My wife Sarah looked up from her laptop sporting a huge grin.
“Everyone on Facebook likes the photo I put up of Jacob and Kaden!” she exclaimed excitedly.
The photo you see above was taken during Jacob’s (our middle son) sixth birthday dinner with our family.
Sarah and I laughed hysterically for a few minutes after snapping the shot, in that each of the boys has what appears to be a forced smile, and each of them is looking in a different direction with neither of them actually looking at the camera.
You’ve probably got a few photos like this in your own Facebook albums, right?
It was at that happy and laughing moment between parents that we realized that our extended family and friends should have the opportunity to share in our joy.
Facebook Users — Marketers are NOT the Majority
Sarah connects with exactly 198 other Facebook users who make up her family and friends.
Her use of the world’s largest social network is quite the opposite of mine, in that marketing and business and viral reach have no influence on how she engages in Facebook.
What matters most to my my wife are personal connections, maintaining some semblance of privacy and spending about an hour to ninety minutes each night being entertained by her friends posts, the global adventures of old Peace Core friends and staying up to date on the people she cares about most.
What’s interesting about Sarah’s use of Facebook is that she — a thirty-something mom of three who prides herself on being a thrifty consumer – likely falls more in line with the larger numbers of Facebook users who make up the now 1 billion member network.
Facebook EdgeRank — How and Why Your Facebook Status Updates Move Through the System
Normally, Sarah receives 1-2 comments or likes per post.
Given that she makes the personal choice to keep her Facebook friends limited to people who she actually knows (and likes) in real life, her updates don’t typically bring back a ton of interactions.
That’s okay too. It’s the result of a very deliberate choice in how she makes social networking a part of her life.
So, when this particular post started to immediately generate likes and comments, she found herself compelled to keep going back to her laptop every few minutes to see who else had come to chime in.
It was one of the first times Sarah posted any Facebook status updates that taped into the power of EdgeRank – the behind-the-scenes Facebook algorithm that determines what updates make it from your profile or page timeline to the news feeds of your friends and fans.
Why Do Facebook Status Updates Spread?
In reality, Facebook EdgeRank isn’t all that complicated. There are three factors in the mathematical formula that make up the score per each content-based user action inside of the system, which Facebook calls an ‘Edge’:
- U – The affinity score between the viewing user and the edge creator.
- W - Weight score for the type of Edge (create update, comment, like, share, etc.)
- D - Time decay score based on how much time has passed since the Edge was created.
Let’s break down Sarah’s creation of an edge with this photo and why it drew such a big reaction, relative to the size of her network.
Facebook Edgerank – Affinity
Keep in mind that my wife uses Facebook to only connect with people she is actually friends with in real life.
With 198 friends and her own regular nightly monitoring of her Facebook news feed, her affinity score between her profile and her closest friends is already high. Chances are that her typical user behavior is telling the Facebook algorithm to keep updates from certain friends prominent on her news feed. In turn. the same Facebook EdgeRank also keeps her news feed populated with the constant updates from her closest Facebook friends.
Facebook Edgerank – Weight
Weight is determined by the amount and type of interactions on any given Facebook status updates. What’s interesting is that the timing of Facebook status updates also has a tendency to impact on how many people engaged in social networking interact with a given post.
Keep in mind — Facebook is only now getting into the mobile space in full force, mostly driven by the recent partnership between Facebook, Apple and the newest iOS.
Historically, Facebook interaction was highest when people were stationed in front of a desktop or laptop computer. This has meant that the majority of social networking on Facebook has taken place during evening hours in any given timezone, when people are at home and not focused email in boxes that command the greatest attention share during work hours.
The photo was shared at about 9:20 PM on October 15th, after our boys had been put to bed that evening. This was also during a peak time when general Facebook users where engaging with their news feeds.
Within minutes, the first likes came in (32 in total) followed by a slew of comments and birthday wishes for Jacob. Keep in mind that most users who feel compelled to leave a comment, an Edge with a higher score than a simple like.
Each of these Edges create a unique story on that individual users’ Facebook timeline, measured in what Facebook calls PTAT (or People Talking About This). Each of these then unique stories can be seen by others who might be lurking any given profile, which in turn works to point others into the original Edge.
Facebook Edgerank – Time Decay
What’s most important is how quickly large numbers of individuals interacted with the comment with some type of weighted Facebook function.
Notice that within a few minutes from the time of the original post, people in Sarah’s list of social networking friends added in their own edges.
If you look closely, you’ll notice a time variable in the last three comments.
Wibke, a cousin of mine who lives in Germany and uses Facebook as a mainstay for marketing her cross-stitching business was obviously on a different time zone. Even though she was sleeping when the original update was postsed, she was able to see the thread first thing when she awoke the following morning in Deutschland.
Erika and Barb’s comment also came in more than 12 hours after the original Edge was created, indicating that Facebook EdgeRank worked to distribute this post through the night as a high scoring content object in their top stories tab.
Respect the Reality of Social Networking and Keep Facebook EdgeRank in Mind
Here is the one vital tip I want to leave you with for when you are designing your own Facebook status updates.
Understand and respect the reality of social networking.
Remember that each update you post from your brand page has the potential to dropped into the news feeds of your fans, right next to emotional milestones and memories shared by their closest friends and family members.
That’s a big deal, folks!
It’s these personal updates, and our longing to stay connected to those who we hold dear that have given rise to Facebook as the largest and most inhabited village on the web today.
As marketers, we need to always make sure to respect Facebook, thinking of it first as a truly social network, and second as a social marketplace.
For the majority of users, Facebook is a very personal and very private space. Your brand and the content you distribute will need to earn it’s way into the hearts, mind and news feeds of your fans.
How do you respect the news feeds of your fans?
Is there a certain way you design your Facebook updates that is working for your brand?
How do you choose what content you share and how often?
Let me know in the comments, okay?