Hear We Go Again: Facebook Changes Algorithms, Bands Go Crackernuts

Categories: Digitalia

Almost four months ago, my musician-filled newsfeed on Facebook was inundated with the picture you see on the right as outraged artists called Mark Zuckerberg every foul name under the sun for "hiding" their posts from fans. It was malarkey, as Uncle Joe says, but since Ogilvy reported that Facebook had made significant changes to its EdgeRank algorithm in September the howls of anguish have returned.

The commonly held belief is that Facebook is holding content hostage in order to force users and small businesses to use the promote button that my colleague Abby Koenig so eloquently reported on or is perhaps in response to the company's continued poor performance on Wall Street. The answer is somewhat complicated.

First to recap, what is EdgeRank? EdgeRank is the way that Facebook decides what you will see in your newsfeed and what you won't see.

Now, before you start hammering the keyboard about "being watched" or "they have no right" you need to face some very important facts. Facebook is a service you signed you into and use voluntarily under their terms. They have pretty much every right in the book under those terms and if you don't like them you can sue or stop using Facebook. Clear? Good. Moving on.

EdgeRank is very, very important, as it is the only thing that keeps Facebook from becoming everything that made us leave MySpace. The algorithm assigns weight to content based on your actions while logged in. Do you continuously like cat videos and misattributed inspirational quotes over beautiful scenery memes? And if so, hi Grandma!

Well, the system notes that, so when your friends or a business you've liked posts those things, or other content somehow connected it makes sure you see them in your newsfeed.

This is absolutely necessary because of the sheer amount of things being posted on Facebook. There are now more than 1 billion pages. If Facebook was a country it would be the third most populous nation in the world, and every one of those citizens is posting daily.

If there were no filter at all, you would spend all your time inundated by spam and status updates you don't really care about. Remember a while back when you couldn't login without seeing your aunt's progress on Farmville? Facebook tweaked the algorithm in response to widespread complaints about how annoying that was, and now you don't see it.

It's pretty clear that Facebook has in fact done a major update to the algorithm recently. EdgeRank Checker, a company that specializes in helping businesses use EdgeRank to their advantage, took a pretty damned in-depth look at page reach before and after September 20, date the Ogilvy reported the change happened.

The typical Facebook Page in our data set was experiencing 26% Organic Reach [Non-viral or shared] the week before the 20th. The week after the 20th, these same Pages were experiencing 19.5%. These Pages lost approximately 6.5% of their Reach after the 20th.

Other losses were noted by the company after looking into complaints from their customers. Viral Reach dropped 45 percent, and engagement by users such as comments and likes also went down by 17 percent. However, Virality actually increased slightly in this same period, which means that though less content was shared what content was shared actually reached more people.

So what does this mean for bands trying as always to broaden their fanbase on Facebook? Is the social network withholding your content in order to get you to pay to promote? No.

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I fundamentally disagree that Edgerank is what keeps Facebook from becoming the next Myspace. It is a calculated move to get brands to pay to keep the same reach they had before. If Edgerank is so wonderful, i.e. it creates a better user experience, why doesn't Facebook allow the user to choose? Give us two choices at the top of the feed, one for what Facebook thinks is important and one an unfiltered experience. If the Facebook newsfeed is really the better one, then it would win out and Facebook could happily say that when given the choice, users of their service preferred what they were doing.


Good column, sir.  Topical _and_ informative!


@HoustonPress we spend $10 to $20 a month promoting important band info. The fact that other bands refuse to do this works in our favor.


@OnlineBizSmarts I saw the big difference when they instituted the pay to promote, but not a diff w/ latest change. And you?

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