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why today, we’re announcing an upcoming change to news feed ranking to help make sure you don’t miss stories from your friends”

In other words, Facebook is now going to weight friends & family posts much higher than businesses/pages. This will evidently impact the organic reach yet again for Pages

“…we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline from some pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through page posts. We encourage pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends”

So if your posts are not generating likes, comments and shares, this update is due to impact you.

This is likely to scare some businesses who greatly rely on Facebook, especially when you look at a report from Social Flow which showed that Facebook’s organic reach for pages has already declined 42% this year (based on 3,000 pages).

How Does the News Feed Work?

At times, it seems that the constant changes to the News Feed have forced marketers and publishers to use Facebook on a more ‘pay-to-play’ basis, rather than working to build an organic audience of Facebook fans. But the basic logic of the News Feed makes sense. Users come to Facebook to see the updates they’re most interested in, which is more than likely from friends and family, so Facebook will obviously weight friends & family more than business/publishers.

Given the News Feed process, it makes sense that stories from friends are going to be given precedence over brand content, as you’re more likely to be engaging with those more personally-relevant posts. This makes it more of a challenge for brands to get significant organic reach, but it also underlines the need for Page managers to focus on engagement and interaction with their followers, as opposed to using the platform as a broadcast or advertising medium. Of course, you want, and need, to tell people about your products – that’s how marketing works – but you also have to consider how you’re encouraging interaction and how you’re engaging with your audience in comparison to how they would be interacting and responding to other posts. The more you can connect with them and generate interaction, the stronger your News Feed signal will be.